Shopping in Amman often can be an unhappy experience.
In many shopping situations, one has to deal with one of the following traits (or a combination of them): unfriendliness, ignorance, rip-off, lack of empowerment, arrogance and sheer stupidity.
Take, for example, the latest shopping incident my wife had to endure.
Around a week ago she bought an item for one of our kids from a well know sports goods retailer in Amman. The item was priced at JD 18 (its price in the US is just US$ 10, or JD 7). Already she was feeling ripped off (by A. Government customs/import duties that are levied to help pay the salaries of a huge, ineffective government bureaucracy and the “retirement” salaries of a legion of ex-ministers, and/or B. The greed and shortsightedness of shop owners).
Then, yesterday, she found the same item discounted to JD 11 at a shop in a mall that gets its supplies from the above-mentioned store. She expressed her dissatisfaction to the guy at the shop, who advised her to call the main store. Fair enough.
She calls. The line is out of service! She calls again. And again. Then after a few hours, the store’s phone is working and someone answers. Of course, it is a totally non-empowered employee. He claims that the discount was ordered by the US manufacturer. After some back and forth, the dude says he is “just an employee” following orders and that the “manager” is now here and that she can talk to him.
Anyone with just basic customer service understanding (or basic human friendliness) should have turned this complaint into an opportunity to get my wife back into the store by offering a rebate or a discount voucher. But not in Jordan!
The manager repeats the “mother company” story and then goes on that this is just my wife’s “bad luck”! He tell her that he himself bought a piece of clothing once only to find it discounted some days later. Unfriendliness rears its head.
Then he tells my wife he has to end the call as there are other customers in the store. Arrogance. He doesn’t wait for her response and closes the line. Sheer stupidity.
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Just a few days ago I went to a store to look at some electrical appliance. I saw merchandize on the shelves that not only was 3 years old, but priced almost at 3 times its price in Europe! I saw misplaced labels and prices. And I had to endure the salesman’s ignorance of product details and specifications.
Shopping, in this manner, is turned from fun to torture.
What this says about us is just sad.
There is a hit and run mentality. Merchants do not seem to be interested in long term relationships. They are only interested in charging the highest price possible.
There is false pride. Merchants are willing to sit on aging appliances for years and never think of just discounting them and getting fresh things onto their shelves.
There is an amazing lack of interest in the details of what is being sold, even by the younger generation of sales people.
The prevailing attitude is that of: this is what we have to offer. You don’t like it, farewell.
It boils down to a lack of community spirit. The buyer is already burdened by the inflated prices of imported goods. The seller maybe is unhappy about his/her low salary. The constant feeling of insecurity drives shop owners to try to extract the maximum amount of money from customers NOW, instead of thinking of relationships that last a lifetime. Despite the fact that Jordan has been stable for decades, the feeling is that of a temporary society. Strangers engaged in one time transactions.
The young salesman who knows nothing about that TV he’s selling you, probably doesn’t even want to be a TV sales man. He tries to get away with the minimum amount of effort. Why bother learning about the products he’s selling when most customers are ignorant anyway.
It’s like all of us want to be somewhere else, doing something else. Our transactions are burdensome. not joyous. More often than not, we are a bunch of opportunists instead of being proud and fulfilled members in a community.
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