Oh American Customer Service…

Disclaimer: The Following is a rant and typed on a French Keyboard. Apologies in advance for typos.

There are days zhsere I am perfectly content to beliving and serving in BF. There are other days where I just feel like a dummy and wish I were back in America. Today is one of those days.

Today is my normal go to Ouahigouya day. I tried to consolidate by ony taking one bag and putting my laptop in my new laptop sleeve. I put all of my cords and other stuff in antother bag/The problem is that I was a dummy and left that bag at home…So when I got to the Cyber, i had one dead computer with no cord to plug it in with. And i thought ok, I’ll just use the computers there I have 3 hours remaining on my internet so I’ll just use the computers there

The exchange went something like this:

me: Hi, I forgot my cord, I have 3 hours, can I use that on the cyber computers?

employee: no, we can’t let you do that. It’s against our policy/ We already recorded the 5 hours you bought for your personal computer

me: But can’t you change it in the books and then let me use it for 3 hours on the cyber computers?

employee: No.

So I left and went somewhere else. In BF they are sticklers for rules and regulations. For example if you go to the Poste to pick up a package. The package person has to be there to give it to you; If he’s not there, you can’t get your package. Also, the recepient of said package has to be the one to pick that package up with ID. That”s why our packages sent to main post box in ouaga have to be addressed S/c — in care of Corps de la Paix.

I think the theory is that if these rule and regs are not followed that employees could potentially get in trouble, so that is why they are followed to the letter.

I remember listening to a BBC From our Own Correspondents repont from Japan. The journalist wes explaining how in Japan they are bound by rule and do everything in their power to avoid breaking them. He was trying to get a drivers license but did not have the proper paperwork but the government was able to work around that becausewas able to send them a copy of his University Degree.

In America the customer is always right…and bad word-of-mouth reviews can kill a business. Most businesses will try to do everything they can to please a potential customer becausq happy customes could mean refferals and recommendations and could potentially increase profits.People also work for tips. Most waitstaff don’t get paid a lot of money and the vast majority comes from tips. In short, if you are a surly server, you’re probably not going to make a lot of money.

Here’s how restaurant service generally works in BF:

In restaurants/cafes/maquis where plates are less than 1000 FCFA — about 2 Dollars

Servers are generally surly –especially if Teresa is on–and there is usually a drink server and a food server which are separate. You do not tip. Also like many places in Burkina they don’t have change; or they will have to send a child out to get it. There’s a 90 percent chance that they won’t have the food or drink that you wan…and that’s too bad.

In nicer restaurants –ones generally frequented by ex-pats–the service is generally better and you generally tip a  few hundered FCFA a person if the service was not downright awful. That doesn’t mean that the customer is always right.

One time my friend Beth and I went out for Ice cream in Ouaga. I got a banana split my friend asked for two scoops in a cone…what was brought out instead was 3 scoops with whipped cream. the price difference was over 2000 FCFA. She was shocked. The waiter said that he thought she named three scoops of ice cream with whipped cream — I was there. She only ordered two and said no to whipped cream. The waiter was convinced thats what she ordered and blamed it on my friends so called poor French–which isn’t true. Eventually he said just pay for what you feel comfortable, so she paid for the two scoops. This whole debacle took about 30 minutes.

Several BF PCVs were Starbucks Baristas in a past life and they told me that they plan for a set number of messed up/spilled drinks each day to maintain customer satisfication.

So Sara, what’s your point? I think if a greater effort was spent towards customer service that everyone would be much happier. I think that tips could be used as positive reinforcement to encourage good customer service.

Everyone has bad days; whether they are in BF or not. Here the highs are really high and the lows can be really low. When you succeed you feel like a rock star. And that’s what makes this job worth it.


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