November 16, 2011

The case against being taken for granted by Jordanian establishments (Third installment): LG dealer "New Vision"

In this iteration of the CABTG series, i will share my recent experience with LG electronics' new distributor in Jordan; New Vision.

As any bonafide consumer would do; i answered the sudden impulse urging me to get up and buy me a new screen instead of my perfectly usable old one. and so i did on a Monday, i bought a 55 inch'er from said established, bundled with a 3D blue ray player & set of unusable 3D glasses.

I was promised a 72 hour delivery time frame, taking us all the way to Saturday; which i was Okay with, yet the showroom staff refused to take my address or give me expected time of delivery; stressing that the delivery team would contact me on the day of delivery. I must've been in a jolly good mood after answering my capitalistic tendencies; i budged in.

Saturday late Afternoon; i missed a call from a number that later turned out to be the delivery team; i returned the call an hour later, he informed me that he wouldn't be able to deliver today because i live far away and that i'll have to wait until tomorrow. Knowing that he wasn't speaking on any authority i called the showroom and informed him that if I don't receive my set tonight i will come to the showroom and cancel the purchase, i was promised a call back which didn't happen.

Naturally, i went to the showroom and demanded a refund for the undelivered goods; the showroom manager; a typical salesman, pleaded with me not to cancel the purchase; and made personal promises that my goods will be delivered the next day; first thing in the morning, again it seems i was still enjoying a mellow kick from the deceitful rewarding feeling of making a purchase, and budged in.

On Sunday morning, not exceeding my expectations, the delivery didn't happen by the time i was promised, and again; went to the showroom but this time i was angry; the first time around i would've taken my money and left probably willing to come back for another purchase; this time i was pissed off, even the nice showroom manager didn't attempt to talk me out of it!

The manager informed that since i partially paid for the goods by VISA, he was unable to refund and thus I had to go to the company's HQ down the road and talk to the finance manager, my instinct was this is wrong; but i accepted and made my way to the HQ.

It is rather interesting for me to observe how i was suddenly turned from being a customer to a visitor in an office building not ready to receive customers; i felt i was falling between the cracks of their business process; or lack there of.

The finance manager asked me why i want the refund, and i was explicitly clear that it was because the failure to deliver the goods on time TWICE; he dismissed it by saying that one day worth of delay isn't considered a delay; he took the liberty of assuming how valuable my time was.

I reiterated that i'm not in a business negotiations and that i demand a refund, and the only reason i am here is because i was instructed to come here by the showroom and all i need now is a committed date to receive my refund by.

He called in a colleague of his; asking her about what she knew of my "case", she repeated to a degree of accuracy the events that led to me requesting a refund, he asked her if I had any other motives; in fact he asked her if i had any ulterior motive for "creating this problem"?

I interjected declaring that LG & New Vision already consumed allot of my time and again demanded a clear date for getting my refund which he refused saying that his company will end up having to incur the 3% Visa surcharge if they process the refund and negotiated with me that if I accept deducting it he will process my refund -for the undelivered goods- promptly! Refusing to negotiate my basic right; I barged out of his office feeling utterly insulted and reaching out to my phone to call my lawyer.

The nice lady who was summoned by the finance manager followed me to the staircase; and asked me to calm down and apologized repeatedly pleading at one point that "he's just a finance manager; and this is how finance managers are like"!

I explained to her that I'm not even suppose to be in the company's HQ for what otherwise should be a simple customer-care case solvable from the showroom, and that this tactless person was disrespectful by not acknowledging their company's failure to deliver; assuming my time is of no value AND negotiating the amount of my refund!

I left confidently without agreement on refunding or delivering the goods because I knew i can afford the cost and time to get my money through the long legal process; and because i have direct contacts wit LG's regional office (LG Levant) in case Jameed hits the fan; but i imagined if I was just a normal hard working customer who neither can afford the time or cost of this; I would've been left with one of the following options:

Accept being taken for granted, putting up with late deliveries and failed commitments, and wait until the delivery is made OR Negotiate with the finance manager on the 3% Visa charge and get whatever I manage from this company the sooner the better!

An hour later, i received a call from a very nice and tactful person; who identified himself as the company's operations and maintenance manager; and said he was informed of my case and pleaded on personal grounds (again) to accept his sincere apology and allow him to send a team to deliver and install the purchased goods within an hour.

Realizing that though i can afford not to budge in, i opted to do just that; i have far too many things on my mind; i can do without another, and i also feel bad about engaging the legal system over such pity cases..

The nice guy called once again to double check that everything was alright; sending with the delivery few extra goodies to make it up for me; but being the person I am; the story couldn't end just like that.

At night, i sent an email to my senior contact at LG Levant office; explaining all the above; and how the whole experience was bitter and that it highlighted a failure in the business process and demanded an apology from the finance manager or his superior along with a straight forward summary -that you will find below-

promisingly i received a prompt answer from him; and promised an answer from the appropriate person within New Vision within 24 hours, which i did; and it was again the nice lady i encountered earlier; who sent an apologetic email that completely overlooked the fact that her company failed to deliver on time TWICE; and that i was insulted (negotiated with & almost interrogated) by their finance manager, simply citing "an error by their logistics partner" and that they "in good well" delivered and installed the set the same day of my escalation!

And that was the last time i heard from either of them, it is fair to assume that LG Levant considered the case closed; the goods were delivered AND I received "a response" from their distributor, why would i possibly feel bitter or pissed off; right, right? I'll tell you why LG Levant & New Vision:
  • Assuming that 72 hours is an acceptable delivery time frame, they failed to deliver by then, not once but twice! Why should i trust their warranty and after sales promises thereafter?
  • Refusing to take down my address and giving an approximate time of delivery is a common mistake among retailers; because delivery becomes subject to a phone call with the delivery team which is a recipe for misunderstandings and unmonitored customer experience.
  • There was no clear refund policy or process, at least in my case of a failed delivery of goods, i found myself having to hustle with HQ for what is otherwise a very obvious and straightforward thing to happen.
  • And even when i fell between the cracks of their system (or the void of its non existence) I wasn't treated as a customer; but more like a supplier or a visitor dealing with employees who are not ready or trained to handle paying customers!
  • As for negotiating the 3% VISA surcharge! Come'on.. it's utterly ridiculous!
  • It is nice to have tactful and nice employees, but to have the system depend on them being nice to cover up for business failures, to the extent where they have to plea on personal basis to cover up; that's pathetic.
  • And finally unable to issue a proper & straightforward apology by the offending employee or his superior is a catastrophic failure.
I tried to be as objective as possible, i layout the story not only to exert pressure on both LG and its new dealer in town to look into how I ended up with such bad experience, but also because i believe with more aware consumers; the bar on customer service will be up'ed in our locality.

October 19, 2010

أضعت هويتي

نشرت هذه التدوينة على حبر، شكرا لفريق حبر لتنقيح وتصويب الأخطاء الإملائية واللغوية:

أضعت هوية الأحوال المدنية الخاصة بي قبل عيد الفطر المبارك. هي أصلا متهالكة وفيها صورة أكاد أنا نفسي لا اتعرف على الشخص الذي فيها (شكلا ومضمونا). لم أكن أعرف أن هذا الحادث العرضي سيكون له تبعات تفضي الى أن أتنفس الصعداء حين أستلم هويتي الجديدة بقدر لا بأس به من الراحة التي يشوبها كبر من نوع ما…

قصتي تبدأ كأي مواطن سمع عن ما يعرف “بسحب الجنسيات” وبغض النظر عن أصل الشخص وفصله، وإن كان يحمل بطاقة جسور خضراء أوصفراء أو كان أجداده هاجروا الى البلاد قبل الحرب أو بعدها أو ممن كانوا أصلا قابعين على هذه الأرض الطيبة أو رحلوا من جبال القوقاز أو هاجروا من كردستان وفارس الشام … فأي مواطن يشعر بقدر من المسؤولية وأنه كغيره ممن يشاطروه هذا الوطن، مواطن له ماله وعليه ما عليه؛ سيشعر بريبة من هذا الموضوع.

فيبدأ هذا المواطن الذي كان مطمئن بحتمية استمرارية “مواطنته” وأنها من الثوابت التي من المفترض أن يبني عليها هويته وانتمائته، يبدأ بتقصي الحقائق والتأكد إذا كان هو من ينطبق عليه هذا الكابوس أم لا.

هنا تبدأ القصة بأخذ طرائق شتى! فالكثير سيطمئن أن الموضوع لا ينطبق على من يكون من هذا الأصل أو ذاك، فتنتهي الريبة بقطع الشك بيقين الانتماء القبلي بأنه ليس من تلك الفئة “على الإطلاق” ويمضي كما كان!

وهنالك من يفاجأ بأنه من تلك الفئة المنكوبة في اليوم الذي يذهب به لاجراء أي معاملة في دائرة الأحوال –على سبيل المثال لا الحصر. قد أتطرق إلى هذا لاحقا ولكن وبالتأكيد أن حياة هؤلاء الأشخاص ستتغير جذريا من بعدها.

والبعض قد يتجاوز ما يتناقله الناس من قصص واقعية يشوبها المبالغة الطبيعية في مجتمع مثل مجتمعنا والتي قد يتحمس البعض فينسج – أو ينقل ما نُسج من – نظريات مؤامرة ومخطاطات باطنية سوداوية لاستئصال فئة على حساب أخرى. فيمضي البعض للاستماع للرواية الرسمية والتي ترى في ما يتناقله الأفراد والإعلام -على حد سواء- تضخيم غير مبرر لاجراء قانوني لا ينطوي على أي أبعاد سياسية أو أهداف داخلية مخفية، فهو تصويب لأوضاع بعض “المواطنين” حسب تعليمات فك الارتباط بين الأردن والضفة والذي اتخذ قبل عقود.

بلا شك أنه إذا تجاوز المرء التجريد الذي يحتويه هذا الطرح وأن تلك الاجراءات وبغض النظر عن سلامتها القانونية؛ تمس حياة أقوام من الناس قلّوا أو كثروا، ليسوا مجرد أرقام وطنية واحصاءات، بل هم بأسماء وألقاب وهويات وانتماءات جزء كبير منهم لا يعرف غير هذا الوطن، ويبنون آمالهم وأحلامهم على بديهية أن هذا بلدهم!

وها أنا، أقف حائرا من أمري، فقد سمعت القصص الواقعية، والروايات الرسمية المعززة بالوقائع والأرقام (وفعلا هنالك مبالغة من قبل الناس والإعلام)، ولكن جواز سفري صالح لأعوام قادمة وهوية الأحوال كذلك، فحتى وإن كنت من تلك الفئة (وها أنا الآن قد اطمأنيت أني لست منهم) فأغلقت هذا الهاجس من باب تأجيل “الهم” وعدم السؤال عنه حتى حين!

لكن ضاعت الهوية (هوية الأحوال) وأصبحت مضطرا أن أواجه هذا البعبع الذي كنت قد أدخلته في مستودع التأجيل، وأخذت أستأقصي المعلومات عن أصلي وفصلي، وأسأل ان كان أحد من أفراد عائلتي قد تعرض لأي شيء أو طٌلب منه أن يراجع المتابعة والتفتيش (حيث تبدأ النهاية). بعض كبار العائلة أكدوا لي”إحنا مش منهم… احنا هاجرنا في ال48 ولا نحمل لا كرت أصفر ولا أخضر ولا أحمر كمان…”

شحذت قواي، وبعد أسابيع من التأجيل وإيجاد الوقت لهذا العملية التي لا تأخذ أكثر من ساعة، وصلت لفرع الأحوال المدنية التي أتبع لها وعبأت النموذج عند كشك الخدمات وبدأت الأمور (في مخيلتي طبعا) تتباطأ بشكل سريالي وأنا متنبّه لكل ما يدور من حولي….

صاحب كشك الخدمات على الهاتف يتحدث مع “وسيط” قائلا: “عندي ابن عمي بجدد هويته وحولوه على المتابعة والتفتيش… بس هوعمره ما راح ولا اجا، شو العمل؟”… بداية غير مطمئنة.

قدمت الطلب وموظف الأحوال يدخل رقمي على الحاسب، يقرأ المعلومات التي على الشاشة، وأنا أحاول استقراء تعبيرات وجهه أو بالأحرى أترقب الوهج الأحمر يخرج من الشاشة معلنا أنني “منهم”… فقط قام الموظف بالتأشير على المعاملة بما أتيح له من قلم حبر… على حظي كان لونه أحمر… ليش أحمر؟ لِما كل هذه “المشروحات” على معاملة اخراج هوية بدل فاقد؟

“استريح على المقاعد يا باسم وأنا بناديك”!

أستريح على المقاعد؟ طب دفع الرسوم؟ طب وافق على الطلب؟ أنا أكره الانتظار… سأغرق في التفكير بالاحتمالات… هل سأخرج من هنا بلا هوية؟ لا البطاقة البلاستيكية والرقم والطني، بل هويتي التي قوامها أني انتمي للأردن، مملكة وشعبا ووطنا.. هل هذه نهاية القصة؟ الحمدالله أن الانتظار لم يطل ونودي على إسمي… ودفعت الرسوم وأخذت الوصل، وطلب مني الانتظار نصف ساعة. لكن أنا شكاك… هذا لا يعني أني “نفدت” يجب ان ألمس “هويتي” لأطمئن.

مضت النصف ساعة وسمعت إسمي من خلف الزجاج. أمسكتها وأنا “أتنفس الصعداء بقدر لا بأس من الراحة التي يشوبها كبر من نوع ما”!

طب ماذا عن الأخ الحيران تحت الذي عليه أن يذهب للمتابعة والتفتيش؟ اختلطت المشاعر عندي، تحول شعور الراحة الى نوع من الخجل والكبر اللحظي الى خزي…

أنتهت قصتي التي بالأصل مجرد شخص أضاع “وثيقة” اثبات هوية واستخرج واحدة عوضا عنها. لكن قصة بعضنا (ولو كانو قلة) لم تنتهي، قد يرى البعض أني أضفت بعد درامي لا يغير من الحقائق شيئا، وأنا اعترف بذلك، لا لشيء فقط لأني فعلا أشعر أن هذا الموضوع له تبعات خطيرة على لمفهوم الهوية والانتماء والمواطنة والجنسية والوطنية والمبادئ والثوابت التي على الفرد أن يعرفها ويحس بها ليكون مواطن.

فإذا الثوابت كانت عرضة للتغيير لبعض منا، فما يمنع بعضنا الآخر من أن يترقب توسع الدائرة في مرحلة لاحقة أو في حال تغير الظروف والأحوال؟

في “الغرب” اطمئن الفرد إلى حقه بالمواطنة وازيح عنه هم تقلّب الأحوال فوفّر له التأمين الصحي والمسكن والمصروف في حال احتاج الى ذلك، فاصبح مواطن صالح منتج… لا بل مبدع!

كنت أعتقد أن المشكلة في بلادنا أن الشعب مهموم بقوته ومعيشته –ومطّهد في بعض الأحيان- فبالكاد يقدر على إحسان مواطنته أو انتاجيته فيصبح الحديث عن الابداع والاتقان ضرب من الترف الفكري … فما حال هذا الشعب إذا اثقل عليه هم هويته؟

أنا لم افكر يوما بالهجرة مع أنها متاحة لي، فانتمائي هو لهذا الوطن وإيماني أن اعماره واجب شرعي وجزء لا يتجزأ من امتدادي والانساني والأممي. أجد نفسي بحاجة على الأقل للتفكير”بخطة بديلة” والتي للأسف تعني “هوية احتياطية”… وهو مفهوم لا اتقبله ولا يتوافق مع حتمية انتمائي ومصيرية ارتباطي بالأردن الذي هو وطني أولا وأخيرا…

September 30, 2010

I was there when it started, and...

7 Years ago, I was a fresh engineering grad, one of my uncles was an investor in what was then the hottest talk-of-town new telecom venture; everything was hyped, from the uninspiring typical name it was given, the choice of technology it ran, to the "miracle" financing it secured and the tasteless celebrity who -dis- graced the launch party, the story of XPress telecom got far deeper concatenation with me beyond my family affiliation and employment in it and here are some excerpts.

It's worth noting that today; the company will be formally shutting down its regular service; shrinking back from its kingdome wide coverage to Amman & Aqaba and limiting its offering to its unique Push-to-talk (Walkie-talkie) service until further notice, but we'll come back to that later...

The uniqueness of my story stems from the various perspectives, exposures & involvements i had; i was a launch employee (launch ad here); my family was the major investor in it; my cousin (whom i look highly too) was its chief for the most part of its heydays and later I became a minority shareholder and found myself returning as a consultant helping in minding the shop; keeping the ship intact until a salvage was attained.

I'm not sure how articulate I can be in giving my account; but one thing i know for a fact that very few can appreciate the intimacy many of XPress employees had (and some still) years after they left the company; where they invested years of effort, dedication & hard work to make it a success story. Each of us have powerful memories, hopes & aspirations that was one way or another nurtured in XPress. In a sense, its far greater in magnitude than the loss of the shareholders investments & assets.

I for one was a field engineer at the time, relentlessly executing my duties (and overlapping with the duties of others to their discontent), the network which stood once at 160 sites (tower) strong; i knew them by heart beyond technical numbering and parameters; they had names, neighbors, they had stories & for the most part; I left a little of me in each and every bolt, knob, wire & equipment I was part of.

I vividly recall the ecstatic build-up towards the launch, the custom made handset gifted to his majesty, the very first call we made 4am in the morning; I have it captured on video; sneaking my name into a BS press release, last minute provision of coverage in Aqaba during the official launch ceremony after 36 hours of straight work; memories rushing at the rate 12 gigabytes a minute as i type... so you can imagine why things seems surreal today; as i use the network knowing that the last call might not be too far!

Its rather hard for everyone to appreciate or empathize with the sort of feelings that's going through me now, barely I am able to comprehend it, but no doubt its a mix; if not totally charged & volatile.

Years later and until few months back, i became the person I am; doing telecom consultancies and what have you; I looked back at the deteriorating situation of XPress and couldn't stand it; it took a triggering point and a help of a trustful friend to bold-up and approach the board of the company to help in whatever way possible to have a turnaround or at least allowing it to die gracefully like it started with dignity.

4 months i spent in this part-time assignment, I was in a unique position to retroactively witness how it came to this; stood over the ruins of a glorified past; a pile of dozens unused fleet cars; a pale headquarters that stood witness to the company's predicaments and a network (my true love affair) in dire situation were unthinkable sacrifices were made to keep the whole thing going... surviving one day at time!

Today; I find myself taking an active part in putting this child to a quasi rest; mostly in a graceful order but not without unnecessary bad-PR splashes; but it was far better than the inevitable nosedive crash that was around the corner, at least this is how i justify things reassuring myself...

It's not the end of the XPress story as yet; it may live to chirp off another day, until then it'll step aside into the shadows and hope for the best.

P.S: I post this as a "time capsule" for me; not the usual bulletproofed blog-worthy reading material, i post it unedited and in its original flow