Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Rewarding Mediocrity

There’s a warped relationship between reward and work in Nigeria. It is a place where little or no effort needs to be exerted to yield huge rewards - and this is accepted as the norm. In other words, the quality of services and goods offered doesn’t have to be commensurate with the amount charged.

Take for instance DSTV, the popular cable network provider. Most channels on their bouquets repeat programs, with exception of the news (but even that gets replayed until there’s breaking news to upend the news cycle), that you could forgo renewing your subscription for 2 months, and not miss much.

In fact, the internet provides a raft of interesting programs than DSTV ever will. But because internet in Nigeria is slow and expensive, DSTV can afford to screw Nigerians big time - so much so that they want to increase monthly subscription fees by 20%. Never mind that Nigeria is notorious for power cuts that last for days on end, which could translate to some subscribers viewing one week worth of TV every month. What stops DSTV from charging subscribers per view?

Speaking of power cuts, electricity companies are just as guilty as DSTV in billing their customers. Each month, they brazenly present customers with exorbitant bills for power that wasn’t supplied, or if it was, the voltage was dangerously low/high that you’d have to resort to using your generator to save home appliances from impending destruction.

Additionally, mobile phone networks provide egregious services, but are happy to charge customers through the roof. This is the reason Nigerians on average own two phones, each for a different network provider. However, that doesn’t remedy the problem of poor network, because there’s no better alternative. Yet, mobile network providers make a killing here.

Incidentally, earlier this year, I ordered and paid for two items from Nigeria’s so-called number 1 online retailer, and received one defective item (which was returned), while the other never made its way to my house. Now, why would Jumia sell sub-par products online and charge the same amount as the authentic version? What’s more, common sense dictates that the success of an online retailing business relies on consumer trust - which emanates from the guarantee that goods sold on its website are of sound quality.

That said, I doubt Jumia’s plan is to improve and thrive, because if it is, then nothing stops them from studying Amazon. But if it is anything like most businesses in Nigeria (a perfect example is Nigeria’s show business), then they’re just happy to exist and make a quick buck.

Photo: uoftjazz.ca

At what point will consumers demand better services and goods from companies they patronize?

Recently, I engaged a web designer to build a website. We agreed half of total amount would be paid at the beginning of the project, and the remainder upon completion. For the first 2 weeks, he didn’t do any work. But after meeting with him in week 3, he sent an email asking I transfer money so he could renew his modem subscription to complete the job. Needless to say, I was furious, and replied saying his request was unacceptable and unprofessional, especially since he had nothing tangible to show to me during our meeting. After some back and forth email exchanges, I fired him, asking for a refund.

How can you not feel ashamed for asking to be rewarded, when you haven’t even worked? Even monkeys used in experiments know to complete a task before they can earn a banana.

There are certain attitudes that should be awry and not be tolerated, considering Nigerians are so religious. You’d expect religious teachings like - don’t reap where you did not sow – to be a common mantra, but it’s not. Nigerians are quite happy to reap way where they have not sown. We won’t work hard but want to be rewarded handsomely. 

If in doubt, how do we explain the attitude of some students days before their exams? During the term, they play hooky and spend countless hours frolicking about, while their serious counterparts have their noses buried in books. But a week or so to exams, the indolent become soberer than monks, so much so that attendance at midweek and Sunday church services becomes unusually high.

This is the period they begin harassing God to walk on water for them. They remind him that he promised to help anyone who asked for anything in his name. In short, they expect nothing short of a miracle that entails his writing their exam for them.

Also, it is around this period that they remember there’s a building called the library.  

In my years as a student, I always considered these people strange – and sometimes thought them insane.

This same uncanny attitude towards work is pervasive among our lawmakers. Nigerian lawmakers are the highest paid in the world, yet we cannot vouch that they do more work than their counterparts elsewhere. In fact, I wonder if they even do any work at all, other than pay themselves enormous salaries and allowances – which is the reason politics is such an appealing profession in Nigeria.

President Reagan once compared politics to prostitution. While that may be true in some regard, I doubt prostitutes in Nigeria would be pleased with the comparison, since it implies they do not work for their money.

Personally, I have no problem with companies charging premium rates for goods and services, however I want to get my money’s worth. Don’t offer me a chicken’s egg and expect me to pay like it’s caviar, or produce a rhinestone ring, and tell me it’s 14 carat diamond. That’s just daylight robbery.

Also, there’s a need to learn to stop accepting shoddy services and dubious goods, and shun laziness and mediocrity. I know it’s difficult to do, especially as our government is asleep. However, life must go on. Therefore, the onus is on us to protect ourselves and demand better quality - and I suggest we start with our purse strings.

Surely a month of no DSTV won’t kill us.