November 29, 2023

Tourism Matters: Are we completely docile as consumers?

By Adrian Loveridge From Caribbean News Now

There seems to be some doubt whether Mahatma Gandhi was the original person who articulated the following quotation or not, but few can doubt the meaning and intent of the message.

“A customer is the most important visitor on our premises. He is not dependent on us. We are dependent on him. He is not an interruption in our work. He is the purpose of it. He is not an outsider in our business. He is part of it. We are not doing him a favour by serving him. He is doing a favour by giving an opportunity to do so.”

Whoever was responsible, it is something that every person in business supplying a service or goods should repeat to themselves daily.

Better still, every manager or director should become a customer for a day, so they can endure what many of us are forced to accept under the guise of an ‘acceptable’ level of service.

One case in point is that one of the leading communication providers decided to dramatically change their payment portal recently. In addition to lack of access for some time, when the ‘modifications’ were made, clearly no-one within this huge organisation took the responsibility of checking whether it was fully functional or not, prior to forcing it on their paying users.

Even when major defects are pointed out to the company and key named figures within the company are sent personal emails, do they respond? The simple answer is no or very rarely.

And this despite major changes in senior management, with those persons buying air time on various media channels to state that customer service is their number one priority.

I am not singling out this particular entity, because there are several other examples. One of our leading financial institutions imposed a 50 percent increase recently in its monthly service fee, without the required 30 days written notice and in fact no notification to its clients at all.

They may argue that the increases are displayed in all the branches but, as we know, people with restricted time avoid at all possible costs visits to a bank branch, unless they enjoy queuing for indeterminate periods.

The same bank, unlike any such charge being levied in the thousands of branches across the domain of their headquarters, imposes here on Barbados, a $12 monthly fee on a no risk (to the bank) debit card. It defies belief, charging for access to our own funds, which currently earn little or no interest.

Yet weeks later, they again after considerable launch marketing costs, roll-out an annual fee free credit card with cash back benefits, despite the potential default risk by users to the bank.

Is it that we are completely docile as consumers and feel there is nothing that can be done without an effective regulating authority or lobbying body?

Who or what government agency is going to oversee the dramatic price hikes widely anticipated from 1st July? I sincerely hope that any active consumers out there use every square inch of the social media to highlight unwarranted increases and price gouging, as it is clearly an area that we cannot rely on the current administration to monitor and police.

IMAGE: Adrian Loveridge has spent 46 years in the tourism industry across 67 countries, as a travel agent, tour director, tour operator and for the last 24 years as a small hotel owner on Barbados. He served as a director of the Barbados Hotel and Tourism Association, and as chairman of the Marketing Committee. He also served as a director of the Barbados Tourism Authority and is a frequent writer on tourism

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