23rd November 1997


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Mirror Magazine

Double trouble
Double trouble


Where customer is not King

By a correspondent

"Some of these Sri Lankan tenants who run shops in this complex do not know that customer is King," says Mr J. C. Page, the Managing director of CT Land Development Limited., which owns the piece of prime real estate that is home to Majestic City, the shopping complex. Mr Page is the son of Page Snr., ( Mr A. A. Page), whose dream was to establish a shopping complex that's elegant, efficient and for the family.

In many ways, a shopping complex such as "Majestic City'' is a symbol of where this country wants to be in the future. Either this country ( particularly its commercial capital ) gets into big-time commerce, or we perish. So, a business and shoppers ethos has to be cultivated in Colombo, something that's close to the shoppers paradise's available in Singapore, or in parts of Europe or America.

But, despite the fondest dreams of Mr A. A. Page, the pioneer of the concept of the "family shopping complex '' in Sri Lanka, the shoppers who step into at least some outlets, find out quickly that this is no Singapore or shopping paradise.

"Customer is King'', the adage that Mr J. C. Page quotes and lives by, is probably not even heard by some of the sales - people at outlets (such as the one described in the accompanying box story). Their attitude is boorish, and the prevailing axiom in these shops is "buy, or vanish." These people seriously think they are doing the customer a favour, not the opposite.

"Obviously, these sales people are uneducated," says a psychologist. They are not educated enough, or smart enough to realise that if shoppers are encouraged, and spoken to politely ( even if they browse and don't buy ), sales are bound to increase.

Mr Page laments that "some of these sales-people are known to cast insults at people who come into a shop to window-shop; i.e.: to see the merchandise, not necessarily to buy. This attitude is shocking." Says our psychologist that it shows the level of ignorance among the salesgirls who are "probably, in any event, uneducated." Be that as it may, its an attitude that drives away customers, adversely hits sales, and finally is bad for the owners of these outlets.

Mr Page says that he should take steps "even though they may be unpopular" to advise the owners that the decorum of the shopping complex is maintained. "We will send a newsletter on this issue of politeness. Our security staff is encouraged to be polite. Alcohol and smoking are the only discouraged habits in this complex.''

Majestic City will be further developed , Says Mr Page, with a rooftop discotheque and other attractions in the offing soon. He acknowledges that he doesn't know the sales turnover of tenants, but says that "we do our utmost to attract business.''

We bet he does. But, unbeknownst to him, boorish crude salespeople undermine his goals. Here, the customers are not called Sir, or treated as "King'' as they would be in Europe, America or Singapore. If we boast of a high-literacy rate, how come our shops are staffed by crude illiterate thugs?

A shop that stinks

A customer walks into a swank store that sells the good things in "Majestic City" Colombo. The store looks come-hither, with broad open doors, and decor that looks garrish, but inviting.

The customer, a Pepsi ( which he bought from the outlet opposite ) in hand, takes two steps inside, but is rudely stopped by a saleswoman with a shrill voice.

"You finish that drink before you step in here,'' she barks.

The customer says, in friendly fashion, that "its only a Pepsi'', and that he would like to keep it while he shops. Now, suddenly, all the saleswomen bark at him, shouting that he "either finishes the drink," or cannot come in. ( There is no sign-board that says "no soft-drinks allowed.)

The customer, visibly annoyed protests, and says that an innocuous soft drink will be allowed inside any shopping mall in the world. "I'm an adult,'' he says, pointing out that the merchandise is inside showcases, which means there is no question of "spilling and spoiling''.

Another customer enters with a Coke. He gets shouted at in worse fashion. A boorish dragon - looking salesperson (who pretends to be a customer ) starts spewing inane insults.

The customer says "look in those lavish mirrors to see who the fools are", and walks out....

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