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Not all that glitters is Gold....

November 19, 2013

I almost didn’t submit this article on time. Why you might ask. Well, I’ve had a roller coaster of a week and to put the icing on the cake, I had a near severe bout of food poisoning towards the end of the week. So, where were you eating from for you to get food poisoning, again you might ask. Well, believe it or not, this was not as a result of indulging in chips vumbi or mama ntilie’s food. The meal (s) that gave me that food poisoning were had in a 5-star hotel. Can you believe that? Ironically, I have never suffered food poisoning after eating chips vumbi, or those mahidis (maize) they roast by the roadside. That's plus one to them.

And why would you be so certain that it was the hotel’s food that got you in trouble, you might ask one more time. Well, I am certain it was this hotel because I was not the only one suffering from food poisoning. I later got to learn that three other people I was with also suffered the same fate and in fact, one was so badly affected that she was hospitalized for a day. As for me, I was meant to get two pints of some medicated liquid the doctor wanted to give me to hydrate my body, but of course I refused but not before having to promise the doctor that I would ensure I hydrate myself properly. Well, I’ve stuck to the end of my bargain and even though I’ve spent the better part of the night in the toilet than in bed, I can say the stomach pains have subsided and I am a lot better.

This experience has taught me a lot of things, the main one being that just because it is rated 5-star does not mean it is exempt from all the non-5 star possibilities. In fact, I am more than convinced that there are 2/3-star hotels in Dar Es Salaam that are way better than this so called 5-star hotel. The service is pathetic, the workers are mannerless (they stole from me - twice!) and lazy, and to top it up the food is a health-hazard, as we experienced firsthand. In short, though it is strategically placed, all this hotel has to offer is a Brand Name and I guess that’s what fools many people and since it is an international franchise, people feel safer and better being associated with that name. However, what I and others experienced is a clear indicator that it is a question of Quality over Quantity.

This somehow reminds me of another experience I went through recently but this time with smartphones. For the longest, I have been an iOS diehard and even though I still am, that space has been invaded by the android robot. A couple of weeks ago, I was forced to replace my Samsung duos phone because it just couldn’t handle my requirements any more. Everyone I talked to was telling me to replace it with a tab but I couldn’t because at the moment, I can’t afford such a luxury. I therefore had to make a very humbling choice; to go for an uncommon, cheaper brand that can give me the same functions the particular Samsung I was being encouraged to buy can offer me. And so I got a Techno Phantom for way less than I had thought it would cost. The question is, have my expectations been met? Absolutely not. My expectations have been surpassed big time. In comparison to the phone I was being advised by many people to buy, what I now have beats that option ten times. I hate to admit this but the Phantom’s features, its quality and functionality even surpass that of the iPhone. It is an amazing smartphone and comparing an orange with an orange, instead of an apple with an orange, though the Phantom is cheaper and uncommon, it beats Samsung duos hands down.

From these two experiences I have concluded one thing; it’s not about the name but the service that is attached to the name that really counts. Unfortunately many of us are so fixated on names that we forget there is another side of that coin. For instance, many are the times a potential client has declined to offer me business just because they have never heard of me or my company (true story). Even though I give them references to talk to, they still feel that because I am an “unknown brand”, they cannot give me business and with that, they go look for those brands that are well known. The end result is that they don’t get good value for their money especially if they are a small company. Why? Because the known/popular brands are already too busy with other clients (probably bigger than that company) to efficiently handle their requirements. The irony of this whole scenario is that had you come to us, we would have done a better job for you but because we are “small” and not popular, you chose to ignore us, going for a "name". Sometimes a big brand name does not necessary equate to quality of service. Choose wisely.

Looking at this from a different angle point, we have many people who get into relationships with the wrong people just because they were going for the "name". For instance, a woman might ignore a man because he is not a celebrity, or a wealthy person or because he doesn’t fit the profile of tall, dark and handsome with dark silky hair. Instead, she hooks up with someone who fits the profile I’ve just described. Somewhere along the way, she realizes that the outward appearance of this man is a complete contrast to the inner person. He probably thinks he is God’s gift to women and as a result, he is never faithful to her, treating her like some piece of crap and not with the respect and appreciation she deserves. She finds herself in an abusive relationship but because she is already in it, it becomes hard for her to get out of it. On the other hand, the guy she ignored would have treated her with respect, treating her like royalty and above all, never hurting her intentionally like the moron described before. So why did she end up with the wrong guy? Because she went for a brand and not functionality.

How about the job space? Does this happen? Absolutely. Many are the times people ignore working for small companies and go straight to the big companies because of the name the big companies have created for themselves. This is not wrong and I should not be misunderstood for saying this but the truth is, sometimes you stand a better chance of growing while working in a small firm that you do when working for a conglomerate. Most of these big organizations especially this part of the world are filled with bureaucracy and politics. Depending on who you report to, though there could be a vacancy for you to occupy, the likelihood of someone else being offered that position is very high. Why? Because that’s how things are done in this part of the world.

In conclusion I’d like to say this; not all that glitters is gold. It could be butter wrapped in a gold-coloured foil. Be it a person, a hotel, a gadget, a car, etc, learn not to make decisions based on the name. Take time to find out more about the object of your attention and make an informed decision. Never judge a book by its cover, but seek to know its contents, then decide whether the cover compliments the contents.

As you start your week today what will it be? Will it be the name? Or will it be the functionality?

Wishing you all a discerning week.

PS: Article published in Tanzania's Guardian on Sunday on the 17th November, 2013, under my weekly column"Thoughts in Words"

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