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...two travellers in search of the world's wildlife

12 September 2010


Useless people make angrybird angry!

Along with all the great memories of South Africa will be the abiding memory of the uselessness of helpful people. By this I mean people we met whose job is meant to be serving and helping the public; receptionists, tourist info people, etc. A couple of examples:

We checked into our last camp in the Kruger and tried to book a night game drive.

Me: “Can we book a night drive please?” *offer credit card*
Receptionist: “Sorry, I can’t take credit card – the machine isn’t working”
Me: “Oh. But I don’t have enough cash.”
Receptionist: *blank look*
Me (to Maureen): “That’s disappointing, we can’t do a night drive.”
We turn to leave, disconsolate. Maureen turns back.
Maureen: “I don’t suppose there’s an ATM in this camp?”
Receptionist: “Yes, just in the shop there.”
Me: “Well why the bloody hell didn’t you think to say so, you buffoon!?!”

I didn’t actually say that last bit, I only thought it. Similar story with a parking attendant in Cape Town. We arrived and parked at 4:15 to have an (early) meal.

Me: “I’d like to park for 2 hours please.”
Attendant: “You can only pay for 1 hour to park.”
Me: “Oh. So I can’t park for 2 hours?”
Attendant: “You have to come back to pay for an extra hour.”
So I paid for the hour, and at 5:15 before our main course arrived I ran out to pay for more parking. The attendant was hard to find, as he was wandering off down the road.
Me (breathless): “I need to pay for another hour of parking.”
Attendant (faintly incredulous): “We finish at 5pm, there’s no charge after 5.”
Me: “Well why the bloody hell didn’t you think to say so, you buffoon!?!”

Again, didn’t actually say that last bit. But I’ve repeated that phrase, or colourful variations, in my head about a half-dozen times on various occasions. Always when dealing with people paid to be helpful. It’s as though they are only capable of answering direct questions, and only with the minimum information needed to answer the question. Oh, go on, one more example ‘cos I like a moan…

At one of the Kruger camps there were two guys sitting, or rather slouching, under a sign that said “Guides”. So I thought I might ask some questions I had about the wildlife.

Me: “Hello. Can you tell me what kind of wildlife we might see if we go on a night drive?”
Guide: “Ask at reception, they can tell you more about that sort of thing.”
Me: *blank*

In complete contrast, the lovely people who have been our hosts at the various B&Bs and guest houses that we’ve stayed at have universally been helpful, friendly, informative and hospitable.

Oh, and definitely don’t bother with Tourist Information offices in South Africa. Despite the big “(i)” symbol, they aren’t public bureaus; they are private agents working on commission. They are entirely useless and know nothing at all about the local area except where to find the various places they get commission from. Watch out for them phoning up places for you “just to check availability” – once they’ve done this, if you choose to stay at that place they’ll get commission. Instead, find the first B&B you like the look of and enquire there. If they are full or too expensive, ask them for other alternatives. And once you find a place to stay, they will be able to tell you all about what you should do in the area. Top tip!

One Response to “Unhelpful”

  1. Matt's mum & dad says:

    Frustrating for you at the time but it did give us a good laugh!

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