If you are reading this post from Zimbabwe or you have been in Zim these past 2 years then you’ve probably had your change held back at a supermarket a number of times. If you’re like me, this has happened so many times you have lost count. Typically, you’re offered a credit note or asked to buy lollipops, choc, a box of matches, or some other small item to use up your change.
It’s frustrating. And change is not the only issue; there’s the arrogant customer service agents, the dishonest and misleading advertising, the muddy water coming out of our tapes, the irrational profit margins, the inequitable load shedding… I could go on and on. It’s some sort of hangover from those mad days of hyperinflation.
Over the past 2 weeks we’ve watched the seeding of an initiative that we think is very interesting and one whose objectives ordinary Zimbabweans will easily relate to. That initiative is Candid Consumerism, a Zimbabwe consumer complaints blog just launched on consumerizim.com.
The blog is owned by Joseph Ruzvidzo, an ICT consultant based in Harare. The blog, according to Ruzvidzo, is modeled along the lines of The Consumerist; a consumer affairs blog run by a US based NGO.
The blog is not just for complaints, praises too. Ruzvidzo explains the purpose of the initiative so:
This space isn’t just for us to moan about bad service, but also to glorify those businesses that don’t do only what they’re MEANT to do, but more. Those lowly minions in otherwise ordinary companies who go out of their way to help us, the people who really pay their salaries.
The goal is not to vilify, but to enable those companies with either service or perception problems to try and bring themselves to account, to demonstrate to the paying public that it’s not just about the bottom line, it’s about the front line. It’s how WE are treated, from the reception desk or automated switchboard, all the way through to the upper echelons of corporate management.
It’s easy to see the great potential this initiative has. There is definite need for this service in Zimbabwe. And I say service because in my opinion this is what it needs to be; a service, a portal for consumerism. A platform on which users can easily post complaints, post praises, rate companies, post short reviews, recommend services and some features to allow companies to respond officially.
The site can even have a twitter-like live feed where visitors post short updates about their encounters buying stuff. Login (by Facebook or some other such) would of course need to be a requirement to avoid baseless malicious updates.
The site is less than a month old and (understandably) lacks some features that’d make it more interactive and its information easily digestible. The blog also has an urban liberal approach to the use of words and phrases which many conservative folk might find objectionable. The founder would do well to address this so the blog doesn’t limit participation to just certain groups.
There are possible ways to monetize the service too. If not for profit then at least to enable the site to pay for the services it uses, so the founders don’t have to keep shelling out to it.
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