Customer Service — A Foreign Concept

24 01 2006

This past Saturday, our phone mysteriously went dead.

Our bill was paid up. The phone line to the house hadn’t been knocked down. Lightning hadn’t hit (it has not rained since Oct.). What was the deal?

We’d actually had this happen to us before, so I knew I needed to get to the phone company and alert them to the situation. Unfortunately, when I got to their office early Saturday morning, no one was there. A call to the office (on our cell phone) yielded nothing but rings.

“Okay, gotta wait until Monday,” I told myself. “Get there first thing in the morning and they should have the phone back up by the afternoon.”

I got to the phone company’s office around 8:30am on Monday. The lady behind the desk took down our phone number, called it to make sure that it was truly out of order (it was) and then made another call to get their “service” guys on it. Or so I thought…

By 4pm on Monday, we still had no phone and I went back up to the office.

When I inquired as to why our phone was still out of order, I was informed that the repair guys didn’t get my phone number in time and that I’d have to wait until the next day. “Sorry,” they said. “Be patient.”

Patience isn’t just a virtue over here in Africa. It is a necessary tool of survival. If you don’t have patience, all of the waiting you do here (for restaurant food, the ‘man with the key’, the next time you see family, people to come to a meeting, cows to cross the road, your phone to get repaired, etc, etc, etc.) will drive you absolutely crazy.

Well, since I had already waited two days, did my best to get to the phone office in a timely manner and witnessed the woman giving our phone number to somebody on the other line (maybe she was trying to fake me out — if so, it worked!), so my patience was pretty thin. Grasping for straws, I asked to talk to le chef, the man in charge.

They told me he wasn’t there. Considering how things were going, that didn’t surprise me. I was left to nothing but grin and bear it, make sure they had my number on the next day’s “service” list and go home.

Happily, our phone came back on this morning, we are reconnected to the world and I can post this silly blog.

The phone company should be happy too. I was going to have to call the Better Business Bureau!

Wait. There isn’t a Better Business Bureau here!

Oh well. If there was one, their customer service wouldn’t be much better. I guess then we’d need a Better Better Business Bureau or a Better Business Bureau Bureau…

Guess, I’ll be better off cultivating the virtue of patience.




3 responses

24 01 2006
Randy & Kelly Vaughn

We’re with you Ries! Patience is still something I realize I don’t have enough of …each day living here in West Africa is a real test!

Our phone went dead last Friday night about 7pm. Naturally, like you, we found ourselves perplexed by the WHY? Of course we also had to wait until Monday morning. The man in charge said, “it’ll be on this afternoon.” By 7pm “that afternoon”…still no phone. Next day: called the guy again (we actually have the cell phone # of the man at the phone company). He said, “be patient, it’ll be on by noon today.” By noon (maybe he meant NOON – TEXAS TIME), still nothing. On Wednesday morning, we get a franctic knock on our gate at 7:30…it was the repair guys asking if the phone was working yet. No, I said, “we have checked it every 5 minutes for the past 5 days.” An hour later, they come back and report that on Friday night some locals were cutting down a mango tree and chopped down the phone line. No one dared report it to the phone company for fear they’d be dragged by the phone company into the police station threatened with their life to pay for the damages….I mean, I’d probably keep my mouth shut, too! Finally later that day, it was up working again. The next morning, same thing…no dial tone! What another mango accident? No, after reaching the cell phone at the phone company, he said, “they are repairing another phone line in the area so they just shut everyone’s down for until noon…be patient.” AAAUUGGGHHHH!!!!
– Randy

25 01 2006

Randy — I knew somebody had it worse than us. Sorry it was you! Du courage, mon ami!

25 01 2006
The Emersons

great post brian! i’m really looking forward to this scenario playing out in my own life. you see it is a test of patience, yet i view it as a chance to realize that i’ve “arrived” as a missionary and earned one of those badges that they don’t hand out…

of course after a few years, i’ll be blogging about tests of patience too…

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