Posts tagged ‘mentality’

September 18, 2008

When companies don’t want your money

“Hi, is this [company which makes recycled poo-scooping bags]?”

“yes, how can I help you?”

“I would like to buy some of your recycled bags, so I’m wondering how much are they?”

“you would like to buy what?”

“er.. recycled bags. Which you make.”

“We don’t sell them.”

“Wait, aren’t you [company name]? I saw your phone number on the bin in the park, the one with the bags for scooping dog poo.”

“Oh, those bags. Right, yes, we have them (I dread to ask what other bags or strange artifacts they could possibly have so that she is this confused), but we only sell them in large quantities”

“Well, I’d really like to buy them. How much would I have to buy?”

(smiles nervously) “well… er… around… a thousand”

“Ok, great! So how much is that?”

“er, I don’t know…”

“… What?”

“I’m going to have to check. Can I get your phone number, and I’ll call you with the info, ok?”

“… Sure… no problem…”

(3 days and 0 phone calls later I call them)

“Ah, sorry for not calling you. I still wasn’t able to find out the price for the bags. Our boss is out of town, so we’ll know the price from Monday when he’s back.”

Right. This is exactly the moment to revert to that meme and simply give up. I, possibly the first person to have called the company, am offering them money for the things which they sell. I want to buy their stuff. However, I can’t, because they don’t know the prices of the products which they sell.

However, I’m very glad that I don’t have even the slightest drop in my motivation for doing this thing. I’ve made a firm, rational decision and the rest is simply going to happen. If they can’t sell me their bags, I will find some other recycled paper bags. Or ordinary paper bags. Or whatever. My dog’s poo will be scooped.

But it still boggles me. She was confused when I called. I mean, why put your number on all the bins then? Who are you expecting to call you, your mom?

I have almost too many examples like this one, but as I said, there’s no point in letting them get to me. However, I am thinking about what can be further done to make the other person understand the absurdity of the situation. Another example:

I went to a certain clothes shop because someone told me that there’s a fire sale going on there. As shopping for clothes so far has been a very rare and mysterious, nay, mystical occurrence for me, and I’ve lost some weight recently, I’ve more or less ended up without almost anything to wear for the winter. So, possibly for the first time in my life I’m eager to go and buy clothes (I will not say “shopping”. Shopping is for metrosexuals).

I enter the shop and, since I’m not sure that I’m in the right place, I ask the guy who works there: “Sorry, is there a fire sale going on here?” He simply says: “no.”

I go out, confused. Yes, I know I’m lost when it comes to knowing the locations of stores with clothing, but this is the only clothes shop in the street, and it fits the very specific description. I call my friend, and she confirms that this is the place.

I go back in, go up to the third floor and I find that most of men’s clothing is on a big discount, sometimes up to 50%. So, I was misinformed, it wasn’t a fire sale, it was just a big sale.

Is that guy who works there demented? Again, I, the eager customer who really wants to give them money i.e. his prime target, am asking him if there’s a fire sale. Instead of saying something like “Well, we do a really great sale with huge discounts, so it’s the same thing really.”, he simply says “no”. Lying to me would have been better. He should have said yes, and I would have gone up there and I wouldn’t know the difference between a fire sale and a “regular” sale.

So I want to tell him all of this, but, of course, a part of me is screaming: “Is there any semblance of a point in telling him?!?”.

How can you influence such people? How do you show them why it’s important to always strive being better in what you’re doing, whether it’s sports, science or selling clothes?

I guess I’m coming back to my new meme, which more or less is: “Shut up and behave the way you sincerely believe people should behave, and some day they’ll behave like you.”

But I’m afraid it’s a hell of a lot more complicated than that.

September 17, 2008

dog shit and responsibility

One of the easiest ways for me to start a conversation with the taxi driver is to comment on the weather, which is quite often bad (either too hot or too cold) and at times completely unpredictable (too hot, then suddenly too cold). I always do that with the following sentence (very loosely translated, so it looses the punch it has in Serbian) “Our weather is just like (i.e. as bad as) our country.” They never fail to smile and agree with me, for most people here share the more or less same view:

Serbia is a country where things just don’t work.

It’s a big meme here, really. Whether you’re standing for hours in a long queue, arguing with the clerk at the post office, paying ridiculous amounts for essential every-day food & necessities (a pair of Nike sneakers which is $40 in America is around $160 here) or watching the politicians throwing black-magic-ish curses at their opponents (I’m not kidding), you’re bound to sigh disappointedly and say something like the following: “I’m not surprised in the least; it’s just the sort of thing to expect in a country like Serbia”.

Now there are people who are really struggling to survive, working long hours for minimal wages (the average salary here is officially around 400 euros (a bit more than $600) per month, which in itself is insufficient for anything resembling a  normal life, and in reality a lot of people are working for as low as half of that). I feel that I have no right to say anything about their being frustrated, because I am lucky to be in a way better financial situation than them.

However, what does tick me off is that this meme has become a sort of a national, general excuse for avoiding all kinds of responsibility: “When everything’s falling apart, why should I play fair and, say, not use my connections to enroll my kid in this high-school or university? Or not scream irritably at someone in the queue, because they would also scream at me?” In addition, we almost enjoy looking at ourselves as the victims, as if there’s something cool about living in a country which always seems to be not so much on the verge of breakdown as generally half-broken.

I think the worst part is that we apply the same way of thinking to things which depend almost solely on our own behavior. For instance, recently in parks they’ve put a few containers with recycled paper-bags for scooping your dog’s number two. I’ve rarely seen anyone use it, and I myself never got around to using it. It took a sense of shame, after having some lady on the street criticize me for not picking it up, to get me thinking. Yes, I don’t want to step on a piece of dog shit, or see children catch some disease or something. Yes, I know there’s practically no effort or time required for doing it. But why then haven’t I seen almost anyone use the bags? Ok, so I’ve heard that they are used more often in another park, so whether or not that’s true, let me rephrase the question: Why hadn’t I, the person whose main interests and activities revolve around motivating and teaching people how to basically be better, more responsible persons, started using them?

Thinking about it, I came back to that meme: It’s simply easier to not change your behavior when it seems that no one else is changing their own. And since there’s no law requiring us to clean our dogs’ mess, and thus no fine for misbehavior, there’s even less incentive to try to scoop. If anyone asked me why I’m not scooping, I think that I wouldn’t even try thinking of a good excuse – I’d simply revert to the meme.

This is something which depends solely on one’s personal beliefs and behavior. However, through behaving in a certain way, we also set a new standard toward which others may aspire. From simple things like scooping dog poo we can slowly move toward more complex and difficult ones, and slowly, step by step, we can increase the overall “average level” of responsibility that each one of us has.

So, I decided not to wait for a law, more public shame or something else to influence me to change my behavior. I’ve decided to start cleaning up shit, both my dog’s and my own.  It’s time to put some effort into becoming a more responsible citizen and setting a positive example for other people, because I feel that these things are something that our country desperately needs. Some things are changed by laws and some are a consequence of a strong economy, but, as I said, there are also things which rely solely on our own sense of responsibility. Our country may not be as economically developed or as well-organized as some other countries, but I’ll be damned if our citizens can’t be as personally responsible as theirs.