Scare tac­tics

Leisure Wheels (South Africa) - - CONTENTS -

cell­phone rang. It was a Dur­ban­based num­ber I didn’t recog­nise.

For a while I had been avoid­ing an­swer­ing calls from un­known num­bers – in­evitably those calls ended up with an un­in­ter­ested “how are you?” on the other end of the line, and some­one who wants to sell me some­thing I don’t want or need.

In that process of avoid­ing calls from un­known num­bers, there have been a few missed busi­ness calls, too. Au­then­tic busi­ness-re­lated calls. So it’s a bit of catch 22: avoid the “how are yous” or miss a few (pos­si­bly) im­por­tant calls.

For quite a while though, the tele­mar­keters left me alone. I was happy.

So when the un­known Dur­ban-based num­ber ap­peared on my phone’s screen, my brain started cal­cu­lat­ing the op­tions: there are a few peo­ple and com­pa­nies we work with in Dur­ban. There was a chance that this was a le­git­i­mate call. I an­swered with a cheer­ful “Hello, Danie speak­ing.”

“Is that Mr Daniel Botha?” asked an un­fa­mil­iar fe­male voice.

This can’t be. The first call I re­ceive in a while from an un­known num­ber, and it’s a mar­keter again? I replied, dread­fully, yet slightly po­litely, with a “Yeeeeees?” “How are you?” Noooo! The lady jumped straight in, read­ing from her cue card. She was from a ve­hi­cle-track­ing com­pany, and she wanted to sell me a track­ing sys­tem.

“Thanks for the call madam, but I’m not in­ter­ested,” I replied. She’d ob­vi­ously heard that one be­fore, and fired her next salvo: “Would you still feel that way if you or your fam­ily is hi­jacked?”

What? Ex­ploit­ing the fear of crime and vi­o­lence, and drag­ging one’s fam­ily into it, to sell your track­ing prod­uct?

“I said... I’m not in­ter­ested!” I re­sponded, slightly more animated, and ended the call.

I hap­pen to know what it feels like to be hi­jacked. It’s not pleas­ant. And, the thought of my fam­ily ever be­ing in­volved in such an in­ci­dent fills me with dread and fear and a whole lot of other un­pleas­ant thoughts.

If a com­pany wants to use that fear to sell its prod­ucts, I reckon it will mainly cre­ate an­i­mos­ity to­wards that prod­uct. That’s what it did to me.

I can’t help but pon­der: are there ac­tu­ally cus­tomers who, af­ter hear­ing that sales pitch, re­ply with: “Wow! You are so right. I never thought about that. Please sign me up now.”

The crime sit­u­a­tion af­fects us in many dif­fer­ent ways. Like in­flu­enc­ing what fam­ily ve­hi­cle we should buy. For the past few months I’ve been scan­ning car ads and go­ing to deal­er­ships to in­spect cars, weigh­ing up al­ter­na­tive op­tions to re­place our Subaru Forester 2.5X. The Scooby is re­ally per­fect for us, it’s just the monthly fuel bill that is a bit hec­tic.

Look­ing at al­ter­na­tives, I pre­fer to steer clear of pop­u­lar hi­jack­ing tar­get brands – even though I re­ally would like to own some of the ve­hi­cles that fall in this cat­e­gory. But my fam­ily’s safety is more im­por­tant.

Con­sid­er­ing the law­less sit­u­a­tion on the roads, a small car is not an op­tion. The other day I was driv­ing in peak hour traf­fic and a huge dump truck was weav­ing in and out of the lanes, tail­gat­ing cars at 80km/h, just like a

teenager in a low-rid­ing VW Citi Golf with a doef-doef sound sys­tem.

When you see some­thing like that, a small lit­tle eco­nom­i­cal hatch is not so ap­peal­ing. You’d want to give your loved ones the best shot at sur­viv­ing such a nin­com­poop.

Also con­sider how many mo­torists have fol­lowed in the the minibus taxi tracks, adopt­ing the ‘if you can’t beat them, join them’ phi­los­o­phy, skip­ping stop streets, driv­ing through red traf­fic lights and us­ing any avail­able lane to gain a car length or two.

It’s not a ques­tion of if you will be in­volved in an in­ci­dent, but rather when (in the big cities at least). Of­fer­ing your loved ones the best pos­si­ble op­por­tu­nity to walk away from an in­ci­dent be­comes rather im­por­tant.

There’s also the ques­tion of pot­holes... if you drive a tiny hatch, one wheel will of­ten fit into a pot­hole (even in the cities). So a big­ger wheel, fit­ted with a more ro­bust all-ter­rain tyre is far bet­ter suited to those holes.

I’ve not yet found an ideal al­ter­na­tive to re­place the Scooby. In­stead I’ll just feed that thirsty boxer en­gine, and take com­fort in the fact that my fam­ily is rel­a­tively safe dur­ing their com­mutes.

I’ll def­i­nitely not be sub­scrib­ing to a track­ing sys­tem from Dur­ban ei­ther.

What are your thoughts about safety and buy­ing cars? How big a role does the po­ten­tial crime play in your buy­ing de­ci­sion? Send us a mail.

In the mean­time, be safe out there.

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