Dennis Jones is a Jamaican-born international economist, who has lived most of the time in the UK and USA, and latterly in Guinea, west Africa. He moved back to the Caribbean in 2007. This blog contains his observations on life on this small eastern Caribbean island, as well as views on life and issues on a broader landscape, especially the Caribbean and Africa.







**You may contact me by e-mail at livinginbarbados[at]gmail[dot]com**

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Attitude? What Attitude? This Snarl is For Real.

This post is about nothing in particular and everything in general.

My friend, "Thesephone", invited me to an impromptu lunch. Well, not wholly unplanned, because she had plans for me--to help her pick up a new car. During lunch, she asked me to give a summary of what I thought of my time in Bim. I demurred a little and asked if I could give a pass or fail grade because it's sometimes difficult to say "how good" or "how bad". I then gave my overall assessment as being positive, but that if you scratch the surface the veneer peels away all too easily. My general take is that for a country so-called on the cusp of being developed there is a lot that is still nowhere near the excellent level. I find a country that has moved a long way physically but I wonder how far its people have moved along the road. Honestly, I added, you can find people who are really near the mark in terms of attitude, approach, diligence, etc. but then you get a raft of others who really need to start all over again. There seemed to be a hard attitude toward dealing with criticism, whether or not this was given positively. For my taste, there is too much service with a snarl (see previous post on this topic).

We found the first when we went to pick up the car from a rental company on the south coast: everyone was pleasant and working hard to make the customer feel that all would be right. The spare key needed to be found: arrangements were made to have new keys made by the initial retailer. There were some features missing: they were found, cleaned, and replaced. The staff were ready to engage in discussion about the vehicle and did not take questions as pricks in the skin.

I had the other image, of the "what customer service" kind pushed onto me again last evening. An old friend is visiting the island to do some consultancy work on data concerning remittances. He mentioned to me what he had found during his time working with institutions here. "They were not very prepared for our mission; "They have been putting numbers together and publishing them for years, but the numbers are no good;" "None of the financial institutions that are supposed to report have any standard instructions." That's quite a litany of "not quite there". Still, he was going to plug away for the next 10 days.

We then went to have a drink at a bar just a few hundred metres from my the hotel where my friend and his colleagues were staying. Smiling, he told me how the night before they had visited this nicely located beach side bar. They ordered a pitcher of beer and were told that it was two-for-one happy hour. Well, they explained, they really couldn't drink two pitchers. So, the barman said he would give them a "rain check" for the second pitcher the next night. Very reasonable, I would say. If you are offering such a deal it seems to make little logical sense when you take the two parts. Or so we thought.

There was my friend hoping to get his pitcher when the owner of said bar came to tell him that her barman had no right to promise this "rain check", and if he wanted a pitcher he could buy another one. It was again happy hour so I could see we would be in the same situation as the night before; this time I would offer to take the second pitcher home, if it came to that. Well, after a bit of discussion the owner said that her barman would be in trouble when he comes to work again, but would honour his promise. My friend is abrasive but also reasonable, so he offered to split the difference and pay for the pitcher. He thought that would keep all happy. But along came the co-owner, the sister of the first lady. "Why you think we need your charity? You have money, you can pay..." My friend tried to reason that if he was treated well he and his friends would be coming for beers every night they were in the island. That seemed to go no where.

For my part, I said to the lady, a Bulgarian, that this was not the kind of attitude that should be shown to visitors to the island; my friend had only arrived on Sunday. I added that, as her sister had said, they have a staff problem that they need to resolve and it's for them to do that, not for the customers to resolve that problem. I guess she did not like that, and when I offered to continue the discussion in Russian, she took that offer and we exchanged a few words, nicely I must add. She was surprised that I really could speak Russian and went off huffily. My friend was shocked that I could take her on in a Slavic tongue. For good measure, I reminded her that while they would be gone in a week or so, I would be back and would have no problem drinking all of my happy hour drafts.

Why is it, that on an island so dependent on tourism, the visitors are seen just as cash cows, and not really there to be treated well?

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