Customer Service, Consumer Rights, Help!

by Joy Bewaji

I am totally envious of people who say, “Life is hard in Nigeria.” They say this because they must have experienced a better life away from these shores. I have never travelled or lived anywhere else except in this country, so for me life is hard – simple. There is no need to single out a ‘hard life’ in Nigeria, or compare the Nigerian life to the American life because for me, the American life does not exist.

All my life I have had to travel through deplorable roads where I see naked corpses. I have had to live without constant power; many times I have passed my exams or finished a project with the help of a candle. Many times I have visited my doctor because of an expired item I had consumed unknowingly which was proudly displayed (with a fake NAFDAC number) on the counter of a store. I have tried to seek ‘justice’ through the courts but getting there in itself is a miracle, the police trivialize my troubles, deny me of my rights, and ‘steal’ from me. I have studied in an institution where your headache shouldn’t be to read and pass your exams, but to grease the palms of the lecturers. I know no other life except the life presented to me by my country Nigeria- and it is a sad and hard life!

For sanity sake, I have acquired some things that can, at least, ease this hard life, like a cell phone, DSTV, and the rest. Even while I try to make my life a little less hard, events occur to assure me that life indeed must remain hard…

My starcomms mobile phone is giving me a headache, the batteries are dead, and so I visit one of their centres to ask if it is possible to restore the life of my phone. They say yes, but I have to part with a thousand naira. This I did, and I am supposed to return the next day to pick it up. So on the next day, after retrieving my phone I ask for a receipt. They announce to me that no receipt is given for this service. I could only grumble under my breathe.

The next day, the phone is back to square one- ‘deader’ than it had ever been. I call the centre and ask for another check on my phone, or a refund. “No refund,” they say, “the service has been rendered”.

Life however has taught me a lot, one of which is: ‘never give a swindler the right to swindle you’. So I vent my anger on this fellow, and threaten to ‘do something’ about his scheme. He quickly shoves my money to me, talking about how he wanted to ‘help’ me and so on. I never asked for his help, I just needed him to do his job.

I walk into their head office at Victoria Island, I smile to the first person I meet, he doesn’t smile back. I show him my dead phone and request for a new handset for my old line. He takes me into the showroom and tells me to pick my choice; I pick a ‘Hisense’ phone, pay and leave. I get to my office hours later to realise he sold to me a new phone with a new line! Apparently he hadn’t listened to my request, I was just another inconsequential customer who didn’t deserve his undivided attention.

I am upset, so I pick up my phone and call the customer care line. I explain my problem to the person on the other line, and after a long explanation she mutters, “you don finish?” My shock can only be imagined. Life is hard.

I wanted to give myself a little treat this weekend, so I visit the exciting mall that houses ‘Big Treat’ in Festac. I buy some bread and snacks, the attendant is busy chatting away with her colleagues. I politely caution the chatterbox to exercise discretion; I did not want my snacks infected with unwanted saliva. She gives me a warning look and continues with her babble.

I walk to the lady whose suppose to collect my cash, she smiles at me, “madam well done.” I am happy somebody is cordial so I smile back, “How is work?”

Her smile automatically turns into a slight frown, “work is not good madam, this Chinese people are very stingy, do you know they do not allow us to ‘touch’ their snacks? We go hungry working for them…” she rants on, “madam anything for me?” I turn blue out of embarrassment. I wait to collect my change, she acts like she is looking through her machine, and then she says she doesn’t have a hundred naira change. She is lying, but I am bored, so I leave.

I have decided to get a DSTV, so I visit VitusCom an authorised distributor in Amuwo Odofin. I pay for a dish and decoder. I am informed about the ‘Sat saver’ that stops power surge, so I buy it. A team is supposed to package my purchase neatly for me. But after going through my package on second thoughts just before leaving, I did not find my Sat saver. So I alarm the team, and one of them reluctantly goes in to bring the Sat saver out! One hurdle- successful.

Next hurdle: the installation guy is supposed to come and mount the dish on my roof. He grumbles his way to my gate. Mutters his identity and then roams around my house- into my bedroom without permission, looking for where and how he’ll mount the dish. After a few minutes he states categorically there’s no way a dish can seat on my roof or anywhere else for that matter. As a fellow Nigerian, I smile, knowing his lazy and crooked mind is waiting for a bribe (after spending so much money buying the product itself!). Hmm, life is hard!

After an hour or so we come up with a solution since I was unwilling to ‘grease’ his palms: I shall get an extended scaffold attached to my balcony for the dish. He promises to be back the next day.

The next day I call, he announces to me that this is Sunday, “and we do not work on Sundays.” But my card has been configured on Saturday and is already reading!

So on Monday I call by 10am, he says he’ll be there for 12pm. I call again by 12.30pm; he says he’ll come by 4pm. I call by 5pm; he doesn’t pick up his phone. Repeated calls were made, his phone was finally switched off. I look through the brochure of the company and search for a number to call. Thankfully I get through to the boss, he tells me he’d get in touch with the guy. I say a thank you.

The next day (Tuesday) I start my endless calls to the installation guy. Finally he picks it up and with an irritated tone announces he’d be there by 12pm. He doesn’t show up by 12pm. I am running mad, so I call the boss again. He promises, for the umpteenth time, to get in touch with the guy. I sigh.

At this point in time I am already thinking of a consumer protection agency that I can complain to. If there is any, I have not felt their impact. So I bury my head in my hand and complain to God instead. So my card reads for four days, and no one from VitusCom has come around to complete their service.

At 7.30pm I am thinking of a drastic step I would need to take the next day, when the lazy installation guy leisurely opens my gate murmurs a ‘good evening’ (no apologies) and did the installation in the dark! While installing and making sure he keeps his heavy lips busy with complaints of how overworked and underpaid he was, he manages to slip one of my extension cables into his pocket!

As a writer I am always in search of information- through television, radio, internet, and literatures etc, this means I always need electricity. I hardly ever get electricity. Soon I may need to visit a doctor to check on my ears, the deafening sound of a zillion generators in my office neighbourhood is sickening.

Is it not bad enough that we have an apathetic government that is insensitive to our plights, why do we not learn to make life easy for ourselves? What we do to ourselves, as Nigerians, is disheartening. Why do we torture ourselves? Why do we deny ourselves the necessary courtesy and respect all human beings are entitled to? Why can’t employees be loyal, courteous and trustworthy? Why can’t employers be kind and tolerant?Why must life be so hard in Nigeria?

We should learn to respect ourselves and practice our profession with dignity. How can our economy grow when we always look down on our jobs and perform below expectation. Where is the dignity in labour?

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1 comment

Anonymous March 29, 2007 - 11:28 pm

Hmmm, life is very hard in American, sometimes harder than in Nigeria. Nigeria is good.


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