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Consumer Affairs
Thursday, October 16, 2014 - 11:45
Poor resolution

I hate shopping these days. When I have to do so, I set forth in fear and trepidation. Service levels are pretty bad but what makes it really worse is the IQ level. That’s pretty low too.

I went to Woolworths in Cavendish Shopping Centre (Claremont, Cape Town) to get some jeans, which was successful, but I saw a three for two price nearby for T-shirts. I must say I was not in a good mood, having wrestled with incompetence, lack of communication and failing to keep promises on the part of Chubb Security that morning; and then an hour later having an irritating attempt to get something sorted out by the Cavendish Apple iStore. Both epic fails.
So I am in Woolworth’s on this rare excursion, and I want to try on some jeans and t-shirts. That’s another thing, by the way, the inconsistency in sizing. Why is it if you are a medium 34, clothes marked as such can vary between a 32 and a 36? I won’t even bore you with the episode at Edgar’s over wrongly sized underwear. Anyway, where was I? Oh yes, well dishonesty is so rife in South Africa they have this token system. Firstly the, (trying to put it politely) rather large lady sitting in control of the fitting rooms, wearing a bored expression with down-turned lips, said I could not take in more than six items. I had seven, so I left two that were the same sizes with her anyway (hoping they would not disappear) and she gave me a disk for six. I tried to explain her error and she frostily, wordlessly counted the items and changed the disk to a five. I tried to remain calm but could not help but remark that she would have otherwise accused me of stealing a t-shirt, say, in my underwear, when I came out with only five items.
Anyway, fast forward to Amsterdam. I popped into an H&M stores, grabbed three pairs of shorts, and went into the fitting rooms. I nervously, anxiously looked for a security guard or something, but there was nobody there. I quickly cottoned on because I could see there was no chair, desk or any security tokens as they simply TRUSTED people!! So I went in, tried on the garments and then went out and paid. No discs, no wordless misery, just plain simple honesty and a pleasant unstressed experience.
I see at ‘Tops!’, the Spar liquor franchise in South Africa, incidentally, has started putting security tags on bottles of whisky. What is it with this place!?!
But my Woolworth’s experience was just hotting up. Leaving the unfriendly fitting rooms, I now have to pay for the items I tried on. So I get to the counter with the six t-shirts and two pairs of jeans I wanted and then more trouble started. To get a free t-shirt, I needed to buy two. I had six, so was expecting to get two free. Unfortunately two of the shirts were priced differently and had in actual fact been displayed on the wrong table, and were not part of the deal. This meant I could have one free t-shirt, pay for the fourth because it was now an ‘orphan’, then the full higher price for the other two. I was happy to pay the correct price but wanted to use the two more expensive items to cover a free second one. Hope you are still with me.

A manager was called and, as usual, he repeated everything I already knew, failing to grasp the essence of the problem: their incompetence, and knack for irritating customers. I was so close to walking out, but just one thing held me back: I’d spent 25 fricking minutes choosing the items. This was because the labels were not clear, sizes and types were mixed up. I was now standing before them with six t-shirts and I wanted answers and service. I eventually carted the manager off to the tables to show him the evidence. But the more expensive t-shirts had been removed. Wow, that was quick! How come they are so slow with customers but lightning fast trying to hide an error? Any way it was a bit like the naughty school boy hiding his conkers and the manager kind of demurred and decided to respond to my complaint in a more helpful way.
He then did something I never asked him to do, charge the more expensive t-shirts at the same price as the cheaper ones, then run the three-for-two deal. I pointed out that that was not what I was complaining about, that I wanted to pay the right price, and get my two free t-shirts, but he wouldn’t let me! It was such a joke.
I left feeling just as cross because I wanted to save the correct amount, R179.90 not R240.20. That was just plain wrong (see table). Mind you, this three-for-two is all smoke and mirrors. I am willing to bet that Woolworths bought the t-shirts in for something like R5 each – OK, maybe R10, but you get the idea. You’d be surprised at the mark-ups retailers apply, and even more surprised at the landed price.
I may as well just round this off by alluding further to the Chubb fiasco. The typical day started off with the usual irritation, this time a technician to repair the alarm system – we have now been complaining about the problem since March 2013 (yes, ‘2013’ not this year). He was supposed to come on the Wednesday morning but did not pitch. Noon passes by. Should one wait in case he turns up? Not any more. I am done with that. For far too often people providing services – in this case Chubb security (who, by the way we call ‘Chump Security’ – simply have no business ethic, or sense of courtesy. And don’t bother complaining either because the best you will get is, ‘I will see what I can do for you, Sir’; like they are doing you a favour. When I got this response once too often I went off the handle: ‘NO! It’s not about what YOU can do for ME: it’s about what YOU can do for YOU. You are the ones causing the problem, not me.’
The technician still hasn’t pitched. It is August 2014. I have paid R550 odd for ‘repairs’, but so far the original problem from March last year remains unresolved. I will just hold off paying the monthly bills till someone wakes up and starts helping me. Funny thing is, houses don’t need security services in Amsterdam.

Copyright © Insurance Times and Investments® Vol:27.10 1st October, 2014
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