Like many great urban cities in the world, amidst the skyscrapers and modern-day architectural wonders rising up every day to ignite the horizon, Lagos has its ugly underbelly.
For every Telecoms millionaire, oil oligarch or thieving public-office holder who sips Veuve Clicquot with breakfast, or owns town houses with more rooms than they can sleep in, there are men and women who toil under the sun scraping daily to eke out a living. It is a sad reality, made more evident by a growing gulf in classes. In Abuja, from the shanty clad outpost of Nyanya, it is possible to marvel at the huge villas dotting the Asokoro hills on a clear day.
It is not uncommon to see begging on major streets and boulevards.
In scenes that are unfortunately similar to England in the Middle Ages, coin bowls are dangled at the windows of smart German automobiles in traffic. Alms beggars are sometimes supported by children or invalids carrying various ailments. In London, the beggars carry Big Issue magazines instead of aluminum bowls. In Houston, they may sell flowers but nothing is a pretty sight.
Poverty is a worldwide phenomenon, not peculiar to Nigeria or Africa, like some international media prints would have you believe.
When does begging become executive? Not to worry, I am not advocating that all beggars should be executed!
Let me define executive begging; it is a plea for cash or kind by a person who does not look destitute, famished or in need of help.
Unless you have been grounded in your room for the past millennium by your spouse or folks, you would know what I mean:
Exhibit 1: You go to a popular eatery. You make your order and just as you are stepping out to your vehicle, the security guard who is smartly dressed in his para-military epaulette uniform and polished boots bellows “Happy Sunday sir” with a Samanja salute.
He brushes in front of you and opens your car door, practically bumping into you and your snacks and repeats; “Happy Sunday sir”. You get into your car and start the ignition and turn on the stereo. 50 Cents’ “I Get Money” comes on. How ironic.
As you put your car into reverse so you can pull out, the security agent looks at your car rear bumper and plays his last hand, a trick that usually works “Gunners for Life!” or ” Up Man U” or “Jose Mourinho” (don’t ask me why they call the Special One’s name).
You part with a N100 or N200 note as the fellow football club supporter card has been played.
Security man repeats it with the next football supporter / customer.
Executive begging has many kinds – one of them is Customer Gazumping.
Allow me illustrate:
A particular fast food franchise and popular food chain Fowl Kingdom, has cashiers that have taken gazumping to new levels.
These people never have change. Most Nigerians are usually too embarrassed or in a hurry to insist on their change, especially if the queue starts getting restless behind. But not I – my Ibo nature usually comes to the fore at times like that. I collect every cent, including 5kobo change.
Someone somewhere is now a N10 and N20 note millionaire. Well, better him than no one.
Some days back, I went to a joint to get a bite. I later stepped into the gents to take a leak, and the toilet attendant was there. I checked the toilets – they were heavily soiled, so I stepped to a vacant urinary bowl. The attendant started close marking me, and practically looking over my shoulder as I was at the urinary. He offered me soap, and when I washed my hands, he quickly put on the hand dryer. I wasn’t very comfortable, because he was intruding on my space, just to earn a tip.
And then the magic words came out: “Bros we de here o!”
And I am like, Dude, someone laid a massive egg in one of those toilets a while back and it still has not been cleaned up so I could not use it; and I still have to give you a tip?
Nowhere is safe; not even the happiest day of a groom and bride’s life.
You are at a wedding with people, and someone just shoves a laminated form into your hands without speaking. You look up and see a decently dressed individual, you look down at the form or letter and you see a well dressed lie! Fund raising for an NGO dedicated to the Preservation of The Endangered Agama Red Neck Lizard?! Get outta here with that revised 419. Or are there such societies in Nigeria? Ok, my bad.
Executive begging seems most prevalent in our airports. At some local airports, you buy your ticket, and your luggage is checked in and your boarding pass is handed over to you. You think well, your worries are over as you approach the security point that takes you to the departure hall.
As you take off your mobile phones and all metal clothing to place in a bowl that will go through the scanner, the security officer there starts praying for you: Safe Journey sir. Anything for us? We wish you well on your travels. Please find us something. Godspeed on your journey. Abeg na.
Or you decide to take advantage of an ongoing promo to install cable TV in your house. The cost of the dish, decoder, installation and a month’s subscription are included in the advertised promo price, all of which you have budgeted for. The installation man comes to your house, and tries to make you add some extra money to the advertised price for him. According to him, he does not “gain” anything from the advertised price, and he had to take “transport” to come and install your cable. You marvel at what he is saying, as he is a full staff of the cable company. Why should you fork out any extras on top of the promo price? You refuse to add any extras as this was not included in the official price. He does a shoddy job, leaving cable-wires dangling everywhere, both on the walls and from the ceiling – your house looks ready-made for Tarzan to swing in.
You have been put in a position where you have had to part with an extra, to get a minimum standard service. Strange but it happens.
There’s nothing wrong with tipping; and I do give tips for fantastic service. The word “tip” means to tilt something so that it pours. When customer service agent or attendant gives good service, it builds up a volume which gets full and tips over to let you give them a token of your appreciation – a tip.
Tipping lets the attendant know that he has given a good service, and in the right hands and done properly is a good source of motivation I just don’t think I have to be ogled into giving one. I feel angrier about the state of our economy and how various administrations have let this great nation go to bits. Tipping nowadays seems to be a mobilization to prompt some people to do their job or to provide the minimum standard of service for customers.
You want a tip? Ok here’s a tip: treat the customer right, do your job properly, don’t slouch or look disinterested when engaging customers, stop ogling for cash or kind with non-verbal representations.
Get your own, can’t touch a dime of mine
Lil Cease (Get Money Remix, 1996)
* This article is a continuation of my series on Customer Service and the Service Industry. Please insist on proper service at all times – at banks, airports, eateries, hotels, restaurants, malls, companies. You have a right to be treated properly and be attended to. Why part with hard-earned cash and not receive proper service? Bad customer service is a crime against consumers and customers. No matter how trivial it is, please let us stand for what is right. Customer Service in Nigeria is a shambles. Cheers.