Wednesday, December 21, 2011

An eventful count-down to 2012 … Clarice Theys

What an eventful week it was … This is the last issue of this paper for 2011 and I thought of sharing with you some bits and pieces of the week that was!

I had a full piece written called Dress Code Debacles where I was exploring my irritations about people who accept invitations and never adhere to the dress code … to the embarrassment of those who do! Picture this: The invitation states Formal with a bit of Glam – yes, these days people get increasingly descriptive and precise in their invitations. This is a milestone birthday party – and even the food is a 4-course meal at a posh venue. Then the guests arrive … in smart casual attire.

What a disappointment it is for the hostess who didn’t hold back on expenses … I feel it is utter disrespect to ignore the rules of etiquette. So this is only a reminder … let’s stay mindful this Festive Season – a time of many invites. Sometimes, when you these important rules of etiquette, it can cause public disgrace and in private, hurt individual feelings and even create misunderstandings or real grief and pain.

Speaking about pain … what’s up with friends turning disagreements and different opinions between them into so much personal pain that they even shame themselves repeatedly into the ‘poor-me-so-sorry-that-I-live’ foetus position? With the object of their wrath blissfully unaware until of course when they hear it through the grapevine … How about utilizing 2012 for more dialogue? Let’s talk more and put to work the old adage that we can indeed ‘agree to disagree’ – thereby valuing our friendships and connection more.

I previously promised to touch on the subject of Service Delivery here at the Coast and although I also promised not to mention names in my critiques, I’m sure it won’t do any harm today – to the contrary. Thumbs up to Café Rosso, and Village Café for outstanding responsiveness of your waiters. I just have one, tiny little issue with the former – loud gossiping about co-workers between themselves in such a way that customers can hear every little detail is just not on!

Mobile telecommunication homes here still seem to top the list of bad service providers. My experience – more than fifteen years – has been just bad. The one I’m using – and only because my dear husband bought me a phone on contract with them - still don’t do it for me! Not here, not in Windhoek, not anywhere! What is it with this company? Can anyone please tell me why they do not comply with any of the pillars of Service Delivery – I’m not even touching on Service Excellence?

Don’t they know that the customer expects consistency of performance all the time? It means that companies deliver the service right the first time, every time. We require of them to be responsive – to know their customers’ needs, anticipate them and then deliver it speedily.

How about trained and competent service consultants? When the employee is half-trained, it also means that the service or delivery that is provided is often poor or inferior. To tell a customer that a front-line service person is new in a company does little to satisfy or change negative perceptions.

And then there’s the consideration and respect that customers want. Chewing bubblegum and rolling eyes while attending to a customer is inexcusable. I don’t even want to go to the ‘keeping promises made to a customer’ with ‘Windhoek’ or ‘Head Office’ always the perfect scapegoat for everything that goes wrong.

Hopefully someone – with young blood - within this company will see the light soon and realise that service is the only component that distinguishes one competitor from the next and that it can be the competitive edge if it adds value to the customer’s experience and perception …

Enough about Service … I had the opportunity last weekend to interview two famous SA personalities, Terence Bridgett and Paul du Toit from Binnelanders-fame. I’ve found them quite entertaining and real … that’s apart from the jargon they used which, for periods, left my brain on a speed-trip to Google with immediate A-Ha moments seconds later!

I couldn’t help but wondering why would people – especially guys and not particularly them – try so hard to show-off the marks of a real man which include cultural hub, hip fashion, cool appearance, studied poise, elite education, proper recreation and fitness? Hmmm, busted! I’ve googled the word Yuppie!

But apart from using words like eclectic instead of the more commonly-used ‘diverse’ or ‘free’, they’re just fantastic and I believe that the Rough or Touch edition in which Namibia will feature, is something to look forward to! And on that happy note, have yourself a splendid Christmas and an out-of-this-world 2012!

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Rotten apples and the cheer of Christmas

It’s that time of the year again … and I just love it! I love seeing friends from other parts of the country – especially Windhoek – bumping in each other here … I love chatting with strangers on the beach and have them leave their towels and stuff with me while I’m reading … (as if I don’t have the courage to also take a dip in the coldest of cold waters)

I love the hustle and bustle in the otherwise quiet shops and outlets … but most of all, I love the weather that this season spells … warm and sunny days, although the cold and misty days this season, still rule supreme!

I like the friendly faces and the cheerful energy amongst people who, throughout the year doesn’t even greet each other. Okay, okay … I know that phenomena only starts to happen when all the Christmas shopping is done and you’ve finally waved the crowded parking spaces our town has to offer, goodbye!

I love the smell of ginger beer in my house and even if my husband can’t drink it due to his sensitive ‘constitution’, I’ll make it again next year. The smell of ginger and fresh pineapple always takes me back … many moons away!

I love – when night falls – to go on a drive just to watch the kaleidoscope of colour and light! I love it when families and friends can leave their differences and cold wars for once and become close again … whole again and most of all, I love the message of Love and Forgiveness that the season brings … I call it Happiness Galore!

But what I don’t like is the sudden exploitation which we’re subjected to … the total commercialization of a time supposed to be merry, happy and peaceful. A friend recently commented via the social network, Face Book, that within the first two weeks in December, prizes here in Swakopmund soared sky-high.

We all know that Service and Products go hand in hand and the sad thing is that excellent service here at the Coast is a rare experience … thus making the compromise on the quality of the products, even more sad.

In the words of my friend: “‘fresh’ mixed nuts are now mixed with old past-its-sell-date nuts and there are two or more rotten apples or potatoes per pocket

So, for some this season is about happiness and joy and for some it has become a massive marketing event where businesses only focus on their products as a must-have-during-Christmas. Christmas has shifted from what the season is meant to represent, to where the consumer goods are in incredibly high demand … also reflecting our ever-increasing desires and wants at the same time – never to satisfy our greed …

Still, for me the season continues to be about sharing and love and yes, to be happy. But there is no way that I’ll be so over-happy and over-zealous that I’ll allow myself to be ripped off on products!

I sometimes still turn a blind eye when it comes to receiving bad service … for various reasons … which I shall not mention here, definitely later. But dear Mr Fresh Produce Provider, when it comes to things I must swallow, please be advised that I shall not compromise … And though I still need to buy them fruit and veggies, I shall simply just buy those ones I can feel and touch and smell … So, stop camouflaging the good ones with two or three rotten ones – otherwise your packaged goods might just become a total lost!

For none other than you!


Wednesday, December 7, 2011

The Rise and Fall of Beauty Pageants …

By Clarice Theys

These days I'm the Social Critic at the Coast and writing for the Namib Times on a Tuesday ... this is my second contribution ... So, here it goes … I've promised to talk about the rise and fall of … hmmm, let’s see – beauty pageants!!!

Those glitzy events where young girls have to put on the most extravagant costumes, expensive hair- and make-up and other accessories like jewelry and shoes … some times bankrupting eager parents who fall in the trap of a certain social condition called ‘complying to others’ requirements’. Mind you, sometimes the parents are more adamant to win then their girl kids … a type of ‘You’ll-win-this-title-for-ME-syndrome’.

Now, I have no personal objections against beauty competitions per se. I even acted as a judge way back in the days and quite recently also helped a close friend to organize … well, if you could call selling a few tickets and promoting the event through our local radio station organizing, then so be it!

I also do not carry personal convictions that such pageants promote the idea that girls should be valued mainly for their physical appearance. I’m aware though that it does put tremendous pressure on girls to conform to traditional beauty standards where they spend time and money on fashion, cosmetics, hair styling etc.

Earlier this year I almost got myself to be involved in the current Miss Swakopmund Beauty Pageant, but for me it felt like I would commit too much if I had said ‘Yes’. Luckily I was too busy with my own little things and could decline without hurting my friend’s feelings …

But the truth is – when I believe in something, I tend to over-commit and given my personal convictions of what such pageants entail, I would have worked myself into a coma …

You see, I believe that after the Beauty of Beauties has been crowned, this young girl has an enormous responsibility. I believe that it shouldn't be a ‘fly-by-night’ event – meaning that one shouldn't only see this girl that night of the crowning with maybe an appearance or two thereafter and then only again the following year when she hands over the crown to another.

This beautiful, intelligent, hugely energetic and hardworking girl should be seen throughout the year. I mean, if you’re going to use all the above traits and talents – which in the first place were what the judges were looking for - we want to indeed see you everywhere!

While watching the crowning of the recent Miss World, I was amazed by how much effort the various participants put into their endeavors to win the title. This specific competition’s slogan ‘Beauty with a Purpose’ actually forces participants to find a cause in their own countries and work very, very hard.

I know the magnitude of the Miss World competition might not be a fair equation to our local ones, but it won’t harm if aspirant beauty pageant organizers at least ask these questions before embarking on such an event.

* What are my objectives for the Pageant? * What traits am I looking for in this young girl? * When schoolgirls enter, how will I, as the organizer and responsible adult, assist her in her current activities? * How many events and charities will she be attending throughout the year of her reign? * How will I manage the pageant and the reigning queen so that they receive maximum exposure in the media?

That way it will receive much more credibility and support and I’m sure it can’t be too difficult! Until next time, take charge!