Consumers: Ultimate Losers of Poor Work Culture

We have become accustomed to spending a great deal of money on products and services that do not satisfy us and we have become numb to it.

I find myself and others in restaurants excusing bad service and accepting a meal not ordered, or an overcharged bill, just to save the waiter from having to take the fall. The employers put the responsibility on them, while the waiters lay the burden of accommodating their mistake on the client’s conscious.

A society full of individuals that are sympathetic to one another is great, but there is a line. It cannot be all too normal or keep eating away at our purses or wallets. Consumers deserve to get a service or product on par with the money they have paid. There can be incidents here and there where they should be expected to be sympathetic, especially when it comes to matters entirely out of the hands of the business, but the behaviour should not be rampant.

Recently, at a shop that provides printing services, I received an all blue design when I had ordered an all white one. When I pointed out the mistake, it was kindly explained to me that although a mistake was indeed made, the blue design was more appealing. It is then to the customer to be considerate of the expenses and time spent to produce the product not needed, and pay.

One may ask, bar the telecom, aviation or logistics industries, consumers can merely choose businesses that are found in droves. As customers shun the bad firms, they will slowly be left out of the loop, and those that provide better services will remain.

But it is not as simple. Inefficiency has become a tradition on to itself, ensuring that there is no longer a choice. My strategy is to pick businesses I feel are not infected by this poor work culture and that I would be contributing to instead of those simply interested in my money.

I choose to support start-ups, those who are beginning to make their dreams into a reality. There are many of these looking for a chance. Maybe if we are investing more in the younger generation and beginners, up-and-coming designers, caterers, artists and writers, who otherwise will not get a foothold, we can influence the system from the bottom-up.

Often, I am simply trying not to feel robbed of hard earned money, as I am sure many others are. Making a living in Ethiopia is not easy. There are many struggles we face daily trying to achieve the life we all would like to live. It is an insult to our hard work to waste money on those that disregard the concept of value for money.

In my first year of university, I remember being told to read multiple books and encouraged to ask questions, making our promised profession one with our very identity. My batch was full of students with raw positive energy for the future. Our hard work was noticed, our hunger for knowledge become popular with professors, making them more energised. This did not last for more than three months though.

“If you act too smart, the exams will be just as hard”, our seniors advised us. “Act like you don’t know, ask no questions, and you might just be able to graduate.”

We embraced the culture of underachievement. We became seniors, and we encouraged a whole new batch of freshmen and women not to put too much effort.

Of course, at some point in life, it becomes evident that this is not how a nation can build a competitive economy. I know how hard this culture has affected me personally, and the scaring impact it has had on my professional development. On the day I graduated, I told my parents how much I felt I had lost rather than gained when leaving the university.

The pace of life and work in Ethiopia is generally slow, which is not all bad. I appreciate that people take the time to talk with one another and drink coffee together. Such a lifestyle though could only be meaningful and satisfactory if we could match it with a hard-working culture.

Hanna Haile ( is an Ethiopian writer and social worker. She is one of the organizers of Poetic Saturdays at Fendika Cultural Centre in Addis Abeba and at Terara Bar & Kitchen in Hawassa, where a stage is open to those who celebrate art through performances on the first and second Saturday of each month.

Published on Oct 13,2018 [ Vol 19 ,No 963]



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