I don’t know when it began, but it has been going on for a while now in the boutiques and other indigenous clothes stores. As soon as you enter the store you notice that all the clothes have no price tags. A creepy guy or lady follows you around as you go around the racks. Most of the time, they inquire on how they can help you.
Then you realize that most of the clothes for sale are not even on display but hidden in a secret warehouse somewhere and you need to be a fashion expert to know exactly what you want and get it.
Finally when you are able to figure out what you want and leave the shop you cannot help shake the sneaking feeling that probably ended up paying more than what the item was worth although you can never be able to prove it.
I almost ended up in a similar situation a few weeks ago. I was looking for a web host for my new website. Since the site will cater almost exclusively for Zimbabweans I decided to go for a local host because I figured the added speed for the site will be a plus.
But since I am a control freak I wanted a VPS that would grant me greater autonomy. Little did I know I was in for a tough ride. I also wanted a service provider that would allow me to scale my service up or down at the click of a button. In short I wanted a local version of the Amazon Web Service or something like OVH.
That’s when I noticed a lot of the local players have a marketing philosophy not dissimilar to the ones adopted by the local clothing shops. A good number of their websites have forms which you have to fill in order to get in touch with their sales or technical department who never fail to ask the old age question;” How may we help you?”
Now if you are like me, an Edgars/Powersales guy who prefers to get his clothes off the rack, you prefer to see the goods first because you don’t “know” exactly what you want perhaps because you don’t know what the Service provider has or what their pricing model is.
You don’t know what they charge for each and every particular service so you don’t know what to opt for or what the opportunity cost of your decision is. And at the end of the day you cannot simply shake the sneaky feeling that they charge different products depending on who you are or how well you negotiate.
Do they charge for support or is it free? What do you need to do to get an upgrade or downgrade? Do you have to renegotiate each and every one of these and how long is it going to take? Imagine having to go from company to company asking for a quotation. It will probably take you longer and more effort than it should. Now those are exactly the sort of problems the internet was invented to solve.
It would be nice if local service providers come up with easy to access services like those found on the international market. Why should Zimbabweans waste bandwidth storing their files in Google Drive when local companies can offer the same service especially with the rise of fibre uptake?
So far after the development of easily accessible local payment services like the Pay4app and Paynow, the only impediment to such services is that they are not available. Or perhaps they are, but the ordinary consumer is not aware they are or how they can access them.
We need our own cloud services, hosted locally to help ease the strain on our international bandwidth. One of the reasons US and European ISPs seem to offer better deals than our local ISPs is that most of the bandwidth for these foreign ISP is local from their point of view. It is hard to envisage a local US internet user having the need to access foreign hosted services for more than a few times a day if at all.
On the other hand, most of us use international bandwidth. From Google, YouTube, Facebook; or cloud storage services like Amazon, OneDrive, and Rackspace. One of the impediments to local content increasing is the unavailability of easy-to-use cloud services such as VPS servers (excuse my RAS syndrome), cloud storage services like Amazon and Google Drive and other support services.
Questions like, “What do you want?” and “How may we help you?” are difficult to answer. It is a proven fact that when faced with innumerable options humans make the worst of decisions. In other words the more the options one has available to them the more likely they are to make a bad decision. It’s a paradox.
So, in the process of applauding the great strides that we have made in the broadband arena; everyone seems to be quoting their internet speeds in megabits now, it would be great if the service providers offer us services similar to Google Drive, Amazon Web Services, OneDrive and RackSpace without the twenty questions first game.
A nice catalog then a link at the end for those with special needs that require a negotiation. A person pays and their service gets activated and they immediately receive the relevant details in their email and they can start using the service.
You want to know how you can help us? That is how you can help us. That is what we want.
P.S. I purposely did not provide any links to local service providers who ask the “twenty questions.”