When Ghanaians ask ‘Are you there?,‘ there’s a word missing in the sentence. Insert ‘all’ between ‘you’ and ‘there’ and you’ll get the drift. I’m beginning to wonder whether Knysna business is all there. To be fair, there’s much around town which is handled with so much flair and acumen that the mind boggles at people’s resourcefulness and inventiveness. But if the following little episode is symptomatic of how small business operates, then no wonder there is a perceived state of malaise and talk of the town’s future being in jeopardy.
You’d think that buying a five litre tin of paint was straightforward. Alas no. I want white gloss. And I don’t want it running like an outbreak of diarrhea in a troop of baboons. So off I trot to the local paint shop (let’s call them ‘Trulux’ for the purpose of this blog). I spot what I’m looking for. In bold print on the side of the tin are the desired words, ‘non drip.’ The shop assistant reassures me ‘Sir this will stick to the brush like glue.’ So having parted with an arm and a leg, I return home and hand over the goods to my trusty painter (I have a long held allergy to open paint pots).
A few hours later, while inspecting progress, I find the stuff is running faster than Mr Bolt (let’s get into the Olympic spirit). Perturbed, I rescue the piddle and return to the paint shop.
‘It says on this ‘ere paint tin that it won’t drip. But if flows faster than the White River after a three day storm.’
‘Are you there?’
‘That paint. It is non dripping.’
‘And my mum’s Cleopatra. I’d like a refund please.’
‘I have to speak to the boss about that one.’
Three days later I’d heard nothing so off I go again to said shop. This time the boss is there and I explain my beef.
‘I hear what you say. I’ll have to consult the boss.’
‘Er, isn’t that you?’
‘I have to speak to the regional manager in Plett.’
Four days later, no call. I phone today and only then do I receive the desired promise of a refund.
Has anyone heard of delegated authority? If an assistant has to consult a boss who has to consult another boss before a trivial bit of customer relations work can be satisfactorily settled, what hope is there? The law is on my side. If goods sold are not as described, I’m actually entitled to my refund. There should have been no reason for me to beg and plead for my money, nor for me to have wasted a week of my time.
You think it ends there? Nay. Off I go to another purveyor of the wet stuff. Let’s call them ‘Builder’s Bottom Cleavage Depot’ since it is here that many in the trade appear to have their jeans slung closer to their knees than strapped around their waists. I acquire a tin of Velvaglow at a price which turns me altogether paraplegic and head for the till in a wheelchair, where the attendant inexplicably adds R153 to the price.
Thirty minutes later I’m refunded the difference and I need a calming cup of coffee. Gordon Bennett! I think it would be easier to live in a cave.
Mike Wood writes a regular blog in the sleepy town of Knysna in the Southern Cape. He also writes African-theme novels (www.michaelconradwood.com) and presents a programme of World Music on Knysna 97 FM (live streaming on www.knysnafm.co.za).