By Maynard Manyowa
I rarely blog on matters regarding business practice, as i am neither an expert, nor a scholar in that field. I also avoid writing about my individual personal experiences as i believe these are rarely shared, and contribute little to constructive national discourse and debate.
However, an incident that occurred today, reminded me of how powerless consumers can be in the world dominated by businesses and companies that are driven by profit and inconvenience their customers with impunity.
As a journalist myself, i felt added responsibility to share this experience with my readers.
This morning, i woke up around 11:20am having slept earlier around 04:00am working on some personal websites of mine.
My schedule in recent days has made it extremely difficult for me to find time to cook, and i have found myself extremely dependent on restaurants, especially fast food delivery services.
I made a web order of Mr Delivery, at 11:46. I ordered 3 get real burgers from Steers, 3 get real chicken burgers, and 3 bottles of Graca white wine to stock my bar.
After an hour and half, i made a call the local branch, to follow up on my order. They told me they had only received an order for 3 bottles of wine, and not the food. They also indicated their records showed i had only paid R147.00 as opposed to the R230.76 i had paid.
I went into my email, to see my order confirmation. To my surprise my order confirmation showed i had indeed ordered 6 burgers and 2 wine bottles, to the cost of R230.76. My account also showed Mr D had deducted R230.76.
- Problem One – Mr D says it is their policy to deduct funds once food has been delivered. This is not true. They deducted my funds before the food was delivered.
The lady at the local branch disputed this, and asked me to call the head office.
- Problem Two – I am now being tasked to follow up my own order, using my own funds. Mr D has already received their payment for a service they have not rendered, and are not going to render. And because i, the customer, is on the receiving end of the stick, they insist that i should pay.
I called head office, worried about what was unraveling. They confirmed that they have my order correctly, and promised to email the branch telling them to deliver my order accordingly.
4 Hours later, and after nearly 12 phone calls i ran out of credit (airtime). The situation still has not changed at the time of writing.
Mr Delivery’s head office insists they are emailing the branch, and have emailed them. The branch claim they have not see the email and will not deliver the food.
- Problem Three – I am still hungry, and now held hostage, since my money has been deducted.
I eventually demand a refund after one of my calls is returned. I am told it will take 30 working days to do a refund.
- Problem four – I am still hungry. Mr D has taken my money and not delivered food, and now tells me i have to wait 30 days to get my money back so i can buy the food i wanted. Meanwhile, my funds lie in their accounts accumulating profit. The best they can do is “apologise for the inconvenience”
I am left stuck, feeling helpless. There is nothing i can do. My last resort is Hello Peter. A website that tracks customer complaints, and follows up on them.
But even then, Mr Delivery is listed as a company that does not respond. I did nonetheless make the complaint.
I call my friend, an attorney. It sounds ridiculous, and my wife tells me, its only R200, and scoffs.
He tells me the cost of pursuing such a matter far outweigh the benefits, and frankly, “these companies do that to everyone anyway”
His last word – “suck it and be the powerless victim, you will forget about it soon”
It reminds of a similar matter, in October 2015. My wife was due to fly and be with me in Belgium at the time. She was meant to fly from Harare to Joburg. Then connect from Joburg to Abu Dhabhi, then Abu Dhabhi to Brussels.
Fly Africa, despite the fact they had no functioning plane, and had their license revoked 6 days earlier, still proceeded to sell me a ticket. Only for my wife to arrive and be told by airport stuff, – there would be no plane.
Risking to miss her connecting flights, we hurried her onto British Airways 15mins before boarding closed, for an arm and a leg.
In query, Fly Africa told me a refund would come in 45 working days. It never came actually. And i ran out of steam and forgot about it. Not really, i was just bullied.
So, that is my hellish story. After posting about this matter in a few discussion forums on Facebook, like Khuluma Afrika, and The South African Think Tank, it was heart breaking how as many as 120 people shared nearly similar stories – they had all been bullied – their funds looted – and given the middle finger.
To sue for such little money makes no sense. But to remain silent as a victim perpetuates this disgusting behaviour.
A friend of mine, Michael Mupotaringa, said, “well you can’t sue, but you are a journalist, why don’t you report your experience, you have a duty as a journalist, you are watchdog, not a lapdog.”
Several other people have since told me of their hellish Mr delivery experiences. On Hello Peter, there well over a 100 complaints.
I just hope the powers that be realise that if they can give companies authority to take people’s funds, then they need to police them to make sure that they deliver as promised.
If this is not stopped, it will not be Fly Africa and Mr Delivery alone. It will be several other companies, taking people’s money with impunity!
(Writer’s Note: All my conversations with Mr Delivery were recorded, and are available on Khuluma Afrika on request. As well as copies of my order confirmation)
The Food Manager from Take A Lot, the company that owns Mr Delivery, called me this evening. He had been trying to call me all day. His name is Clement.
He unreservedly apologised for the entire incident, and totally agreed that not only was i treated ridiculously, but i presented MR D several opportunities to rectify the matter. He also expressed regret over the sheer amount of times i had to phone in, and how ridiculous it was that at least one of the agents could not identify my order number, and instead tasked me as the customer to find the relevant department which can help me resolve my matter.
MR Delivery has for the moment taken the branch which handled my matter offline, while it rectifies the issues that led to the problem, as well as deals with the staff internally.
I am also told the matter has been made a national issue, and is being handled at the head offices, and is being used as a blueprint to learn from, and try and avoid a similar problem.
They also offered me voucher as an apology, and promised to deal with the matter internally and externally and give me feedback.
This article was also published on News 24, and drew several comments from people who all complained of several similar issues.