For most of my professional career, I’ve been freelancing as a computer specialist, and have always striven to provide a level of service that results in pride in a job well done and a good reputation. Calling myself freelance is only a polite way of saying that I’m presently unemployed, and I’m trying to scratch out a living.
I heard just last-night on the news that our esteemed minister of finance, whose name I do not recall, will be executing a 10-year-plan in which he intends to create 5-million new jobs. Never mind that over those same 10 years, another 2.5 million new matrics will be entering the job market.
But from personal experience, it doesn’t really matter what anyone does to improve the unemployment rate, because I know why the figures are so damned dismal!
In December 2008, I was fortunate enough to gain a permanent position as Senior Technician at a local computer retailer. Although I am sorely tempted to do so, I shall for legal reasons refrain from mentioning their name. There, I stuck to my guns, and earned a reputation as someone who got the job done and kept the customer coming back for more quality products and service. This was 100% in-line with the company policy of always putting the customer first.
At least, that’s how it was in the first few months.
In March of this year, a regular customer complained about a problem with some memory that he purchased a few months prior. As it turns out, we needed to replace the defective memory under warranty. The policy is usually if a problem presents itself within 7 days of the date of purchase, then the faulty item/s will be exchanged immediately. In order to keep the customer happy, I swapped out the memory right away, so that he would not have to wait for weeks without a computer for the suppliers to decide to swap the memory. This is what directly led to my being fired.
And once again I found myself freelancing and scratching out a living. I gave out my CV (my Résumé) and made several visits to some of the local employment agencies. Months went by, and nothing happened.
But then I did get a call from what I though was a prospective employer, and was asked to come in, because he’d like to see me. I thought to myself that this wasn’t so bad. I few months without work is livable. All hopeful of a new job, I promptly accepted the invitation, and went to go see the manager.
But then the unthinkable happened, and I got the shock of my life.
I was told that my qualifications and experience (spanning more than 21 years) was the best amongst those who applied for the position of workshop technician. Except that I cannot be hired, because they will lose too much money with me running the workshop.
“So what’s the problem?”, I asked, “I’ve always wanted to provide a level of customer service that keeps customers coming back, I have no criminal record, and I’m the best salesman in town.”
“That’s the problem.”, was the reply, “The customers will come back, but not as often as we’d like. With you running the workshop, our customers will come back maybe once every two years or so for upgrades. We want someone that will have the customer come back at least three or four times a year”.
“If a customer walks in looking for a better graphics card, we want you to sell them something that is a little better than what they are currently using. You see, if you go on to provide a card that is several generations better than what he already has, then it will last him for years, and he won’t need to come in again for another anytime soon.”
So I say, “But isn’t that what it’s all about? If we provide something that will keep the long-term costs down for the customer, won’t they be happy, knowing that we look out for their interests? It’s better for the customer to come back because they want to, not because they have to.”
And this is what I just cannot accept:
“We want our customers to come back as often as possible. When you work for us, you need to look out for our own financial interests, not the customers.”
“Yeah, sure, business is all about making money, I get it. But isn’t customer service and quality products key to running a successful business?. If a customer walks in with a problem, I’ll fix it, and also explain to them what caused it and how to prevent it from happening in the future.”
“No. We want you to fix, have the customer pay whatever, and that’s it. If it happens again a few weeks later, so what? Fix it again and charge him again. You won’t do that. That’s why I can’t hire you”
So this is why unemployment is so high in this country.
Those of us who have the qualifications, the experience and the integrity are seen as being a hindrance to the bottom line. The way I see it, I’ve become too good at what I do, and I think many others feel the same way. Businesses these days want unqualified and inexperienced employees that they can control and manipulate and that also don’t have to earn premium salaries. And if anything goes wrong, they can deny everything, and blame the employee.
And the bitter irony of it all is that the one computer retailer in this country that may have been able to rectify the situation here in Welkom (as far as computer shops are concerned), decided that the premises rental in the newly opened Goldfields Mall is too expensive, and will not be opening a branch here.
I guess I was right all along about the corruption taking place place in the job market. Maybe if I was more willing to entertain dishonesty and greed as a way of life, I’d have better luck finding more permanent employment.