Customer service in Ghana, in my experience, doesn’t exist. Last week was one big example of that.
I had dropped off some cloth at my usually very quick tailor two and a half weeks prior. In those two and a half weeks, I’d returned to the tailor at a cost of one cedi per trip four times. The first two times, Master Aziz wasn’t there. Finally, at visit numero trois, he decided to make an appearance. Imagine that: a business owner actually at his business during regularly-accepted business hours! He told me that some finishing touches had to be done, but that the shirt would be complete the following day. At this point, it had been a full two weeks since I had dropped off the cloth; I was so tired of being exasperated that I decided to just be happy that my garment would be done in one small sleep.
I returned the next day to find that (surprise, surprise) Master Aziz wasn’t there. His army of apprentices couldn’t do the shirt, either, because it was somehow complicated. They told me to come back after I was done work. I returned after work to find them lazing about under a tree near the shop. One of them—their ringleader, I’m guessing—told me that they had lights out during the afternoon. Cue rage.
“Did you have lights out for the past two weeks?” I asked angrily, “show me the shirt.” In that instant I had decided to take the unfinished shirt to a tailor who could get the job done. The apprentice pulled out a rolled-up bunch of cut cloth that clearly wasn’t even close to requiring “finishing touches”.
A tug-of-war, some yelling, accusations of thievery, and a hasty phone call to Aziz ensued. I’ll spare you the details, but suffice to say that I didn’t get my cloth that day. I’m not proud of my actions, but, you know, hindsight is 20/20 and all that. Not even FanMilk could quench my burning fury so I returned to Sagnarigu in a state of frustration.
This was not the best state for me to be in when I arrived. You see, I was to meet another tailor in my village at a specific time at his shop to drop off cloth for something even more complicated. Naturally, he wasn’t there. When I asked his apprentices where he was, they could give me no further insight about his whereabouts. Great.
I got his senior apprentice to call the tailor. “He’s coming,” the apprentice told me. We waited about twenty minutes for the guy to arrive and when he did, he sat down to eat his dinner before serving me. At this point, I had already been broken, so his blatant disregard for his customers really didn’t bother me.
The next day, I went back to Aziz’s shop. The shirt was ready, but the Master wouldn’t give it to me until I paid. What a tricksy guy. Then he charged me eighteen cedis for it! That’s right, after two and a half weeks, six trips to and from town, and one night of holding my cloth hostage, the guy still had the balls to rip me off. I got a consolation prize, though: he assured me that the next one would be free.
In an attempt to salvage my emotional response, I looked at the situation economically. I’d be paying eighteen cedis for two shirts, or nine cedis per shirt. That’s one cedi less per shirt than what I’d pay for his usual services and the one he had just completed for me was very complicated. I hadn’t really wasted any of the trips to town because I ran other errands while I was there. All-in-all, the whole thing was manageable. So, I paid him to avoid confrontation.
The next day was Friday, or Milo and Masa Day as I like to call it. Milo is an amazing nectar made with malt, chocolate, artificial colouring(s), and artificial thickeners. Imagine hot chocolate, but with a thick, caramel flavour. It’s friggin’ awesome. Masa are basically these wonderful, little timbits made with maize flour and sugar then fried in shea butter. Apparently they represent little prayers. Because Friday is the holy day in Islam, my host grandmother makes masa for the children and I always buy some from her for breakfast and pair them with Milo prepared by my egg and bread lady.
On that day, I waited fifteen minutes for my Milo. Fifteen minutes for hot chocolate!? I grabbed my packet of Milo and tried to leave. Another tug-of-war, many quick apologies, and rapid Milo preparation ensued. With my bag of hot liquid in hand, I turned to leave without paying. She made a typical Ghanaian hissing sound to get my attention. Oh no you din’nt, I thought. There was no way I’d pay for hot chocolate that was, in my opinion, fourteen minutes late. I turned around, ready to argue with her.
“Nawuna lab sona,” she said with a smile. That means “may God grant you a safe return” in Dagbani and is a suitable way to bid someone adieu if they are on their way somewhere.
Okay, so there’s at least one person in the country who cares about customer service.