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Sean Wheller
Aug 27 2006
Enough Bad Service - Let's Complain Publically
Sunday, 27 August 2006

There is nothing like really getting pissed about something to motivate me into action. This morning my family and I planned to go watch a movie. The movie we want to watch was showing at the local Ster-Kinekor in Cresta shopping center. The evening before we checked the Ster-Kinekor website to determine the times at which the movie is screened. We found that the first show started at 11 AM.

This morning we arrived at the movie house 15 minutes before time so that we could purchase tickets and have enough time to buy refreshments. The movie house doors were open, all lights were on. Great they are open. As normal we checked the movies board to see if the movie we wanted was listed as described the night before on the Ster-Kinekor website. There it was in big bold red letters, “Pirates of the Caribean 2, 11:00”.

Here is were the problems start.

Since there was not one single member of Ster-Kinekor staff to be seen in the front of the establishment, we decided to use the computerized ticket reservation and purchasing systems that are located at the ticket counter. We touch the screen as normal, selecting the movie, number of tickets and swiped our credit card through the point of sale device. After a few second, the screen confirmed our reservation and instructed us to take our tickets form the printing device where tickets normally come from. Hmmm, no tickets. Now what?

We look around for a member of Ster-Kinekor staff for help. Eventually, we find a person sitting in a back room. He comes out and checks the machine, verifying that we had just purchased tickets, but that there was no paper in the ticket printing device. Ok, these things do happen, “All will be resolved soon.” we thought optimistically as the person helping us disappeared behind some other doors. We decided to buy refreshments while the problem is being resolved.

By now there were six couples in the queue behind us and a further two couples already using the other ticketing systems. While buying our refreshments I noticed that the remaining six couples were not using the automated ticket systems that seemed to be working. Seems that they were paying cash and needed the services of a cashier. Not wanting to get involved we waited at the refreshments counter, expecting somebody to come take our order. It was now 5 minutes before 11. Seeing that nothing was happening, I decided to go in search of a manager. I found a lady in the back rooms and explained that we had a ticket problem and that there we customers waiting to buy tickets. They needed help and we needed a person to take our order at the refreshments counter.

Her answer was that they did not open until 11AM. I told her that the establishments doors were open, lights were on and the first movies shows to start at 11AM. I explained that, enlight of these facts, the establishment was open to the public. She remained adamant that the movie starts at 11:30AM and that because of this the staff were not ready to serve customers. She stated that the door was only open because it was broken and they had to let staff in.

At this point my patience ran out. I was getting angry, I asked her for the Manager. She replied that he was not there and I would not be able to reach him by phone. Really angry, I went back to the front, still there were no staff to help customers and the gent who we have called t help us was nowhere to be seen either. Some customers came up to me asking whether or not somebody was going to be assisting them. No knowing, I decided to go find people. I staff in a back room, taking their time, talking to one another with no sense of urgency.

Now I flipped and raised my voice, shouting without screaming, telling them of the problems:

  1. Automatic ticket machines had no paper.
  2. No staff at the store front to help customers.
  3. No staff behind refreshment counters.

The movie was about to start.

Only after raising my voice did staff decide to start doing something with some degree of urgency. I had to ask four or five times for the Ster-Kinekor Customer Services number. Eventually, one member of Ster-Kinekor staff reluctantly gave me the number.

I called the number only to get to a ticket line operator who had no senior manager to speak to. I explained the problem and he assured me that the person responsible would call me back immediately. I returned to the refreshments counter were now there was one person serving my wife and children with their orders. By now there were two couples behind us in the queue and still six couples waiting for tickets, but at least we were starting to see some staff from Ster-Kinekor moving about the store front.

Good, at least we have something happening.

As time came for us to pay for our refreshments the person serving us started to write down the items by hand. She was not able to add the numbers and total our bill. Finally we asked her why she did not use the computer point of sale provided. She stated that it was not working. We suggested that she get a calculator to add up. After calculating the amount, we handed her a round sum in One Hundred Rand notes. She then said that she did not have change and we had to pay in exact amounts.

By now I am really pissed. Ster-Kinekor is a premium service provider. They advertise themselves as a providing the best entertainment experience in the market. For the luxury of such service, they are not shy in their pricing for movie tickets, especially at venues such as Cresta.

For this price, I think customers should get service and not have to entertain the problems we had this morning.

In fact this is not the first occasion where we have received bad service and the Ster-Kinekor establishment has been in a shambles. Other customers, seeing that I was talking action, came up to me and thanked me for doing something. Some even relayed stories to me of how they had experienced this type of problem before, not only at Cresta but also other Ster-Kinekor venues.

I kept my phone on until the movie started, then switched to flight mode. Directly after the movie I switched my phone back on. There were  no messages from anyone at Ster-Kinekor. I decided to call the Customer Services line again. They ensured me that the manager would call me. It has been more than five hours and still nobody from Ster-Kinekor has bothered to call me. This is just so typical of the attitude of companies such as this. They are willingly take your money, but the staff are less than willing to help, even make you feel like they are doing you a favor. It's just plain unacceptable.

This type of bad service is common place in the South African retail and service sectors. In my opinion it ammounts to false advertising and extortion of the consumer. As a consumer I am now convinced that complaining to a customer services center does nothing. Consumers are powerless and being ripped off by high prices. They are not getting what they were promised or what they paid their premium for.

This is not the first time I have encountered this attitude from a company. The problem is not unique to Ster-Kinekor. I am also certain that I am not the only person to feel abused in this way. So I have decided to do something. I have registered the domain on which I plan to launch a website that will be open and free for the South African public to vent their frustration and dissatisfaction with South African service levels. This blog enter will be the first complaint.

Let's see what companies will do when the complaints no longer come to them, but are pasted on the Internet for the whole world to see. Will they improve and actually become responsible to their customers, or will they just ignore their customers.

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piet     | | 2008-04-14 13:14:31
I Agree.
Visit and make it heard. This site provides a platform to provide solutions to your problem and give the company the opportunity to view the problem and propose a solution.
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Copyright (C) 2007 Alain Georgette / Copyright (C) 2006 Frantisek Hliva. All rights reserved.

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