Monday, 28 October 2013

Great Business Going Pathetic: Case Study- Mercury Express Logistics

I am not in the habit of calling out businesses for their crappy service but Mercury Express Logistics have provoked me beyond breaking limit. It actually pains me to write this piece because I am a supporter of businesses that are doing something good. It is a business that is providing us an opportunity to purchase goods from the United Kingdom, United States of America, India and South Africa and having them delivered in Zambia. Mercury Express Logistics took advantage of a problem, most sellers abroad would not ship to Zambia, however, Mercury have made that possible. Items are shipped to Mercury in the respective countries and they in turn bring them to Zambia. It is supposed to be a fairly straight forward logistical issue. Mercury used to provide an efficient service, the goods would get here within the stipulated time, and they would even send you a text that your items have arrived, that was once upon a time.


Mercury Express Logistics have in recent months been the source of my many frustrations. It is an annoyance that the management appear to have repeatedly ignored. I have purchased many items online from Ebay UK and used Mercury to deliver them. To the best of my knowledge there were three direct flights from the UK on a weekly basis before British Airways suspended their route to Lusaka. So I would expect to receive my items at the latest within two weeks. However, rarely have my items arrived within two weeks. It took months for my items to get here.  This is only part of the problem. When I call Mercury to inquire if the item has arrived I am put on an endless hold. When I pay them a visit, I am asked to write my name down and it takes close to 45 minutes for someone to come and tell me that my item hasn’t arrived. If you are expecting multiple items they will perhaps come out with one item and tell you that the rest have not arrived when you bought them at the same time. I am still baffled. I am then told they will send me text messages when the other items arrive which they never do. At the point of writing this piece items I had purchased over a month ago, have not yet arrived. I have wasted fuel, time, stress levels have gone up and I have further lost business as a result of the items not arriving on time.


Just in case you may think that I am exaggerating read some of the comments from other people who have used their service and judge for yourself lest am accused of being this bitter chap.


The terrible customer service currently being provided by Mercury is one that needs to be addressed urgently before it leads to their collapse. I would advise them to heed Sam Walton’s advice, “There is only one boss. And he can fire everyone in the company from the chairman on down, simply by spending his money somewhere else.” Therefore, these are my suggestions for Mercury Express Logistics

1.      Don’t Take the Customer for Granted

Just because Mercury may be blossoming with business and they are considerably cheaper than the rest of the competition they must not allow that to get to their heads. At this point I am willing to pay an extra K20 with any other provider as long as I am assured that my item will arrive within the stipulated time. They should not for a moment think that they are irreplaceable currently there is Post Couriers, FedEx, DHL and others who are coming up. We may soon forget the name Mercury Express Logistics.

2.      Expand and Hire If Traffic Increases

From the clear look of things Mercury have way too much business and they seem to be overwhelmed that they are unable to handle it. They to do not have enough staff to handle the calls, go search for the packages besides this their storage facilities have become inadequate. Despite them still having a large yard and enough expansion space I wonder why they cannot expand the facilities they currently have.

3.      Invest in Technology

Mercury is still using Stone Age methods of looking for packages when you go there. You write your name on a piece of paper, someone spends thirty minutes looking for your item before returning to tell you that they could not find it. Hello this is 2013. It is as if Mercury have never heard of a device called a computer and software. What should be done is that you provide your name, they search in the computer if your item is there or not. And we all move on with our lives no time wasted.

4.      Small Things Make a Difference

In business it is the small things that can differentiate you from your competition. This is a tenet that Mercury seem to have forgotten. The simple text message was enough for me to be satisfied, because I did not have to waste my time and fuel going to Mercury when my item has not arrived. Then they stopped sending text messages for small parcels that I was expecting and now they have stopped altogether sending me any text messages. It is even no longer worth it calling their offices to inquire if your parcels have arrived, it’s a hopeless cause. They seriously need to go back to basics.

I may be one of only a handful of disgruntled customers, but my best advice is until they improve only use Mercury Express Logistics if what you are purchasing is not urgent, inexpensive and you have all the time in the world for the nonsense of a service they provide. At this moment, I have no further plans to waste any of my time or fuel for their lousy service. When someone decides to use the word Express in their company name, I expect the service to be express and not a situation where my item takes two months to arrive. Where is the difference between them and the Post Office? There should be a reason why I am paying more money. I can live with a few weeks delay as long as my time and money as a customer is recognised and valued by fantastic customer service. Mercury Express Logistics need to lock up, go away somewhere and really reflect whether they still want to be in business. In the meantime, anyone with the FedEx, Post Courier, DHL and DotComZambia contacts?


Tuesday, 8 October 2013

Can Supermarkets Stop Being Generous with Plastic Bags

Towards every month end, I do the usual grocery shopping. I visit my favourite supermarket, Shoprite this is not a shameless plug and do my usual rounds through the aisles. When I am eventually done I end up leaving with my groceries in on average 10 different plastic bags. In case you haven’t already realised that is a lot of plastics for one household. I am no environmentalist but clearly unless the undue generosity of supermarkets comes to an immediate halt, we have an environmental crisis waiting to happen.
Plastic bags from one month grocery shopping

According to experts, plastic bags take hundreds of years to degrade and in the process they release harmful toxins into the soil, rivers and lakes. Do not worry that is as much a geography lesson I will go into. In Zambia, the desire to pack everything in plastic bags is increasing by the day, buy an apple from the vendor in the street she will put it in a plastic, buy a coke from a store it will come in a plastic, purchase a pencil be rest assured it will probably be given to you in a plastic. It appears as if the size of the item does not matter, if it can fit in a plastic you are most likely going to be given one. I reckon if a fridge could fit in a plastic bag, it would be delivered that way.

My best guess at why plastics are dished out so generously is that they should be very cheap to produce. They should cost a couple of ngwees each. Therefore, they can be purchased in bundles to be given out freely. I have often taken a conscious step to avoid getting a plastic bag when I am purchasing a singular item from a supermarket or store. However, I will admit that sometimes I cannot resist the urge to accept the plastic bag that is given to me. May the environment forgive me, as I have been part of the problem 

The scenerio in most supermarkets
In as much as plastic usage is currently a huge problem, it can be easily reduced in great proportion by a simple solution. In 2008, I had the privilege of visiting Germany and I realised their solution to reducing this plastic generosity was rather simple, charge people for every plastic bag at the supermarket or store. The tellers and packers would deliberately ask you whether you needed a plastic or not, if you said yes the price of your plastics was added to your final bill. The result of this is people often carried their own bags or re-used the plastic bags they already had. The other striking thing was that by the tellers asking you whether you required a plastic, you were deliberately made away to think twice.  Now this does not take an Einstein to implement in Zambia, this should be fairly easy.

My proposal is not that plastics in supermarkets should cost 2ngwee that is too cheap. Plastic bags should cost say K1 each for the pinch to be felt. I can almost guarantee you that the number of plastic bags coming out of the supermarkets would be drastically reduced. If not this then plastics should carry a heavy tax on them so that charitable givers reconsider the next time they hand out a plastic bag. Perhaps if this gesture was implemented the almost extinct baskets will return. I do remember carrying bottles of soft drinks and bread in a straw basket. Alas, my young siblings are absolutely clueless of the existence of a basket because it has been replaced by the plastic bag.

I am not advocating for the abolishing of plastic bags from our supermarkets and stores, absolutely not. The point I am trying to cut across is that most of the times we don’t really need the plastic bag in the first place. We need to start developing a society that is more conscious about its environment and the repercussions for our present and future generations. If nothing will move you go to a compound and look at any drainage. I dare you to return and tell me you found a plastic free drainage. So yes this is my first step towards the campaign to make supermarkets start charging customers for the plastics bags they generously offer.

Are you willing to join my campaign?

Wednesday, 2 October 2013

10 Painless Rules for the Zambian Borrower

I have had enough of this crap. There is a problem with being a nice guy, people take you for granted. Yes, we live in a world where we need to give a helping hand when someone is in need. One of those times is when someone requests to be lent some money. I usually find it hard to say no to someone when I have the cash, but more often than not it ends up biting me in the butt. The chaps never give me back the money. Hello! If my last name is not Gates or Dangote, I need my money back, period. I think there has been some miscommunication between us; I am now putting a few golden rules down.

This is not a donation, so it better boomerang

1.      Don’t Borrow If You Don’t Plan to Pay Back
The moment you say, “Lend me some money,” it automatically implies that you have the intention of paying it back. The last time I checked my dictionary, “Lend me” did not mean grant me or donate. So you better tell me straight up front whether I am lending you the money or giving it to you. Because if I am lending you the money, I expect it back. Don’t believe that just because I don’t ask for it, I have forgotten.
2.      I am not Oprah Winfrey
Never assume that the money I am lending you is not needed and it is fine if you don’t return it. I am not Oprah Winfrey who tosses cars for fun. When I discover the tree that grows money, I promise you I will be dishing out money like there is no tomorrow. Till then, you know what to do.

You owe Me! You owe me! You owe me! You owe meeeee!

3.      Is an Apology too Hard
Look I am a reasonable person, I understand that plans will change and situations may prevent you from paying on time. Is it too much to show some courtesy by informing me in advance and asking for an extension? I am only a call, text, Facebook, BBM, Whatsapp, Skype, Twitter, away. So I do not buy those excuses that you were trying to reaching me but failed. Next excuse please.
4.      How Dare You Ignore Me
It is bad enough that you don’t tell me when you will pay me back, but to ignore my phone calls that is just rude. Abomination! (Nigerian voice). We do not need to bring the police up in here. Let me lay it down for you in simple English, you will pick up my calls and reply to every text. Comprendez!
5.      Remove Family and Friendship From the Equation
If at all you respect the relationship, it is only decent that you don’t abuse it. Friends and Family are the worst culprits. I would like to keep this equation that way, let us remain friends or family. It is absolutely embarrassing and shaming for us to start quarrelling over a petty issue as nkongole.
6.      Don’t Magnify Your Problem
You have bills to pay; I have bills to pay too. Do not try to make it sound that your problems are more pressing, urgent and important than mine. Please do not come all melodramatic that you are about to be jailed because other people you owe money are threatening you. Do you want me also to share my big problems too?
7.      Sorry the Guilty Trick Won’t Work
You already in the wrong by not paying me on time or desiring not to pay me at all. If for a moment you think that you will use the Guilty Card on me, think again. Calling me stingy, inconsiderate, shorthanded, ungenerous, will definitely not help your cause. My advice is just be humble because quite frankly, I don’t care what adjectives you use to describe me. Money please.
8.      You Had My Cash But....
Oh really so you just had my money an hour ago, and miraculously the Landlord showed up at your door therefore you can’t pay me. And how is this supposed to make me feel better again? This is such a recycled excuse that it is hard to believe any more. Bash your head into the wall and tell me that you just got mugged and they got away with my money as you spit blood. Now that lie I will believe.
9.      You Have a Reputation to Protect Too
A bad name spreads quickly; a bad borrowers name spreads even quicker. To the serial borrowers who are in the habit of not paying back, you are simply crushing your own reputation. There will come a point where everyone will be afraid to lend you money, no matter how dire the need is. But then again who am I fooling some people don’t even have reputations to guard, yaba.
10.  My Little Black Book
There comes a point where I have to face the reality that I am never getting my cash back. This is just a bad debt that I have to write off and forget. Wait forget, no ways. Fool me once shame on you, but fool me twice stupid me. I aint gonna be stupid. My Little Black Book of blacklisted borrowers will faithfully remind me of all your crimes. Trust me, you don’t want to enter my Little Black Book, just obey the rules above and you will be safe.