Shopkeepers from hell: How Amman takes out the fun from shopping (and what this says about us)

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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.

  • * *

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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13 Responses to “Shopkeepers from hell: How Amman takes out the fun from shopping (and what this says about us)”

  1. Heba Says:

    “.. the feeling is that of a temporary society. Strangers engaged in one time transactions.”

    Ahmad, you just described how we all feel!

    Shopping in Amman has been a burden and it is only getting worse. When standing at cashiers at big brand shop, I sometime feel I’m standing in line to get a spot or a charity meal at a shelter for the homeless!

    This applies to so many different service sectors in Jordan, don’t let me start with my depressing experience with my new kids school for the past 2 days!

    Disrespectful, rude and disregardful…

  2. Khaled Says:

    All of the above mentioned are the reason why I’ve recently made a decision that I have been living by for 5 months now:

    If I can buy it online and it will cost relatively the same or even a tad more expensive… I will.

  3. kinzi Says:

    You nailed it, Ahmad. Not to mention leering male employees at women’s clothing stores. I just don’t shop.

  4. Emad Says:

    Thanks for this article; u hit the right nerve to be honest, shopping and customer service suck :(

    Read this article about my similar experience

    http://www.jordanoholic.com/blog/society/customer-service-jordan

  5. Murad Says:

    Ahmad your sentiments are shared. Most service based buisnesses here have no service, or poor service because of said disenpwoerment. The retail experience is even worse for all of the reasons you described and a few more.
    I belive it comes down to two reasons why Jordan exsists in such a way. 1) dis-empowered consumer segments 2) non invested society (people don’t feel like they have any say in how anything works)

    honestly i feel as consumers we need to make a stand. stop shopping at these stores… avoid purchasing goods with inflated customs duties or find alternatives. plainly put, starve the economy so we can equalize the power back towards the consumer.

  6. Omari Says:

    It seems to me that there is a huge demand for CSM (Customer Service Management). Building long lasting relationships is not a focus for MOST businesses. What does Jordan have over most countries? Human Resources! For that reason, it shocks me that they suck in customer service. Companies need to go back to the drawing boards and restructure their compensation packages and make employees feel apart of the company. APPRECIATION!!

    I worked last year for one of the so-called top American schools in which the teachers were treated like slave workers. Not to mention that my salary as a teacher was nearly double that of some of the local administration who had been there for over 10 years. There has to be a paradigm shift from companies and that is only possible with seminars/workshops and more training, training, training. I love Amman and I think there is tremendous potential. Great post!

  7. Adel Says:

    Does the sports goods retailer have a lowest price guarantee? If not, you do no have the right to get a refund. Nevertheless, you have the right to complain and tell them what you think.

  8. Sid Vicious Says:

    It’s our fault for taking their crap and not doing anything about it. But that does not justify their behavior.

    But the attitude here is ALWAYS that of: “meh, they really suck. Whatever”

    Apathy is going to destroy us.

  9. David Fox Says:

    let’s now forget how shopkeepers never have farata (change), or at least claim not to have it. seriously, people are farata misers in this country. i remember when i started hoarding one JD bills until i had about 80, and then i finally stopped and asked myself, ‘what are you doing dave, they’re one JD bills, set them free.”

  10. No one Says:

    Haha I know the place….
    Guess what? I saw a sport item at carf### for 36Jd, I checked it at the shop who supply it to carf$$$$ and it was 45Jd!
    Confronting the sales person,he said what we will do!

    Young sales persons,doctors,writers,engineers,accountants,are all waiting for the firt opportunity just to escape and leave :) 00000

    Thanks to tribalism,corruption

  11. Jen Says:

    Ha ha ha @Dave! I’m still in the hoarding phase. I think there’s some magical place in Jordan where the walls are made from 1JD notes.

    And the customer service. SIGH! I agree that employees being respected and empowered would go a long way.

    Jordan, I love ya. But DANG, your customer service is abysmal.

  12. Mohammad Says:

    nice, I do not agree with the refund for the price difference, again this is the store policy (which no one is serious about starting the owner).

    As for the lack of interest of the sales people, yes I totally agree and I would add that it is not only a culture thing, but also I would like to add hatred. Yes that sales person had already nurtured a feeling of hatred for you, you the one who has money and want things the way you want! also you must add to this big subjects, like “let’s get Palestine back before you goof around about your electronics”.

    Finally, no serious managers are around to make some change, pay is poor, law is taking a nap.

    Good luck and sorry for you.

  13. Adnan Says:

    Well, there’s one more symptom that you missed although it is related to stupidity, which is volunteering some nonsense as an answer to your complaint just to shut you up! I remember one time I complained to a fast food chain’s manager that her employee is completely preparing my burger sandwich using his bare hand, including adding lettuce and pickles! Her response was that “It is our specific policy to not use gloves in this restaurant.. this policy is from the US head office!”.

    My answer was “forget about the fact that I ate at your restaurant in at least 5 other countries, but please explain to me two things: first, how come this specific policy is not implemented on the other employees who are obviously wearing gloves right in front of me? and if this is truly your policy then what is your policy for washing hands after going to the bathroom, smoking, or even having clean cut nails?!”

    You do not need to know how the rest of the conversation went :)

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