Tuesday, 19 March 2019

My fuel tank cover is missing.

2018 was a whole lot of a year for me with many personal and professional milestones achieved which meant that I made huge strides forward. However, this also meant I needed to step back from one of the things that I love the most which is blogging, the expression of my thoughts/ self and use of myself as a muse to mirror the silent conversations/ start conversations that are often felt as mundane.

In short, I have come back to my passion of writing, I do not know how regular this will be but I am seeking to push myself to experience and make my life as colorful as before. So stick around and you might read a few things that you may like and come back for more.

On 27th December 2017 my car third party insurance expired and so I did the responsible thing and drove to the Total Kira road station across from KFC for renewal. I paid for renewal and as the lady replaced my old sticker with a new one and given that I only fuel from total, I decided to kill 2 birds with one stone. I am a creature of habit so I usually go to the same restaurants, fuel stations and supermarkets that I like so I decided to fuel up with my usual full tank for the week. Everyone who knows me well knows that I hate having to stop to fuel up mid-week given my full schedule. Everything went well and the third party insurance lady was helpful so I drove off without a second thought that anything might be wrong.

A week later at my second usual station at Total Najjera, I saluted my favorite pump attendant and the following conversation ensued;

Me: ‘’Happy New Year sebo.’’

Pump Attendant: ‘’ Happy New Year madam,’’ he responded as he opened my car fuel tank cover.
‘’Eh madam, please come out and see this before you say I stole your cover?’’

Me: ‘’What are you talking about?’’

Pump Attendant: ‘’Your fuel tank cover is missing. Where did you fuel up the last time, I know you fuel weekly?’’

Me: ‘’Total Bukoto.”

Pump Attendant: ‘’Oh, if you have a receipt and remember the day that you fueled up you can go back to them and they help you.’’

Me: ‘’Thank you very much, so fill my tank not to full capacity though and then let me head there.’’

So I headed to the Total Bukoto and asked for the manager (Indian) I was told to wait for the supervisor (Ugandan) since the manager was not around. I was given the run around the whole afternoon with claims of the fuel pump attendant was off that day, then the supervisor was sick, then they did not know who the pump attendant was.

To cut the long story short, I was told that the manager was off then the following day in the morning, he had resigned and in the afternoon the station mechanics and pump attendants avoided me like the plague. Now those who have met me know that I am very agreeable and often let things go which is why when I decide I have an axe to grind with you I go all the way. So I told them thank you, played the bigger fool and showed up the next day mid-morning and headed straight for the manager’s office and he was in.

He asked me for my details and I relayed what had happened and after he proved that I was indeed at their station that day since I had a third party sticker purchased at their station he referred me to their other branch on Wampewo avenue. So, it is at this point that I realized that the 2 stations are owned by a family and 2 Indian brothers run them. I was given a note to hand over to the office manager of the Total Wampewo location who then referred me to the station supervisor and he immediately began to grumble under his breath as he made a beeline for the storage space.

Station manager: "Naye bano ba kyali teba tegera." (but this fellows they do not understand/ stubborn.)

I realized later that he was speaking about the pump attendants from the total Total Kira road location since this seems to have happened before. I know this because I was given 3 fuel tank covers to choose from depending on which fit better. So as all this was going on I asked myself;

1.        Did the pump attendant actually resign or had he been fired for something else?
2.       Where did these fuel tank covers come from?
3.       Was another customer driving around without a fuel tank cover because I had gotten my replacement?

As he replaced my fuel tank cover the Indian station manager walked up to me and said, "My apologies for the inconveniences madam."

I thanked him and decided not to meddle with their internal processes but decided to remain a loyal customer since they had followed through. Now, I am not tribalistic/ racist but let's be honest if the owner of the station had been Ugandan the conversation would have been something like this,

"Are you sure you even came here for fuel?"
"Well no one says they took your fuel tank cover so I don't know what to do for you."

Then I would have been ignored the very same way that the Ugandan station pump attendants and mechanics had done earlier. We often complain that Indians are taking over everything business related leaving nothing for Ugandans. However, my note of caution is, if we spent more time fixing our lacking customer service, poor work ethic, bad attitude towards work and actually showed our customers that we valued their business we might be better candidates to succeed.

Food for thought.

Sunday, 1 October 2017

Nakawa Industrial park parking dilemma

We recently went to the URA office at the Nakawa Industrial park and received very hostile customer service from one of their members of staff. The female URA employee was rude and aggressive with us her customers who I must admit had come to register for a TIN number in a bid for tax compliance. So I wondered, what happens to those customers who try to evade taxes if this is how compliant customers are being treated, I can only imagine.

I choose not to digress because the URA woman is not the main story here. So as we drove into the business park, parking was hard to come by but we eventually found a corner at which to park which was labeled NO PARKING. We did not intend to park there but we had been directed to head in that direction by a G4S security guard from the entrance. Little did we know that an incident would ensue as a result.

G4S Security Guard: ‘’Hello madam, why are you parking here?

Female Driver: ‘’Because I was told to park here but I will not be taking too long anyway. I am only going to the URA office.’’

G4S Security Guard: ‘’Okay madam, any way you will find me here.’’

Female Driver: ‘’Okay, sir!’’ she said as she briskly walked towards the building entry checkpoint to speed things up.

Now between the time she left and her return 12 - 15 minutes later, there was no sign of the security guard at all. But the moment the female driver stepped out of the building and walked towards the car, the security guard appeared from behind a tree smiling from ear t0 ear and said;

G4S Security Guard: ‘’Welcome back madam.’’

Female Driver: ‘’Hihihi thank you, ‘’she said in response.

G4S Security Guard: ‘’Now between you and the madam, who is the boss?’’ he asked the co-driver who was American and Caucasian.

As passengers in the car, my neighbor and I looked at each other a little confused as the co-driver responded;

American Male: ‘’The lady is always the boss, you should know that by now.’’

We all burst into laughter but I must say I was still very confused with his line of questioning as he continued to linger around the driver’s window.

Female Driver:’ ‘’Sebo, get yourself some water,’’ she said as she gave him 1,000 shilling note as we pulled out of the parking area to exit the industrial park.

G4S Security Guard: ‘’Yes, thank you, madam. For sure you are the boss lady.’’

To me, the conversation and actions of the G4S security guard were so wrong on so many levels. First of all, why would he assume that a lady cannot be in charge, secondly, why did he linger at our window for a tip when he clearly receives salary on a monthly basis?

Now to the G4S Security Company, I am not saying you should hunt me down to find out this fellows identity and fire him. No, that will not solve your problem but rather dig deeper into the issue and solve the problem and not treat the symptoms. Yes I know some of it stems from our cultural dilemma, well there can also be a cultural change and it needs to start somewhere or else this security guard and many like him will continue to steadily destroy your G4S security) brand.

Or maybe, I am too particular and pick up on things that should be left alone. This is where I say, the views expressed in this blog are my individual views and do not reflect the views and values of the company(s) I work for.

Saturday, 23 September 2017

Tasty roast Pork and Chicken over a makeshift brick fire

Family reunions are both a joy and pain and by pain, I mean all the organizing that goes into it before the big day. All in all, they are well worth it when you look back at all the memories that you have built over the years from deliberately making time to come together and bond, it is priceless.

However, I must focus on the preparation process that leads up to the actual event. My family and I recently decided to have an all sister’s get together as we always do once a year but this time we wanted something different. We eventually decided on having a roast/ barbeque themed lunch to limit the cooking required. I thought this would be simple, never did it occur to me that this could all become a disaster if all the fine details were not followed up.

To cut a long story short, it was the night before the get-together and we did not have a barbeque guy for the day and it was not for trying. We had previously worked with someone a couple of years ago and secured a number of another just in case but the former did not confirm while the latter was not reachable via mobile phone (his phone was turned off). This then led to a dicey conversation between my pal and I who needed to troubleshoot and sort out our 13 hungry children and 6 adults on the way to the lunch in 4 hours.

So I woke up this pal of mine at 8:00am and showed up at his gate at 9:00am and we headed off to Mukono in search of his barbeque guy who would be closer to our get together venue (Mukono). Let’s just say that we bounced around picking one item, then another, to his friends home and then to the market. By 12:00 noon I had the 6kgs of pork and 5 whole chicken cleaned ready for roasting. To cut a long story short, we found the barbeque expert in Mukono straight from a church charity run and ready to dive in and sort out our predicament.

My Friend: ‘’Sebo, nga wabula (Sir, as you are lost?)

Barbeque guy: ‘’Neda, nabade ku churchi lani.’’ (No, I was at a church run) Now he said ‘’lani’’ but meant church-run forgive the mother tongue influence he is a Muganda by tribe. Every Ugandan knows what I mean.

My Friend: ‘’Kale, we have meat to roast here in Mukono and bagenyi are arriving anytime.’’ (bagenyi - guests)

Me: ‘’Yes, actually in 30 minutes. Let me take you to the house so we get started with marinating and set up. So, do you have the sigiri for roasting?’’

Barbeque guy: ‘’ Neda, naye njakuyiya.’’ (No, but I will kuyiya – find a way/ figure something out).

You must be wondering why I was asking him questions in English and he was answering in Luganda. The barbeque guy is educated up to about S.6 but prefers to use his local dialect which I clearly understand so I did not see an issue.

Me: ‘’Kuyiya, ne kiki – figure something out! How?’’

Barbeque guy: ‘’Kakana, tu tambule abagenyi bali mukubo.’’ (Relax, let’s go the guests are on the way.)

I was amused that he was now very concerned about ‘’our’’ guests who were about to arrive especially given that he did not know any one of them and had made us look for him for nearly 2 hours. However, nothing could prepare me for what I was about to witness when we arrived and started prepping the pork and chicken for roasting.

The barbeque guy dug a hole in the un-landscaped section of my sister’s compound and asked for ash which they laid down with charcoal from a lit stove that we provided. This was being done as my friend and I were prepping the marination that consisted of freshly grated ginger, garlic, pineapple, onions, royco mix, salt and sima mbili. I must say that the bricks served quite well in containing the heat needed for the fire to remain a light and the pork and chicken were roasted really well on skewers over the metal rack ordinarily used over a charcoal grill.

The moral of the story for me was that there is always something to learn each day from even the simplest of people. Keep learning so that you never tire and in the words of my new roasting buddy as he calmed me down at the start as we set up,

Barbeque guy: ‘’Kakana, tujakikolako bino si binji, temulya nga ba masasi/majja.’’ (Relax, we will work this out since this is not that much meat, after all, you do not eat roasted meat like – in similar quantities to my army men.)

Saturday, 13 May 2017

UTL Broken bone insurance.

Broken bone insurance, what is that? You might be thinking that I am finally going off the rails with this blog post. 

Now with all the hype and tensions around the re-registration of all Sim cards for both nationals and non-Ugandans. I found the phone call I received from my UTL customer service provider very odd.

In the context of what was going on (registration deadlines, stampedes at Kololo airstrip grounds) I found it bizarre that what UTL was selling was broken bone insurance. Broken bone insurance, of all things! Why would you be selling broken bone insurance and how relevant is it for the current times especially in the context of the brand's performance and money woes.

Now many of you must be wondering, UTL… what are you doing on UTL network? Well here is the simple answer. I am fiercely loyal to a fault so I stick with whatever it is I have invested in and hope and wait that it is worth it until all signs show that there is no hope of resuscitation. But this time my patience and resolve were tested and I finally snapped. Below is the conversation that transpired between the call center person and me.

Call center agent: ‘’Good morning, hello I am Sam calling from Uganda Telecom.’’

Me: ‘’Good morning, Sam what is this about?’’

Call center agent: ‘’I would like to ask you if you have re-registered your Sim card?’’

Me: ‘’No, I have not.’’

Call center agent: ‘’Well, you need to otherwise you will be disconnected from the network and not be able to make or receive any calls.’’

Me: ‘’Oh, s you have not disconnected me yet? I thought you had as I have not been able to make calls or send a message over the last 3 weeks. Anyway, what is this call about? ’’

Call center agent: ‘’Broken bone insurance. So all you have to do is opt in for the service by utilizing a minimum of 5,000 worth of airtime over a month to benefit from 200,000 worth of cover for an accident. ’’

Me: ‘’So, let me get this straight. You want me to use at least 5,000 worth of airtime to call/ SMS and then I qualify to get insurance. Now, this insurance is only valid when I break my leg?’’

Call center agent: ‘’Yes, that is correct.’’

Me: ‘’Are you serious?’’

Call center agent: ‘’Very madam. So if you are in an accident and break your leg you go to get a medical checkup and bring the paperwork to UTL service center and after 2 – 3 days of processing we pay the amount of bill up to 200,000Ugx.’’

Me: ‘’So, during the 2-3 days what am I supposed to be doing? Limping around in pain.’’

Call center agent: ‘’Uhh, no madam but we need to 3 days for processing the money.’’

Me: ‘’So if the broken bone shatters and punctures a major artery or vein, I wait for you to process the money, huh!’’

Call center agent: ‘’Madam that is the procedure.’’

Me: ‘’You must be crazy! Anyway, forget that it is not your fault.’’

Call center agent: ‘’So do I register you?’’

Me: ‘’No!’’

Call center agent: ‘’Then, can I check your history and sort out your issues with your line?’’

Me: ‘’No, do not do anything I am fine. Have a good day.’’

Call center agent: ‘’Madam…’’

I cut him short with another goodbye after all the network had been spamming my inbox for week’s every morning with this broken bone nonsense. Telecoms, you need to be in tune with your customers and be relevant not add to the additional noise we receive every day. So it was out with UTL and in with Airtel.

Thursday, 11 May 2017

Do you have a woman or a wife?

Burials are very somber occasions where you get to take stock of your life and what value you have added to people and whether you have done what you are passionate about. Last year, I traveled to Tororo town for my uncle’s burial to pay my respects and say goodbye to a man I never saw sick or heard complain. A cool man who was senior in age but not the heartWhen you think of him you would not use the word old because that implies tired and frail but that is not an accurate comparison of who he was.

Although burial services are often sad events, I was greatly entertained by the Catholic priest who conducted the mass and the best man of the deceased who told the most hilarious stories about him that I will remember for years. The catholic priest was young compared to the crowd at this burial but very theological, therefore with his youth came a fiery dissemination of the written word in a way that is uncommon and very refreshing.

The deceased had been married to the same woman for 50 years and was an ardent supporter of the catholic church for all his life, this seemed fitting and served as the foundation for his sermon that day

Catholic Priest: ‘’Praise God!’’

Audience: ‘’Amen.’’

Catholic Priest: ‘’Today, we celebrate the life of a man who understands what service and commitment are about.’’

Audience: ‘’Yes, amen.’’

Catholic Priest: ‘’Those of you who have not wedded in church and you pass on, you have left a woman. Do not be mistaken, you have not left a wife because you have not wedded in church - Holy matrimony.’’

To this many in the crowd giggled and a few middle-aged women began to look at the gentlemen seated next to them. It was quite the sight as I observed many give glances and gentle nudges as though to drive a point home. Then I adjusted my seat for better viewing of this clergyman and paid keen attention

Catholic Priest: ‘’So any man can wake up and come and take her for a wife and you cannot complain. So respect her and make her your wife; not your woman.’’

The giggles had now evolved into loud ramblings of affirmation with many clapping intermittently but nothing had prepared me for the analogy that he intended to use shortly.

Catholic Priest: ‘’When you watch men drink from the same malwa (local brew) tubes and they do not wipe it. I admire that level of love between them. I am not saying go and begin to drink alcohol. I am telling you to remember that you are a visitor here. It is, therefore, important that you know that your life is temporal and you are accountable to a greater person. You can have children but not raise them, we cannot call these children of value.’’

Many burst out in laughter at the alcohol reference but this clergyman was not mincing his words.

Catholic Priest: ‘’Invest in your children so that you can be proud of them when you pass on so that they are a clear representation of who you are.’’

This statement came after a long and detailed reference to the deceased’s emphatic insistence in educating both his daughters and sons. He also raised them to be God fearing, driven, achievement-oriented and to have empathy for people.

Catholic Priest: ‘’The deceased was not a minister, council member or chief but he made his mark.’’
As we walked to our cars and the rest of the village folks set off for their long walk back home, this clergyman had lit a fire and started conversations all around. Many laughed along as they spoke and reflected on what he had said but there were also a few men who were cornered and put on the spot as to the nature of their status.

The take home for me was, people need to be valued, loved and celebrated and if you have a person of substance and do not value them someone else will. Time does not wait for any man so make the most of your stay here, we are all but visitors passing through onto a better place.

What will be said in your Eulogy? It is still being written so make your mark.

Sunday, 19 March 2017

Out with PayWay and in with ChapChap.

Nearly 1 year and 6 months ago, I ranted on about the inconvenience in trying to credit my Yaka account using the PayWay service. This post is not a rant, it is a solution to the dilemma that we all have when we need to top up and get units for our Yaka devices when the PayWay or Mobile Money network is down. You have all experienced this once or twice before.

I had resigned myself to being content with the way things are in Uganda (the status quo) and even opted to do bulk purchases for my Yaka meter once a month, always making sure to top up when I was left with not less than 15 units. Yes, I mentally created a minimum top-up level for myself on my phone with audio alerts (desperate times call for desperate measures).  This is no way to live, I told myself as I remembered my terrible experience I previously had with PayWay.

Then enters ChapChap a new mobile payment platform that allows you top-up, pay other bills and earn/ save money while doing so. Check out their website on https://chapchap.co/  

You can top-up you on airtime on UTL, MTN, AIRTEL, VODAFONE, SMILE DATA, Smart Airtime and AFRICELL Airtime. For bill payment, you can pay for NWSC, UMEME, Startimes, DSTV, GOtv, URA and KCCA. Given my limited needs, I have only used the platform as a user and not an agent for purchases of airtime for UTL, Airtel and MTN and top-up for my Yaka.  So begin I downloaded the App off play store and entered my sponsor agent number which is a telephone number after which I got a license.  

So to pay for YAKA of 100,000, I made sure I had 100,000 on mobile money but that was not enough I needed a service charge of 3,000 from MTN to also be available on my mobile money account as well. (Please note that the service on charges vary depending on the payment)

Step 1: I went onto the downloaded ChapChap from my Google Play store using my MTN number for registration. https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=chapchap.com.chapchap&hl=en and I purchased stock worth 100,000 on ChapChap. To pay using this platform is a little different, it is not like using Mobile Money where you send the money using instructions such as *160*2… (You know what I am talking about).  

Oh before I forget, since you use both  MTN number and email to register you can access it online using a computer/laptop to print out receipts in the cases where you use this service for work-related purchases and accountability is needed.

Email receipt on email confirming purchases of stock, you can also extract for any payment transacted off your account on their system.

Step 2: No you need to buy digital stock worth the value of the transaction you want to make. So go to buy stock, select your mobile network and enter your mobile number and package (payment amount value from menu options).

You will be asked to confirm payment using your Mobile Money PIN so have it handy.
The great thing about this platform is you get SMS notifications at every stage of the process. So here, you get SMS notifying you of completion of the stock purchase and highlights the amount. If it was not successful it means that you do not have adequate funds on your MM Account.

Step 3: Go to the pay bills sections and select YAKA or any other payment you would like to make.

Step 4: You enter your YAKA Meter number and then below enter the amount you intend to pay and click proceed.

Step 5: If you have adequate funds (10o,000 stock) + (3,000 MTN fees) you get an SMS alert showing you your receipt and token number to activate your top up as you would usually find on your Yaka Payment slip issued by PayWay. 

Step 6: You get a cash back for using the service, for YAKA it is 600. So can only be cashed and used if you are an agent.

Personally, the fact that I don’t need to use PayWay again is awesome so the cash back is just icing on the cake. The convenience, ease and user-friendly customer service support team that I called late at night (11:00 pm) on a weekend make this platform a must-have. A pal of mine, downloaded this App onto my phone and activated it for me with him as my agent and I whined the entire time but believe me I thanked him afterwards.

So this runs on Android based platforms but that did not stop me from telling my sister about it. Sadly, I am a few light years from her in tech terms so she kept saying, it is called what Chap sap, Sap sap…..

Saturday, 25 February 2017

The Mbale local council fraudsters.

As a business owner/ manager, I tend to deal with all sorts of issues and people from the farmer we source vegetables, to the district local council member. Allow me to discuss the latter group of local council officials whose office I personally choose to call an evil in itself.  

Now as the year kicked off, I asked my shop manager to follow up on the renewal of the trading license for my Mbale shop by end of week 1 of 2017. Sadly 4 days into the New Year before she could even get the process started, we had visitors from the Mbale municipal council. She was called off to the entrance of the Coffee shop to speak to a lady and gentleman who informed her they were there for shop inspection. When she agreed to let them go about looking at our premises they said they needed an inspection fee before they commenced.

Please note, as these two individuals asked for this inspection fee not one of them moved an inch towards the door even as the shop manager motioned them to the entrance so that she could show them around. I know this because I was sitting about 150 meters from them on a conference call. So the two officials then asked to see the owner and the manager walked towards me and waited for me to get off the phone. I paused my phone conversation and she brought me up to speed.  So I asked,

Me: "How much for inspection?’’

Shop manager: ‘’ 70,000.’’

Me: ‘’Ask them to provide identification and a letter of introduction stating that they are authorized to inspect at the given fee mentioned,’’ I said as I got back to my phone call.
The shop manager walked towards them and after a brief conversation, I saw her walk back towards me.

Shop manager: ‘’They say we will be fined for arguing and disrespecting officers from the municipal council.’’

Me: ‘’Asking for proper documentation is not a crime. Ask them to give me 5 minutes and I will come and take them around when their paper work is in order.’’
However, by the time she got to me I saw the lady and gentleman whisper to each other and before I could get up from my seat they had left the shop in such a rush they seemed to have been fleeing from a ghost.

Moral of the story, Ugandan officials in authority, why do we have to be so dishonest? Can we change the mentality and stereotype of what Uganda is? People in authority can we stop frustrating Ugandan owned and ran businesses because these are the businesses providing employment to other Ugandans who need and value their jobs.

Two weeks later after a great deal of back and forth by the shop manager between the municipal council office and the shop, we processed our trading license and certificate of and suitability of premises to prepare and serve food customers. 

Now here are a few pictures of the lovely shop that these people wanted to put out of business for a 70,000 bribe.

 This story has a happy ending, but it could have ended a whole other way with me paying the bribe, going back to council later and being told that my application had not been processed at all. Sadly, I did not get any names of these fraudsters so I could not follow up on this issue any further which greatly frustrates me because I detest Ugandans who continue to give professional people a bad name because of the vices that are ruining this society and country we live in. 

Think of our children, your children; are these are evils that you want them to deal with 10 years from now?