Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Bad economy? Where?

The next time somebody tries to tell me that the economy in South Africa is bad, I am going to stick my fingers in my ears and sing "LA LA LA LA" both out-of-tune and loudly!

In a bad economy, people are scrambling for jobs and companies are scrambling for work. Shrinking bottom lines are powerful motivators for individuals and businesses alike...and nothing in what I have seen in Joburg...supposedly the economic hub of the nation...gives me any indication that either people or companies are hurting for the folding stuff.

Shops and malls close at 6 pm (if not earlier!). If your little retail shop is suffering a drop in sales, if your shopping centre is pulling in less profit because your stores are not doing so well, why aren't you extending your hours? It takes only the smallest application of common sense to realize that people who are stuck in offices all day can't come to your shop during office hours...why aren't you open after office hours so they can come in and grace you with their custom after they've been home, changed their shoes, and had dinner? Do you have any idea how lucrative late shopping hours can be? Ask any mall in California, where they are customarily open until 9 pm. Of course, if your little retail shop is making more money than you know what to do with, if your mall is raking in such bucks as to make the mint blush, keep your small town hours and roll up your sidewalks and lock your doors at 6 pm. It will leave us more money to spend on eating out rather than slaving over a hot stove after an exhausting day at the office.

And it's not just the retail sector...the services and trades seem to be rolling in such dough they don't need to return calls or respond to inquiries. I have a motorized security gate that has a dead motor...this morning I was promised a visit from a technician today (and he will call an hour ahead for directions). Well, it's 3 pm, the day is fading, no call so far. And this is after waiting ten days for another repair service to return my call/come see my gate. I also need garden fencing...none of my inquiries have resulted in a single call back. Who knew the garden fencing industry in South Africa was so overwhelmed they don't have time to call new customers back? Or so lavishly lucrative that they don't need to call a customer who wants some fencing and labour-intensive installation?

Nope, the next time somebody tells me that the South African economy is doing poorly (less than 4% inflation rate right now), I think I am just going to laugh out loud. Because if it really was that bad, wouldn't these people be fighting with each other to get my business instead of conducting marathon "ignore the new customer and her money" sessions?


  1. I had the image of a perfectly mature, respectable person breaking out in an unwieldy 'la la lala la' and it made me smile and think, 'Yep, wouldn't it be great if we all did more of that' in response to this and other pervasive group think mantras :)

  2. "Group think." What a perfect description! Reminds me of the Greenspan days when whatever he said, happened. Not because he was such a great seer but because the minute he pontificated, the business community shat itself by taking measures to guard against his pronouncements, thereby fulfilling his prophecy.

    I wonder why it is so hard for people to just observe the world around them and think for themselves?

  3. How interesting, SV! You really would think that with the economy as bad as it is (and it is bad here), then people WOULD be nicer to their customer (and that the workers would be better too--if they valued their jobs). I've noticed a real increase in incompetence--so things aren't that different thousands of miles away! Go figure!


  4. Ah yes - that is Jozi for you. Get used to it. People just don't care. They don't phone you back. They make appointments and don't pitch up....and and and.....
    They know that for every one customer who drops them, there are 10 more waiting.
    Have you been here over the Christmas period yet?
    Everything, and I mean everything shuts down. The only up side is no traffic.
    Just hope that your appliances/cars/electronics/plumbing/ does not break down.
    Need a specialist? Not a chance.

    Jo'burg has the worst service in the country.

  5. Cape Town also shuts down over the holidays, so I am used to that. But last year we had to move during the holiday season and my husband's new boss was dragging her feet about signing off the documentation to authorize the removals company. When he got fretful and cited the upcoming holiday shut down, she had the audacity to tell him "This is Joburg...Joburg never sleeps!"

    Well, I have no idea what Joburg SHE is living in, but certainly not the one I have inhabited for the last 10 months! With the exception of the bars, pubs, restaurants, and theatres, this whole place rolls up the sidewalks and locks its doors by 6 pm...earlier on weekends! And they have the nerve to call Cape Town....where I can name THREE major malls that are open until 7 or 9..."Slaapstad." (Sleepytown)

    Our last house in Joburg had 8 water cut offs in as many months...and it was the same two places in the water main breaking. They fixed it but it didn't stay fixed more than a few weeks. I've been in potholes in very costly, upmarket suburbs so deep that the front license plate was ripped off the bullbar on the front of my SUV!

    Joburg never sleeps, my arse! That is ALL it does!

  6. If you were talking about Central Valley California I would think you were referring to the pervasive drug use - and yeah, they are asleep here, too. Norine

  7. Makes you wonder what they are doing with your tax money, eh?

    Funny thing is, South African cities do not have to be like this. Cape Town is well and efficiently run. Pot holes in the road are rare, dead traffic lights are rare, and I lived in the same house for five years and experienced only one water main break in that whole time. But we had a mayor who had the well being of her constituents as her first priority and it showed. Now she is premier of the province, but because she is not a member of the ANC, it is unlikely she'll get anywhere in national politics (it's like being a really good mayor but being from some little "also ran" party in the US). Too bad. We could sure benefit from Helen Zille's hand at the tiller up here!

  8. What is this business I hear about President Zuma shutting down the free press?


    Dianne C.
    Las Vegas

  9. That's an exaggeration, Dianne. The ANC wants to "protect" certain information from the public...not much different from labelling things "top secret" or "confidential" in the US and then penalizing those who disagree and leak it.

    I am not sure ANY nation has a TRULY free press...there is always stuff they aren't allowed to publish. What is restricted, however, just varies from one nation to another.


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