Friday, 4 October 2019

An exquisite experience with Sisters Bridal

Sisters’ bridal is a well-known bridal store in Kampala that carries both bridal, entourage dresses and accessories and has a branch along Kampala road and Quality sopping village in Naalya. 

I had visited the branch on Kampala road in 2015 as I assisted my sister with her bridal gown selection for her big day and it was not a pretty experience.

We were met with rude bridal consultants, old and filthy gowns that reeked of sweat and it was such a terrible experience that I vowed never to go back for any reason. Fast forward to 3 years later in 2018 I was a bride who had gotten engaged mid-2017 and was in dire need of a unique gown that fit my style sensibilities.

So as per my promise, I searched high and low for a store whose gowns fit my specifications and cost considerations after all I was paying for my dress. Fortunately for me I had saved up over 6 months since my then fiance and I had given ourselves some breathing room between engagement and all the different functions leading up to our wedding such as family visit, traditional engagement ceremony and wedding. 

Most bridal stores had over the top dresses with long trains, fairy tale dresses or full skirts that I would have to drag all day and I was not that kind of bride. 

The 2 gowns I liked were not in country and needed 2 months lead time to order and be fitted and my wedding was about 7 weeks away so I decided to put aside my previous bad experience and give Sisters bridal a chance.

I went online and got a phone number and called to get assistance and I was given the option of booking appointment or just stopping by the store to try out a few gowns. However, the very polite lady advised that it would be better to book an appointment on their website and show up when they are ready for me so that I could fully maximize the appointment. I was bit skeptical because this is Uganda and I had not experienced this level of service and follow through but I decided it would not hurt so I made the online booking and I got a call back to confirm.

After my booking was confirmed I got a call from a Sisters bridal consultant and over the course of an afternoon I sent her my specs for the kind of gown I would like a day before my appointment.

As I had walked in I was greeted by the bridal consultant and this conversation ensued.

Consultant: “Hello, how may I help you?”

When I showed up to the Kampala road branch I did not know what to expect but I was pleasantly surprised. My consultant was waiting for me and I was given a digital catalogue which had gowns in stock that were close to my specs.

Me: “I am great, I am Joyce I have a booking for 3:30pm.”

Consultant: “Oh yes come with me, oh but are you expecting someone else? Should we wait?”

Me: “What do you mean?”

Consultant: “Matron, bridal party/ brides maids?”

Me: “No!”

Consultant: “Okay, if you are sure.”

Me: “Yes, don’t worry I am very sure of what I like and don’t like so I will let you know right away. I will call the bridesmaid when I am done making up my mind so that she knows exactly what dress to pick up a few days before the wedding.”

Consultant: “Wow, you are a very interesting and unique bride right from your selections. Not many brides don’t want trains or long veils.”

By the end of the chit chat I had narrowed down to 8 gowns I liked and I was handed over to another changing room consultant and measurements were taken. Small talk continued for a while but I realized it was for the consultant to get a feel for my taste but in the long run 5 gowns were available, 1 had a long train so it was disqualified on spot and the last one was in stock as well but it was already booked for a wedding the following month so they declined to even show it to me. At first I was in shock but after I recovered, I was quite impressed because this meant that when I also decided on a gown it would not be available for view by any other potential brides within that quarter of the year. 

So I went into the changing room and tried on all 5 dresses but dress number 2 stole my heart and I tried it on one last time just to be sure and that sealed the deal after which I engaged them on its cost and payment timelines much to the amazement of the staff as I was private messaging my only bridesmaid to meet me at the shop.

Consultant: “Eh, you are very serious and make up your mind quickly not like some brides.”

Me: “Yes.”

Consultant: “I was a little worried when you showed up alone it never happens. If brides come alone they always wait for their friends to start but it does slow down the appointment and sometimes they push the bride to pick what they like better than what she prefers.”

Me: “Exactly, I have experienced that twice so I cut out the distractions this time. I appreciate your honesty.”

The entire appointment lasted about 2 hours and 45 minutes and within this time; the consultant had taken measurements, I selected options, tried on dresses, selected my wedding dress, checked to confirm it was not booked, selected a wedding veil, signed paperwork and sent payment to confirm booking of the dress by mobile money while I was still in the store. The consultant saw me 1 other time for a final fitting that lasted 1 hour which was a week and a half before the wedding so that the dress could be dry cleaned and stored away. Oh I almost forgot, I refused to wear a tiara but they packed in anyway with my veil in the hope that I might change my mind.

The entire process was a delight and I will never forget it but above all what made it even more precious was the sensitivity and sweet nature of the communication from the Sisters bridal team right from my first appointment to the pickup of the gown 2 to my wedding.


 Above is some evidence of the awesomeness of this team that even set a reminder to call me for fitting and to pick up my gown. 

All my close friends and even my husband knows that I am a lover of all things digital that make life more convenient and seamless so this experience is one I vowed to write about the day that I put on my wedding gown that special day because these ladies went over and above to ensure that my big day was indeed special and memorable and I do not take it for granted.

The image on the left is 2 days before my wedding after my brides maid picked up the wedding gown for the event. What more could a girl ask for?

Wednesday, 25 September 2019

Nail Therapy with my psychologist.

As a lady who has a very grueling schedule I enjoy treating myself usually once a month to a manicure and pedicure at my usual saloon with my regular nail guy. However I had been away travelling for work and so I did not get a chance to pop in for almost 2 months so when I went in for my appointment he was happier than usual to see me. 

If any of you wonder how women can go to a saloon to spend between Ugx 20,000 – 50,000 for a nail appointment, I will also ask how men can go for a haircut which comes with a massage and facial or how they go out to the same bar every Friday to spend 250 – 300,000. So allow me to choose my poison and let us call it even so I can move onto the rest of my story.

I am a student of psychology (or so I think I am), so it baffles me how a nail guy gets a timid and very stern lady to unwind enough to have a conversation and enjoy the delivery of pain at her cuticles being pulled out over the course of an hour and a half.  

Then you will appreciate this art of persuasion and the ability that they have to put someone at ease enough to unwind. So I thought to myself, adequately trained why wouldn’t they be able to apply these skills to hostage negotiation or counselling of trauma individuals who would ordinarily find it difficult to recover due to over internalization of the traumatic incidents that they would often be uncomfortable to divulge.

Yes this is a very left field line of thinking but bear with me and chew on this as you follow my conversation.

Nail Guy:  “Madam, did you report him.”

Me: “Pardon, report who?” (I responded wearing a mixed expression of shock and bewilderment)

Nail Guy: “Daddy wa waka. (The man/ father of the home to mean my husband)

You must be wondering how he knew I was married but I was wearing my wedding band which I had to take off to get my manicure done.

Me: “No, hahaha. I burn my hand from steam from one of my cooking pots at home.”

Nail Guy: “Are you sure, because if he beat you then you need to report him or he will do it again”

I burst out into laughter shaking my head but only then did I realize that he was dead serious about his comment.

Me: “No, I was clumsy when I took the pot lid off and burnt myself. Do not worry.”

Nail Guy: “Oh madam, that’s good to hear.

Me: “My husband is a gentleman, I am in very safe hands.”

Nail Guy: “That’s good madam, then you are very lucky.”

Me: “Yes, I am blessed.”

Nail Guy: “It is very serious! With some people we see that things are not okay at home since they come with bruises all over them but they are hiding it with long sleeves and yet they come out of powerful cars.”

Me: “Really, you can’t be serious?”

Nail Guy: “No, I see it from time to time and advice some of them who are not too tough to go to report to police and take care of themselves.”

The rest of the conversation went as expected with me expressing concern and him narrating a very horrific tale from one of his clients. The take away for me from this conversation is that we should be attentive to our surroundings and people around us we meet or interact with. Your action and concern may be what saves someone’s life or makes sure that they get the help that they need.

I have a new found level of respect from my nail guy and even encouraged him to look into a side job as a counselor because he clearly has a calling in the profession as it comes naturally to him. Every individual is important and has a crucial role to play in society and my nail guy reminded me of that with his kindness and concern for others.  

Saturday, 20 July 2019

The unprofessional supplier

When you have worked for a good amount of time in both corporate and private limited company/ business settings, you must have experienced a fair share of unprofessional suppliers especially when you live in this third world country  of ours known as Uganda – the banana republic.

April: So it was only 4 months ago when I contacted a major production house whose core competences are commercial/ large format printing, personalized digital printing, design, business stationery and promotional products. I contacted them through a sales person we have used once before to procure black basic branded round neck t-shirts that I needed produced professionally but quickly within a week. After a week of no contact I reached out to her and my quotation was sent to which I quickly confirmed and asked her to move ahead to make me a sample for approval so that my small order would be printed and delivered immediately.

Sales Agent: “Hello Joyce, the quotation has been sent have you received it?”

Me: “Yes I have.”

Sales Agent: “Can you send us an LPO (Local Purchase Order) or make payment so that we can move forward to produce your work.”

Me: “We do not use LPO’s but give me a week and your cheque will be ready for pick up please bring my sample for sign off so that there are no delays just like the last time.”

Sales Agent: “Okay.”

Now, for all of you who are blessed with a fast paced work environment you know how 1 week can fly by as you bury your head in the day to day juggling of multiple tasks. So after a week I gave her a call and received no answer this continued for an entire month until one mid-morning she finally answered.

Me: “Hello, how are you”

Sales Agent: “I am okay.”

Me: “I am calling to follow up on the order of t-shirts I placed a while ago that needed to be delivered in 1 week.”

Sales Agent: “Who is this?”

Me: “Joyce from company X, I was sure that you had saved my phone number.”

Sales Agent: “Oh sorry mukwano mmhhh…”

Me: “So, what happened to my sample and my entire order? You have not been answering calls for over a month.”

Sales Agent: “Yes, munange mukwano nabade mu accident ku boda boda so I was on leave,” (she responded with no ounce of professionalism.

Me: “Oh I am sorry to hear that, so are you back at work or can you refer me to someone…” before I could even finish she cut me short with this response.

Sales Agent: “Neda mukwano, kati nkomye wo ku mulimu, actually I reported today morning so I will work on you.”

Me: “But why didn’t you communicate this so that I can reach out to someone else?”

Sales Agent: “No, neda eh it just slipped my mind. So you did not actually get your order?”

Me: “No I did not.”

Sales Agent: “Eh kale, mpozi what was the order. Bambi sijukira”

So I repeated the specifics of the order and even read her the quotation number

Me: “So, I hope that there will not be any delays and I expect my sample delivered mid this week and the final full order delivered by end of this week.”

Sales Agent: “Mukwano, ngenda ku kolako.”

Me: “Alright, well I wish you a quick recovery.”

Maybe I am uptight and well over my actual age bracket but I was rather amused how a client moves from their name to become “Mukwano.” Please note that never at any time have I interacted with this sales agent in Luganda or any local dialect. I thought of an individual/ client who was in my position and might not understand Luganda might take offence to this entire conversation.

July: Anyway I digress, so I hoped that this hiccup was indeed a one off for her; sadly she did not get back to me and I was too swamped to chase her down for a while. So I eventually called her again early July and as expected she did not answer or respond to my phone calls so this time I resorted to using the company landline and asked for her or someone in marketing to assist me.

After a few transfers and repeating my order number and specifications 2 to 3 times I hang up and got a call back from a new sales/ marketing executive and she clarified all my details and promised to pick up the cheque Friday that week as I had instructed. She did pick up the cheque and brought my sample the very next Monday and although there were some issues with getting our company logo colours exactly right, I appreciated her terrific turnaround time. The new sales agent delivered my full order and she dealt with my entire order from first interaction to delivery in 14 days.

I will clearly not order from this organization again but the new sales agent made me almost reconsider because of how professional she was. A few bad apples can kill your business and no customer is too small so take the time to KYC – Know Your Customer, if bankers do it so can you. This applies whether you sell Rolexes or run a multinational brand. 

Food for thought
There are so many things that the first sales agent should not have done so to business owners who value enhanced customer value to achieve loyalty that in turn ensures return business. Here are a few tips I would like to share.

·         Know and understand what kind of person is handling your business and representing your brand?
·         Intermittently check on some of your clients to see whether they are happy with your service whether or not they have recently ordered.
·         When customers give you feedback about your staff, take it seriously and do not be biased because the member of staff is a favorite.
·         Apologize or ensure that your member of staff who dropped the ball does so to the client for their time wasted. Time is precious and customers’ time should be valued because it costs them.
·         Do not only focus on driving sales volume also evaluate your staff on how they do customer relationship management?

Saturday, 6 July 2019

A Woman’s job hunt dilemma

It is on a personal note that I begin this blog post. I recently got married to my longtime friend and partner and long before then I had been applying for jobs for positions I felt were interesting and would challenge me to grow. Fortunately or unfortunately I had never received a call back then all of a sudden in a 6 month stretch, I attended 7 interviews for 3 different positions.

None of this entire process was interesting, aside from the following conversation that transpired during one of my interviews. So at the end of one of the 2 interview I attended I was asked rather odd but unusual questions for me.

Interviewer 1: "So, if I may ask how old are you?"

Now to provide context, I wear my hair short, natural and textured (the “kyangwe” style) so my age is questioned a lot when I submit my CV so I paused briefly but answered the question.

Interviewer 1: "What is your status?"

Me: "If you mean my relationship status, recently married."

Interviewer 1: "This job would require you to travel periodically to headquarters and within the region to our operations hub in Kenya. Initially you would also travel for 2 week training in Dubai. Would that be an issue?"

Me: "No!"

Interviewer 2: "So you will be able to travel back and forth to group when needed?"

Me: "Yes."

I commend the interviewer for being very calm and tactful about how emphatic he was on the issue of travel by repeating the question so I gave him more additional feedback without any coercion. 

Me: "I currently travel bimonthly for my job and my husband travels monthly for work as well but it has always been in country. So I do not see a problem."

Interviewer 1: “Oh okay

He seemed more settled after that answer but a day after the interview I obviously took some time off to ponder this recent shift in my relationship - work dynamic.

Naïvely, I guess I assumed that although I had gotten married my day to day would have minimal alteration especially since I have been with my partner for 7 years. What I was prepared for was the shift in terms of house chores, cooking dinner and having to do more socialization with his friends and for his side of business as well.

Now what I never expected to experience was my relationship status to be a cause for my competence to be in question for a new job placement.

I must add that both interviewers were male and I did not get a call back because I emphasized work - life balance as important to me especially since I planned on slowing down from very manic work schedule which was characteristic of all my previous jobs.

At another interview with a prominent company, at the preliminary stages the interviewers were women up to the 2 final sessions. It is at these sessions where my marital status or whether I had children came up and it was never the ladies who asked the question but the men at the table.

Male Interviewer: “Are you married?” 

Me: “Yes, recently married.” 

Male Interviewer: “Oh congratulations, do you have children.”

Me: “No!”

Male Interviewer: “Oh, that makes sense, then the only question I wanted ask you does not apply.” 

So through some back channeling I found out that the question was not related to my competence but how I balance work and personal life (in the event that I had said I had a young child.)

An offer was made at this interview that was below expected rate for the work load and I was called in to explain why I declined which I did only to be told that I should not bother about the actual compensation of the package but the other attractive benefits. 

Aside from that, I was dumbfounded when it was the female in the room who mentioned this shortly after;

Female HR: “You do not have a child, right. Good because you will be on the road to visit 60% of these sites for the better part of the first couple of months and that would be disruptive.”

I think you all know that after that conversation I declined the offer and it is after these interviews that all I have to say to working women who are in top management, I have a new found respect for you. The way you continue to rise to the challenge when the bar has been set 2 notches higher because you are a woman, I do not consider myself a feminist but I would be lying if I said I left this interview cycle the same woman.

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.

UMEME “ate” my Yaka units

On 24 th February 2020, my husband paid for my Yaka and I totally forgot to load it on our meter that night since I still had a few units...