Saturday, 9 December 2017

Progress?

It’s sometimes difficult to see progress. Often things change so slowly that we don’t see the change happening. Like biological evolution, the changes we see in business and customer service are most often very gradual and hardly noticeable from day to day, they only happen over much longer periods. It’s often surprising, if you look back in time at how much things have actually changed.

Many of us will remember those days in the past when things were very different. If you’re old enough, cast your mind back fifteen or twenty years and think of the number of loan sharks that were operating in Botswana. Do you remember how they were charging up to 30% interest per month? Do you remember how they were completely ignoring the “in duplum” rule, the rule that says that when a debt is settled the interest charged cannot exceed the remaining capital amount? Do you remember how they were routinely taking people’s ATM cards and sometimes even their Omang cards as insurance that they would repay their loans? Do you remember how there were loan sharks operating from car parks, fried chicken restaurants and in one case I personally witnessed, from a government office?

Today these offences are rare. That’s because the micro-lending industry is now regulated by NBFIRA, a regulator that actually seems to enjoy getting its hands a bit dirty and exercising the powers they’ve been given. These days hearing about a micro-lender misbehaving is a much rarer event. Not unheard of, but rare. It was a surprise when a few weeks ago we got a message from a consumer who asked:
“Are these cash loans allowed to keep our bank cards and keep on paying themselves every month? I’m shocked right now that my mother who is 70 years a pensioner has been without her bank card It's like it stay there for ever.”
We sent that consumer straight to NBFIRA who no doubt explained to the lender that their conduct was unacceptable and confined them in their dungeons.

Also in the past we had hire purchase. Yes, I know we still have it but we did have one minor success in making the cost of hire purchase easier to understand. You might remember that when items were advertised on “credit”, the stores just advertised how much the deposit would be, the number of instalments you needed to make and how much each one would cost you. The stores were ignoring the legal requirement, as expressed in the Control of Goods (Marking of Goods) Regulations 1974 which says that when “goods are offered for sale on hire-purchase terms or by way of credit-sale or on any other terms as to deferred payment” then the details shown must include “the total amount to be paid by way of deposit and instalments”.

When we first discovered this rule we wrote to the Managing Directors of all the stores that sell things on credit or hire purchase and asked them if they knew about this. To their credit, they almost all came back to us apologetically, saying they weren’t aware of it and would change their advertising as soon as possible. One of them was a little bit less cooperative. It doesn’t matter, they said, we abide by South African law. That’s lovely, we told them, then go back to South Africa. In Botswana the laws of Botswana apply, not the laws of another country that you prefer. They eventually complied with the laws of the country that had welcomed them and allowed them to exploit its people.

Another thing that has changed, although not completely is the number of people with fake degrees. A number of highly publicised cases involving senior managers and academics who were exposed as having purchased degrees from unaccredited so-called “universities” has made us all a lot more aware of how skeptical we need to be about people’s qualifications. Over the last eight years we’ve warned readers about forty-five different establishments that claim to offer qualifications but none of which actually require their “students” to do any coursework, sit any exams, deliver any dissertations or do any actual work. All they’ve ever required is a credit card number and then, as if by magic (or Mrs Mugabe) a degree certificate is in the post.

Not all of these crooks have been pleased to be exposed. Several of them have threatened us with all sorts of consequences once they realised their scam was likely to dry up.

One of them, calling itself “Headway University” even created a web site for a fake law firm calling itself "Joyce & Nielsen" who sent us an email demanding that we retract the accusation that Head way was bogus. They accused us of spreading “defamatory, harmful and malicious content in violation of state, federal and international law … with the intent to harm, defame and cause financial damages to our client, Headway University”.

I wasn’t sure at the time how it is possible to defame a fake university that sells fake degrees to fake graduates. Defamation rests on the assumption that the victim has a reputation to protect. Peddlers of bogus qualifications are criminals. They had no reputation to lose.

It didn’t take too much detective work to discover that the law firm didn’t actually exist. The crooks behind the fake university had created an entirely fake web site to pretend that the law firm existed, even stealing the text on the web site from other, genuine law firms.

Unfortunately, despite the crooks behind almost all of those bogus establishments being shut down they seem to be reappearing. Just a couple of weeks ago I chatted online to an “advisor” from “Martinville University” who told me that for $500 I could get a degree in Nursing without sitting any exams. For $500 on top I could get a Masters degree as well and he said he would backdate the Bachelors degree to the pair of degrees looked more convincing to a potential employer.

So maybe things haven’t changed that much after all?

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

He owns my car!

Afternoon! I need some advice. Lets say I sell my car to someone and he gives me deposit of P3,000 then I give him the car and change the blue book. Then after some weeks he comes back asking me to refund him so that he can give back the car.

The problem is that the windscreen is broken and the other door does not close properly. I told him that I wont refund him until he repairs every damage. I tried calling the police but they said they can’t help.

What can I do?


Firstly, I think you know that signing over ownership of your vehicle before you received full payment was a mistake, don’t you? You should never hand over the vehicle registration documents (the so-called “blue book”) until you’ve received all the money you’re owed. If that’s cash it’s easy (but make sure you count and check every banknote) and if it’s a cheque or bank transfer make sure you ask your bank to confirm when the money has been credited to your account irreversibly. I’ve heard of items being handed over but at the last minute a crook reverses the transaction leaving the victim without either the goods they bought or their money.

In your case I think you should change the demand you made to him. Tell the guy that he has two choices. Either he pays you everything he agreed to pay or he simply returns the blue book to you and you keep the P3,000. You can then use the P3,000 to repair the damage I assume he caused. If he fails to do either then you should tell him you’re going to the Police to lay a charge of “obtaining by false pretence” against him and that you’re also going to the Small Claims Court to seek an order against him for the outstanding amount he owes you.

You did both sign a written sale agreement, didn’t you? Please tell me you did…

Can’t they clear me?

I had a debt with a store last year and they took my name to ICT. I cleared with them last year December. To my surprise yesterday I applied for a loan but I couldn't get it because the store has not got my name off the ICT list. I need the money by Friday but the loan cannot be processed until they give me a letter which takes about 3 days. Can you help me please?


I’m sorry but that’s how things work. TransUnion (formerly known as ITC) keeps records of customer activity that are sent to them by the companies who pay their fees. So long as the facts they supply are truthful, there’s nothing you can do about that. It’s true, isn’t it, that you had a debt with the store and also that you failed to pay your instalments? The store is therefore within its rights to tell TransUnion that and it’s the right of stores and potential lenders to examine your history and see that you had problems repaying your debt. That way they can make a rational decision about the level of risk you might pose if they lend you their money. In fact, let me correct myself. It’s not THEIR money they’re lending you, it’s the money deposited by their other customers. I suspect they would want the lender to take every precaution before risking their money.

As I understand it, it’s the normal rule for TransUnion to hold such records for two years before removing them so you might be out of luck with the loan you are currently seeking. In the meantime I suggest you visit your nearest main Post Office where you can check your TransUnion record for a small fee just to ensure that the data they hold on you is correct. This is something that we should all do occasionally, just to make sure that the information potential lenders can see about us is as correct and up-to-date as possible. It’s in our interests to do that.

Saturday, 2 December 2017

The psychology of groups

Nobody really understands Facebook. I don’t even believe that Mark Zuckerberg and his colleagues who run Facebook understand it fully. Despite them owning and controlling and the technology underpinning it, they can’t accurately predict what direction Facebook will take next. That’s because all they produce is the vehicle, it’s Facebook users like you and me who drive it.

On a very small scale that’s the case with the Consumer Watchdog Facebook group. Even though I’m one of the moderators of the group, we have no control over what’s posted. Yes, we can remove posts (and we frequently do) that are irrelevant, advertising a product or just hateful, but the direction the conversations go is entirely up to the members of the group, not us.

That’s one of the reasons it’s so wonderful. It’s unpredictable, some might even say chaotic or anarchic and that’s exciting. Even more exciting is that it’s “social” media. It’s not just about you or me posting something, it’s about the conversation that almost inevitably results from each post. A better term might even be “community media” because it’s not just about a two-person conversation, it’s an enormous group of people who can join in the conversation. It’s one of the reasons I describe Facebook as being like a bar on a Friday night. Everyone there is a little noisier than normal, a little bit less inhibited about expressing their thoughts and feelings and a lot more likely to tell someone else what they think of them. Also like a bar, it often happens that people who are normally very kind, charitable and forgiving can suddenly become out of control. Some even become monsters. The Facebook “atmosphere” is intoxicating, just like alcohol.

Another similarity with a bar is how conversations flow on Facebook. In the bar the conversation within a group will jump from sport to politics, from the latest gossip on those unlucky enough to be absent from the bar to former boyfriends and then back to sport, all within moments. The timetable on Facebook is a little longer but you see exactly the same effect.

Just a few weeks ago the most popular topic on the group was the misdemeanours happening at a local water park where it was alleged that some men were apparently molesting young girls, taking their photographs and acting very inappropriately. For a few days it seemed that this was the only subject worthy of discussion. But almost overnight the community moved forward, seemingly having exhausted their justifiable anger. I suspect some people have already completely forgotten their rage. So much for #IShallNotForget.

On another occasion, it was the fair-use policy that a local cellular network provider had adopted that limits the amount of data a user can download in a day. For a few days I wondered whether the company would survive the criticism they received. But they did because something else emerged to divert people’s attention.

More recently it was the turn of a bank to be the focus of everyone’s attention. This was the KYC fiasco. For those who don’t know about this, and I can’t imagine there’s many of us that don’t, the various authorities that have an interest in banking, most notably Bank of Botswana, are forcing all the banks and those companies that provide pseudo-banking products such as insurance companies and the cellular network providers to confirm that they know who their customers are. Hence the “Know Your Customer” exercises that all banks have undertaken. The problem is that this hasn’t always gone well. Despite having provided documentary proof of the three things the banks wanted, proof of identity, residence and source of income, lots of people had their accounts frozen. While this was a massive inconvenience to many of those people, it was a lot more troubling for a minority. People were stranded in filling stations, only discovering that their accounts were frozen after they’d filled their cars, other were trapped in hotels unable to pay their bills, we even heard from one who discovered her account was on hold as she tried to admit herself to hospital an
d was unable to pay her 10% of the treatment cost. Luckily her sister was with her and she was able to pay with cash instead.

The most recent “trending” issue was the ridiculous Black Friday we had last week. This entirely American invention, a day of discounts offered the day after their Thanksgiving holiday has now spread around the world and it hit us in Botswana very hard last week.

In particular it hit hard at Game in Gaborone where the store announced that it would open its doors at one minute after midnight. The results were, if the pictures and videos I’ve seen were to be believed, mayhem. Doors broken down, property stolen and queues that lasted hours, all just to get some discounts. My suspicion is that nobody at Game had any idea what was likely to happen when they combined the prospect of discounts with large crowds, tiredness and mob psychology. The danger is that in these situations, the moment a crowd becomes excited, reasonable individuals like you and me disappear and are replaced by “a singular mind”. As one theorist put it, an “individual in a crowd is a grain of sand amid other grains of sand, which the wind stirs up at will.” It doesn’t matter whether it’s a crowd waiting for a bargain, bystanders administering “mob justice” to a thief or a peaceful demonstration that becomes violent, these are all predictable results of the group psychology of homo sapiens.

That’s where my observation comes full circle. Facebook is a bit like that crowd at Game. It’s wonderfully democratic in that anyone can be part of the excitement. These days someone with even the cheapest of phones can join the conversation and express their feelings. They too can join the crowd at the social media bar and either have a good time or go crazy. The real challenge is preventing that craziness turning nasty.

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

Is this how they should behave?

I need your assistance. I got money from a cash loan but failed to pay them for the first two months. I got a summons last month and I requested to pay half of the money I owed at month end of November as I had no money but before the agreed month end they came to me saying they needed to attach my property and if I fail to pay then they will have to take it. The first man who came had some documents that said my car was security. Later during the day another man came saying they came to collect my car until I pay the full amount I owe. He sent me bank details to deposit the money before end of that day or else in the morning they come for the car. The tricky part is the gentleman who came to collect the did not know about the one who came first but he had all my documents even the registration number for the car.

I owed the cash loan P3,500 but now it’s P7,000 plus P4,800 for legal fees and P2,200 for the sheriff, total around P14,000. I already paid them P6,000 but they still want to take car even though I offered to pay them P1,000 per month.

May I kindly request if this is the procedure if I have been summoned by a cash loan?


I suspect that this very much IS the procedure that a cash loan will follow in this situation. I also suspect that there’s very little you can do about this because you almost certainly agreed to all of this when you signed the loan agreement. A company is also entitled to go to court if someone owes them and to apply for an order to attach property to recover their money.

The starting point is that you do indeed owe them money. You borrowed P3,500 from them and agreed to their terms. This is all governed by the “in duplum” rule which says that the interest charged when a debt like yours is settled cannot exceed the capital amount that remains outstanding. For once this lender is obeying that rule, only demanding P7,000, twice the capital amount you borrowed. Unfortunately, the other costs of recovering the debt such as the attorney and debt collector fees are probably reasonable in the circumstances.

From what you say, it seems that the lender already went to court and was given a court order allowing them to instruct a deputy sheriff to seize your car and then, I assume, to sell it to get their money back. The good news is that any money left over from the sale of the car should be returned to you. However, so long as they get the money they’re owed I suspect they won’t care greatly how much money they sell it for. It’s possible you won’t get very much back from them so I really urge you to contact them one last time to see if you can agree a repayment plan.

Can they behave like this?


Hi Rich. Please help me out. Are these cash loans allowed to keep our bank cards and keep on paying themselves every month? I’m shocked right now that my mother who is 70 years a pensioner has been without her bank card It's like it stay there for ever.

And again if I want to report them where can I go and report.? Thank you.


No, they are certainly NOT allowed to do this. They never have been and they aren’t now either. Those of us who remember the days before the micro-lending industry was regulated can recall the tricks they got up to. They charged enormous levels of interest, took people’s ATM cards regularly and behaved like a bunch of crooks. Things are a lot better now that NBFIRA started to regulate the industry but clearly there are still some crooks out there.

One of the first things NBFIRA did with micro-lenders was to make it clear that it was illegal for them to take and hold someone’s ATM card so I suggest that you contact NBFIRA as soon as possible and register a complaint with them about this obviously very suspicious company. If they’ve taken your mother’s card I suspect they’ve taken other people’s cards as well and they need to be stopped. We need to stop this loan shark from doing this!

Saturday, 25 November 2017

The things that matter

I was asked recently to speak to a group of young entrepreneurs about how they should succeed in business. Me? What do I know about that? Firstly, I’m not an expert on creating or running a business and secondly I don’t trust people who claim to be experts offering advice to people, just like I don’t trust the people whose only job is writing books on management and leadership when all they’ve ever done is write those books.

However, I did feel qualified to talk about what I’ve seen, the things that appear to have helped create success and avoid failure. So here goes, a list of rules that I think will increase your chances of being successful in business. And maybe even in life.

Be punctual.

Despite all the excuses people offer about being “on African time”, punctuality is critical. If you’re due to be with a client at 9am then don’t just be on time, be there early. In fact, make it a habit to be 10 minutes early for every appointment you have. Every single time. Lateness for meetings suggests to a client that you’ll be late delivering the things they’re buying from you. Nobody will pay you for that.

Look at the countries where time is seen as something valuable. Take Japan as an example. A few days ago the BBC reported on an incident that everyone thought was amusing but I thought was inspirational. The headline was “Apology after Japanese train departs 20 seconds early” and it reported that “Management on the Tsukuba Express line between Tokyo and the city of Tsukuba say they "sincerely apologise for the inconvenience" caused. In a statement, the company said the train had been scheduled to leave at 9:44:40 local time but left at 9:44:20.”

The story went on to report that even though “no customers had complained about the early departure”, the company felt it important to apologise for not keeping exactly to the timetable they had published.

Even though part of me suspects that this was a clever bit of marketing by this company, it nevertheless says something about the Japanese commitment to punctuality. You can be sure that if a Japanese company says something will be delivered on a particular day then it will be.

So why can’t we be like that? Why can’t you and your business have the same commitment? Even if your employer doesn’t have it, why can’t you? Why not stand out from the crowd of latecomers by being the individual that is always on time?

Here’s another piece of advice, a cousin of punctuality. Be precise. In fact, why not go one step further and be a perfectionist? Why should you or your customers accept second best? You can start with the small things. I don’t care what sort of technology you use, whether it’s your phone, a tablet or a computer and what software you use to write emails, documents and presentations but they all come with a spell-checker. Use it. There is simply no excuse for speeling mistaks. They make you look amateur and trust me, nobody wants to pay an amateur to do work for them. They want to engage a professional and professionals concentrate on the small things that distinguish them from all the others.

But it’s not just spelling that matters. It’s everything. Every picture on your office wall should be straight. There shouldn’t be dust or coffee stains on your desk, litter on the floor, or chewing gum in your mouth. No matter how modest your office might be, it should be somewhere your customers can see the standards you’ve set and how well you’ve met them.

Perhaps the most difficult tip it to be energetic. Work hard. Every successful person in business and in other areas of life got there through lots and lots of hard work. They got there by working hard, by sacrificing sleep, their social life and fooling around on Facebook. They’re the ones who didn’t go home at the normal time when a report was due in tomorrow morning, they’re the ones who worked through the night until it got done. They’re the ones who valued their annual leave entitlement less than their obligations.

Here’s another tip, one that might seem beyond your reach. Be lucky.

How, you probably think, can you create luck? Has he gone mad, has he been reading that great source of nonsense and gibberish, The Secret and thinking he can just wish himself good fortune? No, I haven’t been on the happy pills, but you CAN create good luck and it’s actually quite simple to do it. The real secret to good luck is to put yourself in places where lucky things happen.

Take every opportunity that comes your way to widen your circle of business acquaintances. Accept all invitations to training sessions, breakfast seminars and business gatherings. If your employer says there’s a new project that needs volunteers then be the first volunteer. It doesn’t matter whether it interrupts your Friday evening drinking session, your YouTube time or your time for doing nothing, put yourself in the way of opportunities for lucky things to happen. You don’t get lucky by staying in front of the TV.

Finally, and most importantly, be prepared to make mistakes. Every successful person in business has made mistakes. In fact, I suspect there’s a positive correlation between the number of mistakes made and success. That’s because mistakes often happen when successful people experiment. They had an idea, tried it out and sometimes they’ve been lucky, other times not so lucky. Look at a company like Apple who have had almost as many mistakes as successes, the important thing is that very few of us remember the failures because their successes have been so good. But they wouldn’t have had the successes without having made the mistakes first.

I’ll be the first to say that all of these ideas can be hard to do. But do you really think success comes easily?

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

My lawyer lied to me!

I had engaged a lawyer and he said he had registered the case with High Court and I paid for case registration, paid for summons delivery and paid for his service a total of P4,600 and later discovered that he did not even register the case. Now he has my documents and is refusing to refund. I went to court to check and it was not there. What should I do?


I think we have a right to expect somewhat higher levels of service from certain industries, don’t you? I expect a bank, an insurance company and an airline to be highly professional, even if sometimes they don’t always do as well as we’d hope. This also applies to “the professions” such as medicine, accountancy and, in this case, the law. We have a right to expect the attorneys we consult to be experts in their fields. I’ve met a number of extremely skilled attorneys who have impressed me enormously but I’ve also met some attorneys I was surprised had made it out of secondary school, let alone law school. Just as worrying is that I’ve also met some attorneys who were distinctly shady characters that I wouldn’t have trusted with my legal affairs or my money.

I suspect your attorney might be in that last category. What he’s done isn’t just to offer poor customer service, I suspect he’s broken the basic rules of conduct that are expected of attorneys. He’s taken your money, not done what he was meant to do and, worst of all in a profession where honesty is so important, he’s lied to you.

I suggest you escalate this and speak to the Law Society of Botswana, the legal profession’s oversight authority who can investigate and take action against him if they establish that what you say is true. In extreme cases they can even close an attorney down if they find that their misconduct was serious. You can call them on 3900200 or email them at administration@lawsociety.org.bw.

Is Martinville University legit?

I received an email from Martinville University which they say is one of the top educational institutes providing campus based and online education based in California. They said I had been awarded a scholarship and could get a degree based on my prior life experience. Can this be true?


Martinville "University" is a fake, there’s no doubt about it. Here’s why.

On their web site is a link offering a Live Chat facility and I used it to have a conversation with one of their advisors. I told him that in order to get a position as a senior nurse I needed a degree in Nursing as quickly as possible. I made it clear that the only qualification I had was a diploma in health and safety. In case you’re wondering, this was all lies.

He told me that all I needed to get the degree was to send them my resume, showing that I had some experience and $500 and I would be sent a Bachelors degree in Nursing within 10-15 days. He told me that “this does not require a study, or to undergo an exam”.

Everyone knows this is fake, surely? Doesn’t everyone know that people only get degrees by studying, writing coursework and dissertations and sitting exams? We all know that people don’t get real qualification just with a credit card, don’t we?

My conversation with the advisor then became even more bizarre. He suggested that I could not only get a Bachelors degree but a Masters degree in Nursing as well, just by paying them $1,000, $500 for each degree. He told me that they would “need to backdate your bachelor's degree” if I wanted both.

Although this might seem surprising, perhaps even amusing, it’s actually very dangerous. I wasn’t asking for a degree in Marketing or HR Management where having an unqualified person in a job would probably cause little harm, they were offering me advanced qualification in Nursing. If a hospital HR department failed to check my qualifications, who knows what damage I could do. People could die.

So that’s why I say Martinville University is a fake. Just like the qualifications they sell. And just like anyone who buys one.

Saturday, 18 November 2017

Consumer fallacies

My dictionary defines a fallacy as “a mistaken belief, especially one based on unsound arguments” and I think we all know life is full of them.

For instance, it’s a fallacy to believe that a company selling you products or services will always have your interests at heart. And nor should they. More than two centuries ago Adam Smith wrote that, “It is not from the benevolence of the butcher, the brewer, or the baker that we expect our dinner, but from their regard to their own interest.”

Companies sell us things, whether it’s meat, beer or bread or a bank account, an insurance policy or a cellphone because they want to make a profit by doing so and there’s nothing wrong with that. The “profit motive” is a healthy thing, so long as it’s done in an open and honest manner. Hopefully we profit as well from the deal. We get our dinner, a loan, cover against disasters and a phone we can use to update our Facebook profile to tell the world what we think of the weather.

Just don’t think that a company is primarily interested in you. That would be a mistaken belief, one based on unsound arguments. A fallacy.

It’s also a fallacy, one of the biggest in customer service, to think that “the customer is always right”. Let me tell you a secret. The customer is NOT always right. In fact, the customer sometimes is a jerk. Other times the customer is an idiot and occasionally even a lying, cheating scumbag doing his best to steal your company’s products, services or money.

Of course you shouldn’t assume this to begin with. When you first meet a customer they obviously deserve courtesy, respect and attention. You start the encounter by assuming that both you as a service provider and the customer should benefit from the encounter and that the best way to do this is to engage with them like a professional and find a solution that their needs. It’s only later that you can change this approach.

Some years ago we heard from a restaurant manager who had a customer arrive, order food, eat most of it and then complain that the food wasn’t good enough. Being a polite and flexible guy, he said he wouldn’t charge her for the food. The following week she came again and exactly the same thing happened. Again, he waived the bill. The following week it happened again. This time he politely explained to the customer that perhaps she’d be happier eating the food offered by another restaurant where they could satisfy her needs and she left. When she arrived the following week, he refused to serve her and explained that she was no longer welcome in his restaurant.

When he contacted us he asked if we thought he’d done the right thing and our response was very simple. Yes, of course he was right. She had effectively stolen his food and he was perfectly right to “fire” her. We suggested that his other customers, the one who didn’t abuse him, would probably agree with him as well.

I could offer you a long list of stories we’ve heard of customers who are even worse than this. We’ve heard of customers who lie, cheat and even one, very recently, who asked a supplier to forge a document to help them defraud a manufacturer of the product they falsely claimed was faulty. Obviously these are extreme cases and it’s important to understand that most customers are decent people, not crooks but I do think it confirms the truth. They’re not always right.

Royal crown curvedWhat about the common suggest that “the customer is king”. Sorry, that’s another fallacy.

We’re not all kings. Or indeed queens. We’re just ordinary people, not royalty, not people with inherited wealth, position or power, not people that everyone has to stand up to greet, not people who deserve red carpets and impressive titles. We’re just people, people who deserve respect until we demonstrate that we no longer deserve it. Most importantly, I object to the suggestion that only royalty deserve good service. Everyone does, whether we’re of royal blood or the mortals required to serve them. Isn’t it the 21st century and haven’t we long put aristocracy behind us?

Then there’s the fallacy that service has to be the same everywhere. It doesn’t matter whether we’re in a bank, a filling station or a government office, we all deserve respect and courtesy but I believe that different levels of service aren’t necessarily a bad thing. It’s natural for service to vary. The quality of service I get at the filling station doesn’t need to match the service I get in a luxury hotel. It might seem uncomfortable but the more I’m paying for something, the better the service I expect. That’s certainly the case in restaurants. If I’m grabbing something quick for lunch then I don’t want a lengthy welcome and a conversation, I just want to hand over my money, get some food and a smile is the only other thing I want. However, if I’m spending a small fortune in a high-end restaurant I deserve excellent, not just adequate service.

It also depends where you are. For instance, certain industries need to offer a slightly different quality of service. If I’m in a bank I deserve service primarily with efficiency. If I’m in a restaurant, I want friendliness. Perhaps most importantly, if I’m in a hospital, I deserve service that is, above all other things, compassionate.

In healthcare compassion isn’t just a luxury, it’s an essential thing. When people are unwell or damaged they deserve more than the usual attention. They need more than just a smile, they need to know that the person serving them genuinely cares about them and understands that they are anxious, in pain or miserable. All very unlike the experience of someone who spoke to me a few days ago. With a few wonderful exceptions, their experience of healthcare was dismissive, uncaring, sometimes even brutal. In those situations we deserve something a lot better than the norm. That’s not a fallacy, it’s a humane truth.