Brewer's Droop #197

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HOW TO RUIN A REPUTATION

I remember someone scrawled this on our schoolyard wall many years ago:

“Eric shagged Betty behind the bicycle sheds last night.”

It was almost certainly a lie, but that was Betty’s reputation ruined (or improved if you consider she was invited to all the cool parties after that).

Slander and libel like this have been going on forever. An old mate of mine, Peter Amis, once had a small restaurant and he’d sometimes get bookings for 12 or more people. This meant he had to turn 12 other customers away. These were fake bookings made by one of his competitors (nearby restaurants) to do him harm. What could he do?

This kind of thing has been going on for centuries – so why do we think the new phenomenon of “Facebook” or “Twitter” will be any different? Anyone can say, more or less, anything they like – it’s their opinion.

I’m sure that hotel has bed bugs. They seem to use a lot of cockroach spray in their kitchen. The sheets had traces of pubic hair in them when I stayed there. The manageress had an AIDS test recently – will be surprised if it’s negative. Etc. (You get the idea I’m sure).

So when an organisation like Woolworths is attacked why should we all be horrified? I mean, come on now, who gives a rat’s ass whether they’re hiring certain race groups in order to keep their Employment Equity ratios stable or not?

The point is that Woolworths sets the standard for quality in this country, their staff are invariably polite and well trained, and their stores are always clean. But their detractors can’t attack them on those levels you see, so they start slinging barbs about “racism” (Oh God please help us all – can’t we UN-invent the word?) And there’s not a lot Woolies can do about it either – the moment you start denying it (as Betty did) then you end up confirming it.

If a company goes public on Facebook or any other social medium then it’s going to (a) attract the loonies and (b) give the competition something to chuck mud at.

And once the ball’s rolling all the sad bastards jump on to the bandwagon because, in the Social Media world, everyone’s an expert.

DATE FOR PRIVATISATION OF SAA

The bookies are getting out their calculators – because there is little doubt that the airline cannot carry on with its current management and devastating losses.

Tourism (prior to Marikana, granted) between the UK and SA is at an all-time high. And the Brits’ favourite city? Cape Town. The British like us and numbers are growing at just under 10%

Given those facts, the incredibly insightful management at SAA made two major decisions. The first was to cancel direct flights between Cape Town and London. The second was to sell one of its landing spots at Heathrow. The mind really does boggle.

Unlike SAA’s management, you see, the smart money knows that when you lose customers (which this decision is certain to mean) it’s almost impossible to get them back. Customers are like that.

I’m guessing that a lot of Capetonians are doing what I’ve decided to do – which is to cash in all my Voyager miles and switch to another airline for all local and international travel. Kulula is quite good and I’m hearing great things about Emirates too. Plus, of course, there’s always British Airways who deliver consistently good service.

So I phoned SAA and tried to get some Voyager flights and was told “since the announcement we’ve had a flood of requests like yours and I’m sorry to say there is no availability” (this was for 8 month’s time).

This is interesting because I’ve never had any problems with booking Voyager tickets out of Johannesburg before (Cape Town has always been a problem because, ironically, the planes are always full). Clearly a lot of previously-loyal SAA fliers have the same idea.

One day they’ll be teaching SAA’s last 15-year history in Marketing 101 – how NOT to run an airline.

So when will the government stop bailing them out and force privatisation? In the last few years the taxpayer has given them about R18 billion (handed it over just like that). When will this insanity stop?

I’m going to try and get a bet laid for this to happen in 24 month’s time. Because, within a year, SAA will wake up and realise they’ve lost a massive chunk of loyal supporters and they’ll need more cash to keep them going. It shouldn’t take much longer than 12 months for someone like Richard Branson to close the deal.

Here’s a thought: supposing Branson was to take over SAA, how long do you think it would be before it started making serious profits?

Recently SAA sold one of its landing spots at Heathrow Airport. Duh?

I was confused at first but then I realised what they’re doing. Now that the flights from Cape Town have been cancelled they don’t need all three spots – so they sold one and I’m guessing that will go straight to the bottom line and make it look prettier (those landing spots are incredibly valuable – worth about R300m, but SAA’s not telling anyone how much they pocketed from that).

It’s an ingenious plan – sell off your assets and try to make your balance sheet look good. But when they’ve sold all their best landing sites and SAA flyers have to arrive in Norwich or Carlisle, I wonder what that’ll do to their ticket sales?

If they continue this highly dubious tactic then they’ll eventually drive its value into the ground.

Meanwhile SA Express, another taxpayer-funded airline, is under investigation for irregularities in its 2011 audit – and they’ve now found errors in 2008, 2009 and 2010. All the previous Chief Executives, of course, received healthy bonuses. The board was replaced recently – can we hope for a better one? I doubt it.

The court case against Khanya Ngqula (spearheaded by Cheryl Carolus back in 2009) has so far cost R20m and soon there will be a new Board so expect more delays and more costs. SAA is involved in four claims against the ex-CEO totalling around R252m.

But wait! It seems they may have originally gone to the wrong High Court!

If the Supreme Court of Appeal decides that such a mistake has been made then it could easily mean that all SAA’s claims might have to be abandoned, which is yet another prime example of superb SAA management.

I mean, for pity’s sake, how can you lodge a claim so high and then take it to the wrong court? Could this be deliberate corporate suicide? Anyway, let’s hope the Appeal Court decides there was no mistake.

Nobody seems to know (or care that much) why the government wants to fire some SAA directors. I have little doubt that it’s a great idea but can only guess at why they’re being sacked now. They did apply for another bailout earlier this year (only R6 Billion) which hasn’t been confirmed yet, so perhaps that’s the reason?

Why doesn’t the government just accept that it’s impossible for it to (a) make a profit from an airline or (b) make an airline efficient?

Give it up chaps. Sell it as soon as you can.

Or I’ll run it if you like. I reckon I could fix it within three years.

RUSSELL HOBBS

I had an amazing number of responses to the last Droop – especially about Russell Hobbs appliances and the two water coolers that broke. The number of people who refuse to buy this brand surprised me.

Then I got to thinking about other products of theirs that are in my house. There’s the kettle which boiled quite quietly for the first three months of its life but now sounds like a jumbo jet warming up. No conversation is possible when the “angry kettle” is switched on.

Then the toaster. I don’t think it’s possible to build a more erratic piece of equipment. It changes its mind more often than Malema. One day the toast is charcoal and the next it’s anemic and tepid.

Of course, they’re both coming up for their 18 month anniversary and that’s when they’ll break so it doesn’t really matter anyway.

Saw a lovely quote by GB Shaw the other day:

If you eliminate smoking and gambling, you will be amazed to find that almost all an Englishman’s pleasures can be, and mostly are, shared by his dog.

Isn’t Spring magnificent this year?

Chris

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Comments

  1. “Eric shagged Betty behind the bicycle sheds last night.” If scrawled in a South African schoolyard today, that would certainly be a lie. There are no bicycle sheds now as nobody cycles to school anymore, as I did many moons ago. The roads are now so manic, it’s a suicidal exercise.

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  2. I do not believe it was Eric – it was YOU behind the bike shed!

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    • I so wished at the time! But I think she became a Jehovah’s Witness eventually.

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      • Mike, are you sure we’re talking about the same “Betty”?

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        • We MIGHT be! I went to a school near you. Long time ago.

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          • Well, it wasn’t me!
            hope this improves my reputation.

  3. lol when its time to make tea everyone knows grab the remote and turn up the volume, the “angry kettle” is about to take over
    crap hate the damn thing, as for toasters enuf said, they were invented to test your levels of sanity

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  4. Ha ha!!

    Totally agree re “can’t we UN-invent the word?”

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  5. Yes, but in this case Woolies deserves it ’cause they’re well know to be truly horrible to their suppliers, have ruined a goodly number of small local businesses, are arrogant, high-handed – and this is but one instance among several in the last year or so in which this company has had a social media ‘whoopsie’. Remember that local beverage company that they outright copied and ripped off? Woolies, among those who know, suffers from what some have called ‘Corporate Dissonance Disorder’ – some parts of the organisation mean well and are doing good stuff, others care only about profit and don’t give a … beyond that. This BEE thing is merely a legalistic fig-leaf for them. Affirmative action is, regardless of the rationale behind it, still racism – and no, Chris, you sadly can’t un-invent the word, since it describes a real human issue. Preferring some, and by extension, discriminating against others, on a racial basis is by definition racist, now and will always be so. In time, when BEE/BBEE (or whatever they call it next) is no long PC, this truth will be known and accepted by all, just as apartheid is now more or less universally accepted as having been racist and immoral – and remember how morally ‘correct’ and justified the proponents of that system sounded in their day.
    Also, it’s mildly interesting that you remember such personal tidbits about other people’s doings from so very long ago, Chris. Kinda makes a person wonder about what you spend you days thinking about.

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    • Um, could you repeat the question please? I didn’t understand much of it.

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  6. Best Droop ever, Chris, especially re SAA. And I’m so with you regarding Russell Hobbs. I got a supersonic-LED-lit kettle four months ago and now the lid sticks. Might as well go back to Pineware: at least I expect to have to replace it once a year.

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    • Yes Shelagh, our numbers are growing – we” soon take over SAA and ban all Russell Hobbs products.

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  7. I LOVE WOOLIES and will continue to support them because they make shopping a pleasure, for many reasons … unlike the others who no doubt have the same Affirmative Action policies, but also go on strike, have dirty stores, grumpy cashiers and unhelpful store managers. I LOVE 1TIME – talk about brilliant service — pity they don’t fly to UK and take SAA’s slot; sure I’m not the only frequent 1Time flyer who hopes they survive.

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  8. So what toaster do I buy, now that my “Ideal” branded one (who?) lasted about 12 years and is about to kick the bucket or the kettle or whatever…?

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  9. The thing is that my wife now twice bought ‘bad’milk from Woolworths.

    I suspect they have continuous contracts with suppliers. A boycott means they have to stock-pile some products.

    As the quality goes down many people will say: Let’s wait until this is over.

    One very poorly managed PR exercise can have long-term effects.

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  10. hiya Chris,

    first time I’ve read your droop and I enjoyed it. I couldn’t agree more with your SAA comments, though I gave up (voluntarily) using SAA a number of years ago after a whole lot of items were stolen from my bags, and the complete lack of interest and unwillingness to help by SAA made that decision easy.

    In defence of Russel Hobbs, my kettle is nine years old and still works great… maybe nothing like older quality…

    I agree with Richie re Woolworths, they are arrogant and uncaring, unless of course you are a customer; and have in many ways brought this upon themselves, I have little sympathy for them. Most importantly, we all know that BBEEE is alive and well in South Africa and practised by almost all large and medium businesses, but most of them don’t point out to whites that they shouldn’t bother to apply for a position; when one doesn’t get an answer to a job application, we generally know why we didn’t get the job. So why put yourself at the risk of being accused of being racist by stating the obvious?

    I no longer use Woolies, but that has little to do with their employment policies, but more as an overtaxed, middle class, middle aged white male, I need every cent I can get for my retirement. With some judicious shopping, I can get all I need at pretty much cheaper prices and equitable quality elsewhere..

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  11. I am glad to see my article on woolworths racism is still ranking on the first page of Google :-)

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  12. LOL no wonder Edgars was selling all their Russell hobbs products at less 50% and i bought some lets hope it works.

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  13. Nice one Chris, always enjoy your articles. :) Sadly there is a profound fact in the “racism” comment, it will always be used by people to excuse their behaviour and actions even when 1994 is a distant memory 50 years later…
    BEE policies are nothing but more of the same by yet another corrupt (and not to subtle) goverment intent on filling their own pockets with ill-gotten gains.
    Blind leading the blind so to speak. Will sanity prevail in SA?
    I doubt it, the drivers of this bus have their own agenda.

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  14. Just on SAA – On Tuesday night they bumped this lady from a paid for (8 months prior) Business Class seat on a flight to New York, to a seat in Economy! WHY – because a fat cat government official needed her seat. Does this sound familiar? No one was around to assist with this situation, help her retrieve her baggage from the flight, get her back out of the airport – eventually Air France personnel came to the rescue! Now that’s really fabulous customer service – I don’t think!

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    • It’s a government airline Nan. If you’re a government official then you can take whatever seat you want! And remember that, as a tax payer, we are all subsidising SAA and paying for that fat cat’s ticket too. They should throw him off (from 31,000 feet).
      Nice of Air France though!

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  15. your comments are so funny – at 12.30 am Friday Morning I have had the best laugh ever.

    You truly need to develop this talent of yours further – could be the beginning of a great new career!

    LOL – certainly had a good laugh- thank you!

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    • Thanks! I’m assuming that at 12:30 am a fair amount of wine had been made to disappear? (Everything’s funnier then). It was very kind of you to post a reply – made my morning!

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  16. I wsh the vitriolic mayhem against Woolies would be leveraged against Shell. I will drive on empty before I stop there.

    But more so, I wish every parent (who right now is pretending to boycoot woolies) trying to get their matriculating children into SA universities and their respective residences would spew as much hate speech and anger at th governemt and non-minister of education. For it is at this juncture where racism starts. Non white learners from our esteemed private schools with privileged upbringing should have to qualify with same higher number of points. Poor white children who walk to school and don’t get text books should gain from lower points entrance requirements. Or even better, all do away with this two tiered entry system.

    Our universities barely make it into being ranked less than 175th in world. Therefore by the grace of my hard work, I can afford to educate my sons in the uk, where their hard work in matric gave them equal opportunity to apply and be accepted into universities ranking around 20. As Son One’s friend’s father, Mr Mwai said, SA universities aren’t good enough for my son, as he shipped his son to the uk.

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