In my Business Unpacked entry on November 1 2012, under the headline â€˜Customers deserve dignityâ€™, I echoed the concerns of the Consumers Association of Malawi (Cama) which condemned shop owners who force customers to surrender handbags/baggage on entry into their shops. Cama described the trend as â€œunethical, abusive and demeaningâ€.
I did say in that piece that if I were asked to give a list of my pet hates, then surely â€œsecurity checksâ€ in most of our local shops would top the list.
That article attracted feedback both by phone and e-mails. Many readers shared the concerns raised. I was particularly moved by one from a reader who gave her personal experience in a remote area up North in Karonga. I will identify this reader by initials TCN.
Wrote TCN: â€œGood afternoon sir, I want to thank you for the article regarding the above issue in The Nation newspaper of 1 November 2012. It is indeed â€˜unethical, abusive and demeaningâ€™ for a lady and everybody else to be told to leave their handbags/bags on entry in any shop. This is the 21st century and our shops are treating us as if we are living in the dark ages.
I have always wished someone would bring this issue up in the paper(s). The same applies to this multinational supermarket which forces us to show them the till receipt. Disgusting to say the least. Donâ€™t the managers of these shops travel to developed countries to copy the better systems that are practised there in terms of security checks? Do we in Malawi have to be last in implementing modern techniques? Have people not invested in innovation and change?
I was scolded in one shop at Uliwa Trading Centre [in Karonga] up north when I refused to leave my handbag at the entrance where there was no proper security at all. I had gone to the village to visit my folk and had a bit of money in there to alleviate some peopleâ€™s poverty. When I was asked to leave my handbag, I asked â€˜ndiye zakutiko zimenezoâ€™? It was my first time to note that handbags could also be left at some place when entering a shop. I was smartly dressed and went driving. I wonder how our sisters, cousins, aunties and grandparents who may not be as smart and knowledgeable are treated in this case.
Thank you very much for the article.
It is very relevant.
And, from the look of things, it is business as usual as the shops continue to treat all customers in Malawi as guilty until proven innocent by the security guards at the exit gates.
Like I said in the first article, I do appreciate that shops, like every other business or individual, need to put security measures to corner shoplifters. However, I find it most annoying and degrading to see customers, especially ladies, being asked to deposit their handbags or any baggage in some boxes at entry points to some shops. In fact, some shops even do not allow you in with your umbrella despite the fact that they do not stock the same.
Elsewhere, I have seen shop security staff sealing shopping bags from other shops on entry but, at the end of the day, customers are allowed to move around the shops with their personal belongings, including the shopping bags!
Customers deserve better treatment. Remember, customers are kings and queens. Businesses are nothing without customers.