Friday, 26 December 2014

Warm beer, lousy food, bad service

(First Published in New Era Newspaper - 20 August 2014)

The past week I have been fortunate to travel through some parts of Namibia as part of my job. We started in Otjiwarongo where training was taking place and I was really impressed by the level of service that was provided at hotels, lodges, restaurants and even the large retail chains. (Have you ever seen the cleanliness of Shoprite in Otjiwarongo? You must then wonder why this level of service and cleanliness does not exist in the Windhoek branch.) On Sunday I decided to travel to Swakopmund via Omaruru and Karibib. Upon entering Omaruru, I was impressed with the main street where every house and business seemed to have a fresh coat of paint. The business community of the town must be recommended for their strategic vision of making the town an oasis of artists, which has obviously increased the tourism numbers of the town.
While traveling on the roads I had to commend the Roads Authority in their efforts to upgrade and maintain our roads. Our road network throughout the country is the envy of many visitors, even those coming from some European countries.
Upon my arrival in Swakopmund I headed straight to the Municipaly bungalows where I am booked for the week. After checking in I was pleasantly surprised by the service assistant who automatically deducted 10% from the quoted price as they were busy renovating and the DSTV had not yet been installed (even though it was advertised). The bungalows were clean and one could sense the renovations were part of a regular routine to prepare for the coming December holiday season.
As I had just become a married man some two weeks ago, I had arranged for my wife to also join me in Swakopmund so we could at least spend some quality time in the evenings after work. (Yes, I am a bit of a workaholic and even go into the office while on holiday – like I did for an important meeting the day before my wedding.) Being a “difficult customer” which always expects the highest standards and gets deeply disappointed when these are not met, I was in for a surprise in this sleepy town of Swakopmund.
On Sunday evening I decided to get some seafood and thought it would be an easy thing as it was the weekend and very few customers would be around. Surprise, surprise. All the restaurants were already full by 06:15 and most of them had a waiting list of over 30 people. That’s right. There were busloads of tourists who were also not yet accommodated and they had actually booked.
As a last resort, I headed to Kuki’s Pub in the Central Business District. It was very busy with a waiting list of groups, but upon enquiry (and stating we were only two and on honeymoon ;-), the waiter arranged a small table close to the kitchen for us. Being a person of colour I was a little bit intimidated by the fact that every other person there was Caucasian and seemed to speak German. However, I did not for one minute feel that the service was secondary and had an attentive waitress who regularly checked up on us. The meal of oysters and seafood platter was probably the best I have ever had, and it had a great deal to do with the service I received. “Warm beer, lousy food bad service” is the motto of Kukis and while it is a great slogan, the slogan could not be further from the truth.
After Kuki’s – which is after all a “touristy place”, I was sure it could not get better. On Monday however I was once again surprised when I visited the Village Café in the main road for brunch. Upon entering, the waitress gave us a pleasant greeting and offered us various areas of seating. Every waitress that we passed smiled and greeted like we were old friends and even had my wife guessing that I was probably a regular that was well known. In fact just the opposite – I had not been to a Swakopmund eatery in over four years. The best part of the menu was for me being able to order a cup of coffee in a Village Mug, or “blikbeker” as we grew up calling it. The food was excellent, the freshly squeezed orange juice divine, and the service quality made me wish I could stay in this holiday town a lot longer. (The only pity is that the Village Café web page has a redirect loop and cannot be viewed on the Internet.)
As consumers we tend to only complain about the bad service, products etc. and hardly have a good word for the truly exceptional service industry which does sometimes exist in our Land of the Brave. This week I wish to thanks each and every customer service agent for the wonderful service that some provide.
As I am finishing this article I am sitting in Café Anton sharing a cheesecake and a cappuccino with Mrs Shaanika-Louw and the waiter politely asked if I need the password as they have free wifi. I must be in a little piece of service heaven.


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