IN THE PUBLIC’S INTEREST: PM’s powerful presence
BY NOW it must be clear to many, based on what I write and what he says or does not say, that my thoughts and conclusions often don’t gel with those of Prime Minister Freundel Stuart.
Not that that is an issue as we are two different individuals, from two different backgrounds and definitely exposed to different life experiences. Today, however, I want to say that last weekend Prime Minister Stuart rose a couple notches in my rankings.
Based on feedback, it appeared that quite a few people of note, on and off the hill, did not expect Stuart to put in an appearance at what Cabinet minister Donville Inniss dubbed the coronation of Sir Hilary Beckles – his installation as vice chancellor of the University of the West Indies.
In fact, in the audience in the minutes leading up to the start of the ceremony at the Usain Bolt Sports Complex at the Lazaretto, Black Rock, there was discussion about if he was coming. But I must confess that I felt a certain sense of pride when MP2 drove up and Stuart stepped out.
The obvious tension that came to the fore repeatedly between members of the Cabinet and Sir Hilary over certain of his statements and decisions as principal of the Cave Hill Campus, culminating with the very vigorous public tongue-lashing he got from Stuart recently, showed clearly the extent of the gulf.
I would be out of place to suggest I am even remotely aware of what’s in the Prime Minister’s thoughts, but I can speak to my own and I could not help but conclude that Stuart acted like a “big man”. In so doing, he sent a message to Barbadians about an aspect of how we traditionally conducted business that was in need of re-emphasising at this stage of our development.
And it is simply this: We will have disagreements from time to time and on occasions they will be deep and even painful, but as responsible citizens we all need to recognise when there are larger issues at stake and when our conduct has to be calculated with that in mind.
I tip my hat to you, Mr Prime Minister. Just being there was, in my view, a powerful message. Since only a few of your Cabinet colleagues were present, however, they no doubt should understand the message they sent – whatever the reason for their absence.
In response to my last column about my encounter with an uncouth policeman, I received a letter from Vincent Thomas of Cane Garden Park, St Thomas.
The following extract from that letter speaks for itself:
“For a long time I intended writing to let you know what a great job you are doing via this column (I guess everything happens at the right time) but it was last Wednesday’s column that pushed me to the computer to share one of my experiences of customer service, or lack thereof.
“On Saturday, May 9, 2014, my wife and I visited a store/supermarket to do some grocery shopping. When we were finished I approached a check-out counter and after a few minutes, I realised the line was not moving.
Three customers immediately ahead of me moved and went to the next
check-out counter. It appeared the first cashier was experiencing a problem with her computer and proceeded to place the ‘closed’ sign on the counter.
“I instinctively followed the three customers . . . . Soon I heard someone shouting, ‘Sir, sir, look up!’ only to recognise it was the cashier demanding I look at the sign above which read ‘Express . . . 10 items or less’. Jokingly, I replied: ‘But I only have nine items’.
She responded: ‘Well guh from hay, cause I ain’t checkin dem’.
“I was shocked, embarrassed and at a loss for words. I could not believe an employee could be so bold to treat any customer with such scant respect in the presence of other customers. The customers ahead of me were now looking at me in awe and the only words I could muster were to ask: ‘What did you just say to me?’ She replied: ‘I tell you I ain’t checking dem’ . . . .
“I was livid. I complained to a manager who spoke to the cashier. He then apologised for her behaviour and said he had asked her to discontinue her duties so he could have a chat with her. My wife and I got the groceries checked and left.
I was never asked for my name or any kind of contact information. I do not know if she was reprimanded or what was the final outcome.
“I must make it absolutely clear that I do not want anybody to lose their job even when I’m treated less than a customer should be treated.
“However I believe, just like you, that unmannerly, uncouth and disrespectful persons like this cashier should not be on the frontline in any establishment that is offering service of any kind to the public.”
Anyone who has ever worked in a hotel or restaurant knows there are times when it takes every ounce of your patience to cope with some guests.
In that vein, I wish to share the following list from the Internet of some of the most ridiculous complaints ever made by tourists. This list is apparently based on a Thomas Cook Travel survey.
• “On my holiday to Goa in India, I was disgusted to find that almost everyrestaurant served curry. I don’t like spicy food.”
• “We booked an excursion to a water park but no one told us we had to bring our own swimsuits and towels. We assumed it would be included in the price.”
• “The beach was too sandy. We had to clean everything when we returned to our room.”
• “We found the sand was not like the sand in the brochure. Your brochure shows the sand as white but it was more yellow.”
• “They should not allow topless sunbathing on the beach. It was very distracting for my husband who just wanted to relax.”
• “No one told us there would be fish in the water. The children were scared.”
• “We went on holiday to Spain and had a problem with the taxi drivers as they were all Spanish.”
• “It took us nine hours to fly home from Jamaica to England. It took the Americans only three hours to get home. This seems unfair.”
• “The brochure stated: ‘No hairdressers at the resort’. We’re trainee hairdressers and we think they knew and made us wait longer for service.”
• “There were too many Spanish people there. The receptionist spoke Spanish,the food was Spanish. No one told us that there would be so many foreigners.”
• “I was bitten by a mosquito. The brochure did not mention mosquitoes.”
• “My fiancé and I requested twin beds when we booked, but instead we were placed in a room with a king bed. We now hold you responsible and want to be reimbursed for the fact that I became pregnant. This would not have happened if you had put us in the room that we booked.”