Getting service with a smile
I saw all of this trouble with Boeing's 787 Dreamliner long before the rest of you.
If any aviation industry reporter had asked me last year what the prospects of the US manufacturer's plastic aircraft were I would, without blinking, have predicted that the plane was a dud.
This is because I have an abiding, deep-rooted prejudice against Boeing. Many years ago, I did some work for their arch-rivals, Airbus Industrie. The people who used to come out from Toulouse to check up on us in Dubai, where I worked, were a thoroughly decent, rather jovial bunch (who used to start drinking champagne at 9am when they were flogging aeroplanes at the emirate's famous air show). I so completely came to believe their propaganda that, to this day, I'm dismayed when I walk on board my scheduled domestic flight and discover it is operated with a Boeing 737, not an Airbus A320.
When clients treated me properly and their products and services were of a reasonable quality, I invariably took their money and put that where my mouth was. In the Middle East, when I needed a new car, I bought myself a Chevrolet Cavalier (a wonderful, sexy little thing that gave me not a moment's trouble) and I would never dream of using FedEx or UPS over DHL.
Back in the day, one of my biggest clients was Samsung. The Koreans were mostly a bit odd, didn't speak much English and were all called Kim or Lee.
They gave themselves made-up English first names, so when you phoned Seoul and asked for "Irene Kim" or "Frank Lee" there was mass confusion on the other end; no one in the office knew which of their colleagues were known to the outside world by the foreign first names of Irene or Frank.
Still, we worked together well and, most importantly for any supplier, Samsung was not afraid to let you know it valued your hard work.
A few years ago Wife and I needed a new refrigerator and ended up buying one made by the great rival chaebol, LG. This is not something I am proud of.
The big white appliance in my kitchen daily reminds me of my perfidy. Still, I have tried to make amends by buying a Samsung TV set and, most recently, a Samsung laptop.
At the very outset of this year, however, the new laptop went on the fritz. It is a disabling, even paralysing experience that will be familiar to many of the hundreds of thousands of self-employed individuals like myself who have become wholly dependent on mobile technology. When our devices stop working - as is their wont - our businesses grind to a halt.
With a dead laptop in the boot, my only technological lifeline was my iPad. But that started misbehaving, too. While toiling mightily in the picturesque but very rural KwaZulu-Natal Midlands in pursuit of a crust, I drove up hill and down dale looking for an elusive data signal.
Then, when I found one, the bloody iPad wouldn't connect with the real world. It was all too exasperating for words and you can't just phone up Apple's local representatives and expect a sympathetic ear. I've tried. It doesn't work.
Back in the big smoke, on a Saturday morning, I contacted the local Samsung representatives by telephone.
They gave me a reference number and said somebody would contact me before noon the next Monday. Remarkably, at about 11am Daniel phoned me and, at 2pm that day, Daniel and his colleague were rescuing my dead laptop. After they left, however, I discovered it still didn't want to talk to the wireless world. More aggravation and more time, but the next day Moses at Vodacare at the Cresta Centre worked his magic on the modem and I was back in business. It is the habit of newspaper columnists to fling brickbats at the corrupt, the indolent and the ineffectual in the hope of stirring their readers to righteous indignation.
Avaricious and all too often bloated by badly trained and poorly motivated employees, our corporates are sitting ducks for those with axes to grind and column centimetres at their disposal. However, it must be acknowledged that some corporates do sometimes keep their promises and do understand that treating customers and suppliers well is the most important thing underpinning their brands - and which keeps us buying their products and services.
Friendly, prompt service is not a nice-to-have. It is a prerequisite for staying in business.