This time it’s Onions by the bar­rel ... of groans

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - MEDIA& MARKETING -

IF THIS coun­try is ever to take its right­ful place as a lead­ing na­tion, we’ve all got to play our part and stop ac­cept­ing il­le­gal­ity and dis­mal ser­vice, par­tic­u­larly when the lat­ter comes from a gov­ern­ment depart­ment.

But some­times, a suc­cess story gives you hope. What has hap­pened at Home Af­fairs truly qual­i­fies as mirac­u­lous. Not that many years ago, it was a slimy cesspit of in­ef­fi­ciency, ar­ro­gance, in­com­pe­tence, xeno­pho­bia and racism. Now it is the model of civil ser­vice ef­fi­ciency.

My wife went to re­new her pass­port last week – and within five work­ing days, she got a text to say it was ready. Staff who han­dled the ap­pli­ca­tion were knowl­edge­able and po­lite.

Some might say just do­ing your job is not wor­thy of the Orchid I am hand­ing out to Home Af­fairs; oth­ers might ask what this has to do with mar­ket­ing.

Think about this: that gov­ern­ment about-turn not only proves it can be done and that there is hope for other bu­reau­cratic messes, but it shows that South Africans can com­pete with the rest of the world at ser­vice. That’s a pow­er­ful mar­ket­ing tool and it’s why it gets an Orchid from me.

How­ever, this page is go­ing to look like a Fruit & Veg City onion shelf, be­cause boy am I in a grumpy mood. There are times when I, like oth­ers, wished I lived in Cape Town. This has noth­ing to do with Su­perSis He­len or that huge chunk of rock, or even the la-di-da way Capeto­ni­ans ed­u­cate the rest of us un­for­tu­nates about wine and eti­quette.

It’s be­cause Cape Town has strict rules for out­door ad­ver­tis­ing. We can en­joy the glo­ri­ous views in the Penin­sula with­out the sight be­ing soiled by crass, in­va­sive com­mer­cial mes­sages.

I am not a great fan of out­door ad­ver­tis­ing be­cause it can, as I dis­cov­ered re­cently, make my blood boil. Out walk­ing the dogs on a stun­ning Joburg Satur­day morn­ing (sorry Cape Town, we beat you there), I saw two gawdy posters strung up on light poles along my street. They were clearly il­le­gal as they were not po­lit­i­cal party posters and they did not have the Joburg Mu­nic­i­pal­ity sticker on them.

Hav­ing seen Metro cops tak­ing down some of th­ese eye­sores re­cently, I did my civic duty and, with wire­cut­ters and steplad­der, lib­er­ated my street from the poster colonis­ers.

My wife thinks I’m a crim­i­nal – but how can I be ac­cused of do­ing some­thing il­le­gal to some­thing which is il­le­gal in the first place? I didn’t de­stroy the posters, and if the com­pany ad­ver­tis­ing a re­tire­ment home wants to col­lect them, they may do so… af­ter they’ve re­moved the gar­den rub­bish on top of them.

If you don’t check your posters be­fore they go up or your art­work be­fore it ends up on a mo­bile bill­board, even if they are le­gal, you will just look stupid.

Th­ese two pics – one of a Lib­erty poster, the other of an ANC elec­tion mes­sage on a truck – show that in­com­pe­tence and lazi­ness are not con­fined to gov­ern­ment be­cause the pri­vate sec­tor (like Lib­erty) is just as ca­pa­ble of al­low­ing things to go out with ty­pos. Onions to Lib­erty and the ANC… in­ter­est­ing bed­fel­lows.

Who has not been has­sled by a call cen­tre and got so ir­ri­tated that they are ac­tively against the brand? In one week in House­hold Seery, three such in­stances:

● I’m phoned by Protea Ho­tels’ Prokard di­vi­sion ask­ing if I’d like a card. This de­spite me telling them last year and the year be­fore I’m not in­ter­ested. No great data­base man­age­ment there, Protea: an Onion for you.

● My wife was called by Vo­da­com’s call cen­tre, which with­out wait­ing to hear her ex­pla­na­tion launched into a pitch about their lat­est data bun­dles of­fer. Prob­lem: she’s been with MTN for some time, hav­ing switched from a Vo­da­com Pay as You Go ar­range­ment. When the call cen­tre heard that, click. In­com­pe­tence and rude­ness equals an Onion.

● Then she got a call from a Sanlam agent (she does busi­ness with them) telling her she qual­ifed for a per­sonal as­sis­tant who would help her do things like “buy­ing a lap­top for your grand­child”. Not a good start.

But it got bet­ter (or worse de­pend­ing on your sense of hu­mour): be­cause she was such a val­ued cus­tomer, she would get this “ser­vice” for only R37 a month. Her re­sponse: I am not in­ter­ested. Theirs: click. In­com­pe­tence and rude­ness equals an Onion to you, too, Sanlam.

And fi­nally, am I the only one who wants that grin­ning vil­lage idiot, Peter Ndoro, to pack his bags and leave SABC3’s early evening news bul­letin? Apart from inanely smil­ing at tragedies from rape to ty­phoons, his “ad lib” pat­ter would em­bar­rass a high school tal­ent evening.

But it is his stum­bling over words – not be­cause of a lan­guage is­sue, be­cause he has clearly had an ex­pen­sive pri­vate school ed­u­ca­tion some­where where the Queen’s pro­nun­ci­a­tion is held dear – but be­cause he couldn’t be both­ered to go over what he is read­ing and check how it should be spo­ken.

I screamed in frus­ta­tion re­cently when he tried to pro­nounce the name of Felix Baum­gart­ner. “Bot gram… bon­grat… heh heh heh…”

If it makes view­ers switch chan­nels, it dam­ages your mar­ket­ing, SABC, so here’s your Onion (Un-yun)…

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