There comes a point during my stays in Lagos when I feel like I’m going to have a nervous breakdown. I dare say that most people who live in the developed world and travel to the developing world will experience a similar frustration if they stay long enough.
Usually it is something trivial that triggers this boiling point, this irrational moment of crisis. For me it came in the form of an orange and cream sweet that my taste buds were coveting. This sweet is called Splash. The manufacturers of this sweet maybe don’t want people to eat it, so they wrap the small treats in packaging that cannot be opened with fingers or teeth, but that require the use of scissors.
It may not seem such a big deal to get a pair of scissors, but when your day has consisted of carrying your shopping in nylon bags with only one hole, shaky steps on pavements with fatalistically loose tiles, coke bottles that contain only three quarters of the liquid and that seem to require instructions to open, I’m telling you, that Splash-named-sweet not tearing open smoothly is enough to make you loose your temper.
If you find yourself having a day like this on the same day of national elections, you really are better off finding a hammock and just going to sleep until the next morning. Although check first where the fabric of the hammock has been manufactured!
I hope I am not upsetting you, dear reader. I know we are in the process of “rebranding” Africa. I should not be adding to the negative Africa press which we all know there is an unnecessary abundance of. Press, which furthermore goes unnoticed, until some smart blogger in Ghana writes a straight-to-the-damn-point open letter to CNN.
Also, terms such as ‘developing’ and ‘developed’ are quite inappropriate of me to use, aren’t they? Do fancy bottle tops and candy wraps really make people more developed?
So I apologize for my lack of solidarity with the rebrand Africa project. However, this rebranding Africa thing cannot be done at the expense of justice, human rights and faultless coke bottles. Really!
What we’re talking about here is customer service. Why should we pay a full fee for wireless internet that works temperamentally, and that besides is so slow that the thought of plucking out hairs on my legs with a pair of tweezers seems more exciting than waiting for a page to load? And why don’t Splash’s sweets come with a complimentary pair of scissors if such are a necessity for the consumption of said purchase?
Even the Nigerian presidential elections, which took place on Saturday, boil down to customer service. Why should we, on top of paying taxes, be made to trek to polling booths and queue for hours when we are not getting what we paid for – a truly fairly elected president?
Reaching this boiling point is not necessarily undesirable. Oh yes, ask Mandela, he said it: “When the water starts boiling it is foolish to turn off the heat”.
Ultimately, if I must switch off my computer, keep a pair of scissors in my handbag and keep voting year-in-year-out until the elections truly are free and fair then so be it.
But I will keep complaining, even as we are rebranding, or, preferably, un-branding.
Bad customer service is a sign of complacent customers and not of one part of the world being any less developed than the rest. We can discuss developed versus developing another day, but for now can we agree that as long as England worships its royalty so much that this upcoming wedding is a public holiday, or, that such vast amounts of Americans drive cars that consume so much energy their brothers and sisters go to war to keep up their habit, the use of the word ‘developed’ is no more apt in some regions than in others?
I have calmed down now, because on the flipside, being in Nigeria, in Africa, it’s hard to stay irritated very long, things move on if you like. Sweet or no sweet. And that I like.
photo credit: cogdogblog
LOL exactly this.
I’m right there with you. You can wish for the best, while acknowledging the worst. It’s silly, isn’t it, pretending like there isn’t a lot to dislike about Nigeria? People do leave for a reason!
Not, I’m not upset at all! Haha! In fact, I love this post – it’s so true! I’m glad you shared your views and had the confidence to say it aloud (literally). This is something which perplexes me too – I’m constantly talking about this very same issue. You would think that such a simple thing such as customer service would be common sense – but we all know the saying where that’s concerned! The thing is, it’s not just in Nigeria that the whole customer service experience, or lack there of, leaves a bad taste in one’s mouth (although I too have had a fair few to write an essay about!). You only have to go to your local Caribbean takeaway, or (mass generalisation, but here goes) most black-run / owned business to be left cursing and ranting expletives ending in, ” I’m never going back to that place again!”
Customer service, or simply the essence of what this ought to entail (politeness, professionalism, courtesy etc…) ought to be be essential tools of rebranding Africa – so , no, in my humble opinion , there’s no need to apologise for the use of developing / developed…how can we ‘upgrade’ a nation if we can not exercise the simplest of (free) things what can only stand to aid in this process. The same goes for our community here, in London. I can go on forever about this subject, and have been meaning to write a post about it too – in fact I will! No doubt I’ll (unfortunately) be subjected to another infuriating experience that’d leave Mary Portas speechless! Until next time…and thanks for the inspiration, this has further encouraged a business proposal 🙂
PS Great link re Ghanaian Open letter to CNN!
Hey Iola! Thanks 🙂 Look forward to reading your thoughts on the topic
Great post and so true! A friend of mine has recently relocated from the UK to Ghana and has set up her business to tackle the lack of customer service – she said what was more annoying than the lack of customer service was the acceptance that such bad behaviour was ok by customers. Why won’t our politicians, shops, businesses etc treat us badly when we continue to support them in spite of their behaviour? I remember when I was really little, there was a fire at our NITEL exchange and NITEL officials arrived at our house to ask us to ‘contribute’ to the costs of the repair – my dad was furious! In typical style, the NITEL officials cut our phone and my dad refused to pay the contribution. We didn’t have a land line in the house for 2 years – I thought my dad was nuts but now I realise that all he was doing was trying to hold on to the standards that will lift us out of this ‘I couldn’t care less’ funk – I will try and remember that when I move back to Nigeria next year….
Hi Ade, thanks for your comment. Respect to your pops, If more people carried out such protests, big and small, eventually things would have to change right! Hope planning your move back is going well
African Mami says
My dear there is nothing as sweet as the sour motherland!!! I can so relate. Great post.
Thank you dear! Absolutely
This is a funny post – I’m going to seek out these sweets when next I am in Nigeria to see if they are really as challenging to open as you so eloquently write.
And isn’t it funny just what we are able to put up with and bear and how often it is the silly little things that are our tipping point? I think it is to give us something to laugh at when we look back 🙂
I don’t think there’s anything wrong with complaining – I think in Lagos it is actually very necessary to maintain some semblance of sanity – as long, like you said, we keep on keeping on until things change. And even better would be making a conscious effort to be part of that improvement; which I know you do 🙂
Ha ha ha Miss Afropolitan.
I see if you experienced the ‘Las Gidi welcome kiss’. I share your frustrations. You write like you can read my mind! I have been there and can write a whole book on what irks me about Lagos. I was there for about 2 years recently, and boy, what can I say – Lagos can be likened to being in a steel drum and having a thousand hands beating on it with huge sticks. You are bound to go giddy.
Still, as soon as you’ve been away from the mad place, you find that you miss it. It is like an acquired taste, it takes a while for it to get used to the taste buds.
I learnt of your site via CAN, I shall contact you there.
None of the problems in the “developing” world (including the customer service problem) can be boiled down to just one cause. It’s not simply a problem of complacency; of the many contributors to the lack of customer service is the lack of available choices. This is why you pay premium prices for intermittent wireless internet (and are happy that you get up to 70% up-time from your ISP). Or keep paying rising cable fees for a shrinking channel lineup and service that’s worse than your internet service. Lack of competition = no seller motivation = non-competitive pricing + poor product quality + atrocious customer service. There’s also the systemic problems, like the absence of proper infrastructure, corruption, near-zero expertise/education…
Um, I have a Coke habit that I’m trying to cure–Coca Cola, not the other coke–because Nigerian Coke is the absolute best (after a decade of grimacing while I guzzled watered-down American Coke) and the glass and plastic bottles are full 99% of the time. If you got a bottle that wasn’t, you should’ve asked for another one. NIGERIAN COCA COLA IS UNIMPEACHABLE.
…shoot, I shouldn’t have gone cold turkey…
Vusi Sindane says
I really enjoyed reading this somewhat satirical post. What is strange is that two ago I also wrote a post that was triggered primarily by very poor customer service from our public servants [South Africa].
I attributed it to entitlement, but your point of complacency is perhaps valid. Back in the days, shops/service providers dictated the market, but what information technology has done is make people aware of what’s going on around the world – I think this will turn the tables.