Missing…at the mall!


Imagine with me, you are walking through the doors of a shopping mall and a middle aged lady confronts you. Worried, anxious, frightened and sweating: “have you seen my son?!” She gasps for breathe as she tries to explain; “he’s five, he’s wearing a blue jeans, and.. and.. and…” her voice trembles as she tries to remember what shirt he was wearing. She pushes the air downward with her palm to show you his about 2-3 feet height. You are bewildered, confused. Alarmed! You shake your head negatively, you cannot speak, wondering what’s going on and how she’d expect you to know her son and have seen him? You are not helping her… She runs in another direction explains to someone else, throws away her shopping bag, this time she’s explaining to a mall attendant with a walkie-talkie, that she cannot find her son….

She’s confused. So many times, we go shopping in these big malls, we easily loose sight of our children in those thousands of aisles. We are in-between picking items from the shelves and peripherally keeping an eye on our children. These boys and girls run through the aisles busting with energy and sometimes hiding, waiting to be found. It’s an opportunity for them to play and let loose stored up energy to eat up those large mall spaces that you do not have at home. Some of them are most expressive at the malls, they tell you stuff they neither tell you at home or in the car.

If your children are like mine, very expressive and can strike a conversation innocently with strangers, you don’t want them out of your sight!. At Michael Angelo hotel in SA, while at breakfast, my children walked into an elderly man in landing area and within ten minutes of conversation, the man knew my age, my wife’s, where they were born and their hobbies. Children are pure and innocent and they always expect every adult would be like their parents. Wrong! They like the ambience of big malls and hotels and they can easily disappear on you. Go with them to the bathroom. Don’t be too busy shopping and let a five or six years walk to the bathroom and come back looking for you!

It has been reported that nearly 7,000 children have been featured on Wal-Mart bulletin boards and about 5,300 of them have been recovered! That leaves about 1,500 or more and counting not found. (https://corporate.walmart.com/_news-archieve/)

While you are at the mall shopping, some other mischievous people are there to shop for children. I keep wondering how they are able to abduct these children undetected. Don’t these malls have live cctv cameras that swipe the aisles? Do these children not struggle, scream or shout? Or are they enticed with toys or sedated and they innocently follow trusting everyone as always. Perhaps too much time is lost between when the child is missing and when reported.

I saw the movie kidnap, an American abduction thriller where Harry Berry’s son was kidnapped at a park and she fought with her life and ended up rescuing her son and other children. Mel Gibson also typified this in a movie called ransom where his son was also abducted from a park, but this time ransom was asked. While the boys were rescued in the two movies, I cannot help thinking about the trauma they might have faced and how they may be scarred for life.

While at the shopping malls with our children, let us always ensure that our children are either in the cart we are pushing or let them push the cart for us or hold hands. Give your children shopping mall lessons/ very strict instructions not to run off as they nearly always would. No shopping is worth looking for your son or daughter at the end of the shopping. Malls management should also have sweeping cctv survellance cameras around the clock on very aisle online realtime, monitoring customers as they come and go and not just watching out for shoplifting.



The Angry Retail Cashier.

You know that cold, withdrawn, sordid stonewall-faced, look-down-pretending-to-be-busy look you receive from a retail cashier at a shopping mall? This comes usually after you have made the rounds from one aisle to the other searching for items you really want and juggling in your mind if you even have enough money on your card to make payment. Usually you don’t have a shopping list, so you pick items on instinct and prompting as they appeal to you, sometimes your children throw items into the cart, if you have not trained them to ask before picking items. Then you join this very long queue of shoppers that twist and turns. Then it’s finally your turn to make payment…

You begin to wonder why you are faced with a seemingly angry looking retail cashier who cannot even greet, not to talk of giving you a warm smile. And it’s usually a she right? I think perhaps the male retail cashiers would try to chat up the ladies and perhaps say hello to the men.

She gives you that look of she’s doing you a favor and you are wasting her time with all these items! Oh! Well, I’m better qualified for this job of a retail cashier, I just took it to be busy. Then she picks the items with disdain in her looks and starts to scan them like the money is coming from her account and she didn’t authorize this purchases!

Customers are faced with this every day and you begin to wonder if these retail cashiers know it’s your sweat that pays their bills!? But then what’s your complaint? That she wasn’t pleasant? She didn’t smile at you? She didn’t say hello? You both know she’s not paid to do any of those. She’s just paid to check-you-out, take your money, but you’d expect some pleasant assisting retail cashier. Sometimes you have to pack your items yourself into a bag. At other times you get some help with expectation of gratification.

If you are paying cash, get ready to hear there’s no change. I bought some drinks at the Dubai airport and paid with $100 bill. The retail cashier couldn’t reconcile my casual traveling outfit with being able to afford to bring out $100? All this is communicated without a word. Just one look. She raised the $100 bill in the air to check that it was not counterfeit. She didn’t do that for other customers. You just shrug and take the embarrassment. At a fast food joint at Charles De Gaulle airport, a retail cashier refused to sell to us because we couldn’t speak French and she couldn’t speak English. It was my son who saved the day with his French. I was thankful the school fees I was paying paid off.

It gets worse if she’s done and you card can’t take the payment or some network troubleshooting that the card isn’t paying. Then she gets irritable, if the card reads “insufficient funds”! She announces it to get you embarrassed and for other shopping customers to hear. Well, you sort it out somehow, perhaps drop some times and thankfully you made it out of the mall alive. A retail cashier at a coffee shop at Houston Hobby airport snapped at me because I brought out $20 to pay for $3.99 coffee!

Retail cashiers globally need a lot of training to understand that they got the job because they are to help customers who are spending their money, so they can get paid, weekly, hourly or monthly. It’s not some lofty high up office where you approach “the bench”for a favor.

Managers and executives of shopping malls should arrange mystery shoppers for their cashiers to fire those unpleasant ones who think they doing customers a favor. This will serve as a deterrent. Some bring the fights they had at home to the retail cash desk and have the customers deal with it!

This goes for several other contact points where customers have to face this cold, ill treatment. Whether it is at the fast food joint, grocery store or even laundry mart. I was at a lego shop once to buy some LEGO toys for my children to reward them for doing so well in their examinations. The retail cashier instead of a greeting announced to me upfront that the POS wasn’t working except I had cash! So that I know and not waste her time. I had to scold her and to ask if she was the owner of the shop she would address me that way. Well, I truly wanted the LEGO to make my boys happy. So when network improved, I went back to pick and pay for the items.

Have you been to a shop and it was just ten minutes to closing and the retail cashier says to you “we have closed”! Like you are bothering her and where the hell have you been since we opened from 8:00am? I nearly caused a scene at Atlanta airport because I wanted an orange juice, I was starring at it, the shop was open but the nasty retail cashier said she had closed!? You grapple with that everyday.

Customers go through a lot especially in these very harsh global economies to make ends meet and they shouldn’t be treated in such derogatory disdain disrespectful manner at retail cash points by some dim-wit retail cashier, who they can employ as their maid, just because they did to pay for their items.

Thankfully technology may soon save us all the trouble when self-check-out, which is already on test run becomes global. You wouldn’t have to deal with those sad, gloomy faces again, you just scan you items on your phone or tablet or mobile device, make a payment with it and walk out the door of the shopping mall into the sunshine without any retail cashier molesting you with a bad attitude.

Restaurant Losing Customers. Why?

A very popular restaurant in Lagos, Nigeria where the working middle class and more, would go for their African and continental dishes was losing customers and they did not even know it. It used to be a status symbol to have lunch meetings and dates there. Ladies have had baby showers and guys hangout there especially after hours on Fridays. It’s difficult to count 5 bests in Lagos without mentioning this one…

In the course of a conversation I asked a friend why we no longer run into each other at this choice restaurant. He’s probably supped and dined there for at least 5 years and so have I. Sort of a traditional thing to have lunch there from the office with at least three colleagues to finish off that work discussion in a lighter mode. My friend said he no longer dines there because the standard and food quality has fallen. He now does lunch at other places that have “better” food quality. He thinks complacency has set in and the management was no longer brining their A game to the table. My friend’s conservative meal expenditure at this restaurant in five years can be modestly put at $15,000 in a year!

The restaurant doesn’t know that their sales have dipped. They don’t even also know that some high networth customers no longer eat their food. Let’s assume this trend continues and I didn’t even notice the quality of food had dropped, but I’m likely to follow my friend’s judgment because we’ve been friends forever and have similar choices. If I had pushed, he would have disclosed his new joint and I also would move restaurants and the restaurant still would not even know it.

So you ask, what’s the solution and what’s responsible for this? The restaurant doesn’t have any feedback channels for customers complaint. They just serve meals and have perhaps a manger who walks around saying hello to customers. The customers cannot vent or lodge any complaint. There’s no avenue or channels for that. The customers don’t have anyway of informing management of the dip in quality and standards. Even if they did, the manager might feel obligated to defend his brand rather than pay attention to what the customer is complaining about.

That’s where a customers’ Ombudsman comes in. If the restaurant had an Ombudsman, and the customers are aware of this function, the Ombudsman would have been informed either by text message, email, Twitter, Whatsapp, telephone call and or any other communicative medium available to the restaurant. The Ombudsman might have followed up to ascertain which services precisely is being complained about or what meals. Management would fix it and perhaps rewarded the customer who lodged the complaint with complimentary meals for some days to encourage others to lodge any dissatisfactory complaint.

The restaurant might have saved over $45,000 from several customers in a year and sustained its food quality and customers. This is the value the Customers’ Ombudsman brings to the table.

The Ice Skates.

A 58 years old Lady was traveling from Moscow through Dubai to Sidney to visit her daughter was was due to put to bed in a couple of weeks. The daughter loves ice skating. So the lady bought her daughter a brand new ice skates as present. She was assured at the check in counter that she could carry the ice skates in her carryon bag that there was no need to check it in.

The security and screening point indicated that the ice skates was among prohibited items to carry on the plane, because of the sharp edges. This was contrary to what the checked in counter officer had told her. The Lady’s flight was in 30 mins and was boarding ! The lady called her husband back to take the ice stakes back home, disappointed she was not going to be able to give her daughter the surprise present.

The Lady missed her flight because the desk officer would not assist her to handover the ice skates quickly and still board the plane. Her luggage was taken off the plane and the desk officer rudely told her that her suitcases were taken off the plane because she was late to board even after admitting it was his wrong directive to carry the ice skates in carryon bag that’s caused the delay to board the plane.

The Lady ended up sleeping at the cold lounge and her daughter had to assist her with an alternative flight booking. She spent 24 hours before the next flight and filed complaint against the airline and got a lot of compensation for poor customer treatment.

What is your complaint against service providers.? Don’t suffer in silence. You can have that complaint resolved and even get compensated for the poor services. Just visit http://www.texanombuds.com today and lodge your complaint.

There is hope for Africa, after all…

Over 100 young African Leaders are participating in a Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI) workshop at ASCON, Badagry Nigeria. The young leaders are kept together for a period of 5 weeks per cohort and trained on subjects like Leadership & Accountability, Culture & Ethics and loads more. Over 1,700 young African leaders have been trained on integrity, accountability, leadership and culture and they are not disappointing.

This is a Barack Obama 2010 Initiative, because the problem of Africa is good, effective and accountable leadership. In the last 50-60 years, African leaderships have squandered the wealth and resources of the continent and have used its resources to build the West. Stolen loots have been traced to several

Banks in the West.

They are still regarded as the Black Continent despite how Africa has developed the West.

These young leaders impressed in terms of capacity, zeal to make Africa proud again and it is estimated that in another 5-10 years from now, one of these Great YALIians would emerge an Africa president, and more in the years to come.

I watched some of the greatest debates by these young African leaders and I’m encouraged and inspired that the future is bright. As a Facilitator, I was inspired to give more because we didn’t have such projects during our growing up years.

They feel distinct, chosen, separated and have shown character in their dealings and engagement. They have given the continent hope that in some years to come some of the mess of the past will be cleaned up.

Watch out for these Young African Leaders.

No Refund After Sales.

Have you seen those tags at shops, telling customers, once you’ve paid for an item, that’s it? Customers are supposed to be 100% sure of what they want to buy, because they cannot change their minds?

Some shops would ask the customer to pick something else, but certainly no refund! Could it be that the item may have deteriorated in value within when the customer bought it and changed his mind?

How about when it’s a wrong size or a gift that didn’t have the correct specifications and they shop doesn’t have the right size/ specifications? It may also be in the case of shops that allow time for money back or replacement that customers abuse the rights or are dishonest.

How do we look for a middle course to this. Can exploitation really be avoided from either sides? While it’s not fair to the customer for the shop to say no refund, it is also not fair for the shop for the customer to use the item depreciate the value of even spoil the item and claim/ request for a refund.

What would you think would be a win:win middle road for both the shop and the customer in cases needing a refund?

Customer is King..:

This cliche has been over used and has probably lost its meaning. Business owners do not believe customer is king. They believe in their profit margin and customers take what business owners have or leave it.

How can we come back to the paradigm that businesses are set up for customers’ satisfaction first which then yields profit to the business owners?

We must do the following;

  • Find out what the customer wants.
  • Do businesses that align with customers’ needs.
  • Create effective customer feedback channels.
  • Resolve customers complaints early.
  • Treat customers with respect & dignity.
  • Create customer forum for interaction.
  • Have customers’ suggestion box to hear from customers.
  • Create business incentives for customers.

This said, businesses can only thrive when customers are given the right of place and we acknowledge that customer is king in our businesses.