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Bad customer care not necessarily racism

By August 19, 2013June 6th, 2023No Comments

Sunday 18th Auguist 2013

For every home having a TV, Europeans and North Americans, you’d think, would know all countries and what their important inhabitants do. Interestingly though, don’t ask them about some parts of the world, sometimes including parts of their countries, and don’t ask them about people.

In Rwanda, if you show a picture of Oprah Winfrey to a kid in the remotest village, she/he’ll shout out her name and nationality. Not so in Europe or North America, it’d seem!

If you are a news freak like yours passionately, you’ll have been at the receiving end of splashes of news of Oprah recently visiting Zürich, Switzerland. She was in town to attend the umpteenth, soon-to-break-up wedding of an impossibly-unfading, youthful-looking friend, Tina Turner. Remember her, of the “What’s Love Got To Do With It?” fame? At 74 years of age, how many husbands has Turner ploughed through? And, as Oprah’be witness, she aint done yet!

But Oprah in Zürich. So, one good afternoon, while waiting for the nuptials, Oprah feels like buying something and saunters into a luxury shop. See, she is the famous Oprah of the “Show”. $77million-earning-every-year, $2.8-billion-fortune-worth, of her. So, who wouldn’t jump at the opportunity of serving her? Says she: “I didn’t have my eyelashes on—” And now I’m like, what! (Yes, that’s yours inseparably, septuagenarian Ingina, speaking! Don’t you love the lingo of these kids!) Oprah was speaking, though: “—but I was in full Oprah Winfrey gear.”

In short, she was the face that’s familiar to all. So, in the shop, Oprah points at a crocodile-skin handbag and politely asks: “Excuse me, may I see the bag right above your head?” And the shop attendant says: “No. It’s too expensive.” Oprah: “Please, I just want to see it.” Attendant: “No, no. You don’t want to see that one; you want to see this one because that one costs too much.” Talk of a caring heart! You see, “that” one costs $37,152 while “this” one costs $500.

Oprah says she considered buying the entire shop so that the attendant would lose her job but changed her mind because the attendant would get part of the money, as her last salary.

And now, when you think of it, isn’t it mean of Oprah also? The young girl deserves censoring for her shoddy service delivery, all right, but is it reason she shouldn’t get her little salary?

In any case, was it true that the shop attendant’s conduct exhibited racism?

I remember the story of a friend, one time in Bordeaux, France. He went to a butchery and headed for the side with nice fresh pieces of meat, cut direct from the carcasses of animals from the countryside. The cheaper meat in deep freezers was on another side. On seeing this, the French (white) meat vendor said: “Monsieur, you are in the wrong place.” The Rwandan friend understood and retorted: “Monsieur, you are in the wrong job.” And with a crisp 100 Francs bill, he curtly said: “Two kilos.” It was now the French man’s turn to plead for a smaller bill!

Was this a sign of racism, too? Your guess is better than mine!

One time in Kigali, I wanted a new glass for the dial of my watch. Luckily, there was a new watch dealer in town, Watch Company. But the moment I entered the shop in Kigali City Tower, ground floor, I seemed to be a nuisance as the elderly, portly Indian gentleman was in conversation with a friend. Almost apologetically, I said: “Excuse me, sir, is it possible to get a glass for this watch?” The man threw an impatient glance at my watch and said: “The price is too high. Why don’t you buy a new watch instead of buying a new glass for an old watch?”

My watch is an Appella, more avant-garde than some TAG Heuer and other such fine watches. In any case, it’s a gift that’s precious to me. So I insisted: “Sir, what’s your high price? Five hundred thousand, one million?” The fellow looked at me for the first time and said: “Eight thousand Franks.” That’s equivalent to about $12, if you are not in Rwanda. I asked him if then he could fix it for me but among the glasses he had, none fitted my watch. So much for the denigration!

And I thought the man was the same race as the DK Opticals proprietor, probably the best service provider in town.

Those who were in Kigali in the mid-1990s remember a luxury drapery shop that used to be called Kwa Nyiragasazi. I remember one time visiting it and enquiring as to the cost of a jacket that I fancied. The Rwandan Nyiragasazi sized me up, examining me from my hair tip to my toe, and concluded: “No, I think you’ll be more at home in Nyabugogo!”

Nyabugogo is home to a sprawling market that sells all kinds of secondhand clothes!

Me, I think bad customer care is just that; many times it has nothing to do with race.

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