Monday, May 12, 2008

Just one of many differences between Angola and Jamaica

Yesterday I had one of those experiences that made me realize that Angola really is a different place and that it changed me- in this case for the worse, I fear!

The Lobito ShopRite was both satisfying and frustrating at the same time. On the one hand, it was great because it was a Western style grocery store that let me kill some of my consumer urges. On he other hand, like every other establishment in Angola, it was plagued with problems. For example: I would see a new product on the shelves and there would be no price attached to it. I would ofen decide it was worth it, take it to the cashier and attempt to pay. Usually the cahsier would try to scan it 5 or 6 times and call up a supervisor when it would not scan. The supervisor would usually say it wasn't in the system so I couldn't buy it. Some version of the following conversation would usually happen:

Supervisor: It's not for sale.
Me: So, it's on the shelf but it's not for sale.
Supervisor: Right.
Me: So why is it on the shelf?
Supervisor: Because we will sell it eventually.
Me: Why not wait to put it on the shelf until it has a price?
Blank looks all around...

This happened all the time and what was most frustrating was the total indifference and unwillingness to help the customer in the situation. The first time it happened I didn't say anything, but it happened so often I began to say something, trying to express my customer dissatisfaction. Never seemed to make a difference, but then again, as the only big supermarket in town, there was no real incentive to listen to customers.

Fast forward to Jamaica. With the proximity to the US, supermarkets here stock tons of American products. I'm currently in Montego Bay- for work, believe it or not. After 2 weeks of traveling, I'm quite tired of eating in restaurants, so yesterday I went to a large supermarket to get something for dinner. I was quite excited to see some mozzarella string cheese, so I picked two packs and some crackers and veggies.

When I got to the check-out, the cashier tried to ring up the string cheese but it wouldn't go through. The bagger tried to track down the price, but he came back with a familiar reason- it wasn't in the computer so they couldn't sell it.
Me: So it's one the shelf but it's not for sale? It shouldn't be on the shelf if it's not for sale.
(Here's where things go differently...)
Cashier: Yes ma'am, I'm so sorry. That shouldn't have happened.
Bagger: We're very sorry. You're right
Cashier: Sorry for the inconvenience.

Whoa! I immediately began to feel very badly for making an impolite comment. It was just so nice to have decent customer service after almost two years of horrible customer service. I guess I can drop the defensive shield I developed in Angola. At least until it happens elsewhere!


Anonymous said...

I live in Angola and this happens to me all the time! Especially in Shoprite. You try and buy something and if they can't find the price, that's it, no sale. It's even happened in Casa Dos Frescos with fresh bread. Quite remarkable... and INCREDIBLY frustating.

La Gringa said...

I've been denied the privilege of buying something (on the shelf!) so many times in Honduras. And yes, the oddest thing is that no one seems to see the irony of this.

Just yesterday, I had to make a call to Home Depot in the US. The lady was so darn nice that I almost cried when I hung up.

Leslie said...

Anon- with fresh bread? Wow, that's incredible even for Angola!

Living overseas has really made me appreciate good customer service. Even when I go through customs in Miami I am so happy the agents say "Hello" and even "Welcome home"!