Sunday, December 15, 2013

CLICKS - stuck in a BAD SERVICE rut

Dear Consumers,
Clicks CEO

           Below is what I wrote in April 2012 under the heading Clicks Humpty Dumpty stock situation. But judging by this week's Sunday Times it is as Humpty Dumpty as ever. 
              It's odd the way some of these big companies can't change course once they are programmed to do something, even it is clearly bad for business. 
          Clicks, headed by CEO David Kneale started with health, home and beauty stores, but when it added pharmacies it seems to have forgotten that these require pharmacists. And as there is a great shortages of these qualified people Clicks is constantly rubbing its customers up the wrong way.
           Add to that the general poor service.

               This is what appeared in this week's Consumer Forum in the Sunday Times. The problems its readers had at the pharmacies mirrored my experiences of more that a year ago, although it's Healthbasics supply problem has improved.
           The second item headed And poor service at others refers to the Long Beach Mall branch which is in my area. I don't go there very often now but when I do I have found the service virtually non-existent.

            My wife and I now get our medication from the family owned Sun Valley Pharmacy which is in the same mall. Its motto is: A Passion for Caring and the service there is everything that Clicks is not.

            Through the Sunday Times Clicks assures readers that the issues will be addressed with the urgency they deserve.
                   I find this very hard to believe. My bet is that in another year nothing much will have changed particularly at the pharmacies.
                    Clicks had a 13.6% increase in turnover to R17.5 - billion in the year to August 2013. So no wonder it doesn't worry too much about giving bad service.
              But if it goes on like this:
              All Kneale's staff and all his men
              Won't put Clicks together again.

April 2012
Dear Consumers,
         It’s your Consumer Watchdog here and this time he was wide awake with all his senses on full alert. In the numerous gaps on the shelves he was able to get a whiff of what had been there, but even his keen nose was unable to establish how long ago this was.
         As he walked down the isles in the Clicks stores his tail was not wagging happily; it was drooping pathetically. You see us sniffer hounds have to have our daily vitamins for our coat to remain glossy and to be able to do our job properly.
         Alright he couldn’t check all the 590 stores across Southern Africa that include Musica and The Body Shop that are in the Group  and you might say that two in Cape Town are not a fair sample.
But they turned out to be just the tip of what the Group admitted had been a huge stock headache.
Things had not been clicking in the stores that include 280 retails pharmacies, which is the largest chain of this kind in South Africa.
         Funny how I got wind of this many months ago when I complained to  David Kneale that I couldn’t get any salmon oil capsules at the Long Beach Mall branch. He rectified this by having the branch manager deliver some to my house.
         But it seems the much wider problem of too many missing items went unchecked. Even Healthbasics, which is Clicks’ own vitamin brand, was often not there.
         In one isle alone in the Long Beach branch, which is not very big, I counted over 200 gaps on the shelves. And a lot of them had Out of Stock stickers on them for you shoppers, who are too stupid to realise what empty means.
When I continued to complain at my local branch the staff would shrug their shoulders as if to say We get the flack for something over which we have no control.
         This time I not only went to the Long Beach branch but I also visited the one at Constantia Village, which is in a very upmarket area and could be the busiest mall in the country. It was the same story there.
         So your Watchdog, who is always mindfully of the interests of the consumer, sent another barking email to David in his ivory tower at head office. He did what too many CEO’s do when they are contacted directly; he passed the buck to Amanda Graham, his head of merchandising.
         Don’t you think it would have been a far better public relations exercise if David had personally answered my email complaint?     
        We’ve had a torrid time with our private label (Healthbasics) and we’ve let the customer down, Amanda told me. They had moved to different suppliers twice in the last year and this had led to out of stocks for long periods of time, a situation which we are still experiencing.
         That’s pretty Humpty Dumpty don’t you think? If they had got nothing else right you would have thought that a large Group like Clicks that is quoted on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange would have made sure of getting adequate stocks of its own brand wouldn’t  you?

         Their lack of stock had been particularly bad in the vitamins and supplements section, Amanda went on. This was also due to unanticipated demand.

Humpty Dumpty is everywhere.
         The steps that are being taken to rectify the situation include, of all things, providing additional space. Would it be too much to ask for them to first make sure that the existing space is always full?
         I would like to take this opportunity to again apologise for the inconvenience you and your readers have experienced, were Amanda Graham’s commendable parting words.
         We’ll have to see if a real improvement actually materialises. But one thing is certain your Consumer Watchdog will continue doing his rounds; sniffing here and there and looking to ensure you consumers get the best service possible.
         NEWS FLASH: It’s 11.00 am, Sunday and I have just been to the Long Beach branch to collect chronic medication (that keeps you alive) for myself and my wife only to find that Humpty Dumpty had taken over the dispensary. It was securely fenced off because the duty pharmacist had not pitched. And we couldn’t get our medication anywhere else because Clicks have our scripts.
        NEWS FLASH 2: It's 11.00 am, Wednesday 2 May and the pharmacy is once again fenced off. What about people who need medication urgently but can't get it because Clicks have their scripts?
         So if the posts on my blog cease you’ll know why.
         Yours faithfully (like all dogs),

         Jon, the Consumer Watchdog with an excellent sense of smell, provided he can always get the necessary vitamins.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013


 Dear Newspaper Readers,

        Isn’t it brilliant the way newspapers, those watchdogs of public behaviour have two kinds of morality? In their editorial they will have us believe that they tell the truth and nothing but the truth, whereas they often allow their advertisers to do the opposite, proving once again that money corrupts.
         Take the Johannesburg based The Citizen as an example. On its second page under the heading Code of Conduct it tells us that it has committed itself to report news truthfully and accurately in accordance with the highest standards of journalism as set out in the Press Code of South Africa.

        Then it blows those noble sentiments sky high at the back of the paper with columns of advertisements that are totally unbelievable.

         Its Code of Conduct goes on to tell us that if we don’t like what the paper is up to we can complain to the Press Ombudsman. But very conveniently he doesn’t concern himself with dodgy ads, only editorial.

         Adverts are supposed to be policed by the Advertising Standards Authority. But as I found out this organisation was worse than useless when I tried to get it to do something about very dicey get-rich-quick ads that were appearing in the Sunday Times.

  The Citizen has been quite happy to profit from its suspect advertisers and aid an abet them to rip of its gullible readers who are evidently prepared to pay for this pie in the sky.
         The ads are pock marked with names of people calling themselves doctors when they clearly are not. Of course nobody seems concerned that this is illegal.
         Dr Ruben promises With 100% guarantee I return lost love in one hr. Social oil to get any partner you want same day. Manhood enlargement bigger, harder and stronger in one hr. Hire strong short boys and magic sticks to bring money within one hr. Get any job you want and get double salary.
         That’s typical of the mumbo jumbo The Citizen is peddling in its smalls ad sections under a Herbalist heading. In the edition I saw the page of these would have been worth roughly R40 000 to the paper at between R40 and R50 a line.

         There’s Dr Mathu, Dr Love, Dr Jay and Dr Aziz all of whom no doubt got their degrees at the world renowned University of Money Making Magic.

     This section of the paper is an Aladdin’s Cave of miracles with 100% guarantees all over the place. And to make this wonderland seem more believable some of them have included T & C's Aplly just like the banks, cell phone companies and other big boys do when they advertise.

         All those millionaires one reads about who toiled for years to accumulate their wealth needn’t have bothered if only they had read The Citizen.

         Here’s a testimony from one of Baba Gonondo’s admirers. Two of my friends decided to visit him in Pretoria. One chose the Short Boys to put money in his bank account and R680 000 was in his account after an hour. The other one chose Rats to put money in his house. He was shocked to see R490 000 in his house in the morning and they paid 10% from the money they got. Everyone I have referred to him they said they have been helped the same day. I would like to thank Baba Gonondo for his help. If you have any problems please don’t hesitate, just call or visit him.

         That ad cost an estimated R5 000.

         Note to readers of this post: If you want Gonondo’s contact details I’m not passing them on for nothing. It will cost you plenty.

         Short Boys and Rats, alien spirits that bring money, feature in quite of few of the ads.

         Ads like these have no place in any self respecting newspaper. What really should have happened is that these advertisers should have been exposed for what they are in the editorial section of a paper. But The Citizen has evidently not been prepared to bite the hand that feeds it and opposition papers have not expose this, possibly because many of them are doing much the same thing.

STEVE MOTALE is not to blame for the adverts.
They were there when he arrived at the paper

          I tossed this hot potato to The Citizen's recently appointed
 Editor Steven Motale. Sorry Steve for giving you this one when you’ve hardly settled in to the hot seat.

         He is to be commended for phoning me, unlike several Editors of the Sunday Times.  I never got a peep out of them in my three year campaign to get that paper to stop running highly suspect investment ads.
         "I think you've got a point" Steven told me. He conceded these were, "not believable" and suggested that his paper should still carry them but give readers a "caution"
         But when I told him that this would be an admission that his paper believed the ads were dubious, he replied: "It's a tough one. I'm going to take it up with the advertising department."
So we’ll see what happens. R40 000 or more a day it not to be discarded lightly.

Will money override acceptable morality once again?

         The Citizen is a national, daily tabloid with a circulation of around 70 000. It was founded in 1976 by the National Party apartheid government using money from a secret government slush fund as it desperately needed the support of an English speaking paper. The White Afrikaner dominated Nats were replaced in 1994 by a Black African National Congress government.
         In 1998 the paper was bought by the CTP/Caxton group, publisher of magazines and newspapers as well being the country’s largest commercial printer.

Its core readership is black middle class men many of whom evidently believe that black magic as advertised by the this paper works.
Jon the Poor Man’s Press Ombudsman who is not to be confused with that far less effective Press Ombudsman referred to in The Citizen’s Code of Conduct. He comes under the South African Press Council set up by the media. It believes that "Effective self-regulation is the best system for promoting high standards in the media."
How can policing yourself possibly be the best way to go? And when it comes to newspapers its other great flaw is that it has no say over the standard of advertising that takes up a great proportion of most papers.