Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Sam's Club Haiti Style

We have a large team coming in next week. As we have shared in the past, groceries and many items that Americans are accustomed to using are very spendy here.

When we prepare for a team to come we are working with a budgeted amount per person. Right now the exchange rate is good for Haiti, and bad for us. It has changed from 8.3 when we got here to 7.8 yesterday. This means that we are losing about $10 U.S. for every person we are shopping for.

SO ... in an effort to stretch the dollars further we headed to Haiti's version of Sam's Club or Costco.

If you did not know where it was, it would be impossible to find. It is closed off with gates, so you need to know which gate to pull up to and honk.

Once they let you in, you go inside of a big warehouse looking building. Right when you enter you are in an office area with about five cubicles/employees. They wave you into the "showroom". The entire store/showroom is about 1,000 square feet. There are samples of the items they *think* they offer.

A lady follows you around and writes down what you want and tells you how many you get in a case, like Sam's Club, the idea is to buy in bulk.

The first item we decided on was an all-purpose cleaner. This house is very large; we go through cleaning supplies quickly. The saleslady wrote it down. Next we asked for a case of lemonade mix, a case of orange breakfast drink mix, a case of papertowel, a case of microwave popcorn, a case of little cups for the school kids, and a case of generic apple cinnamon cherrio's.

At that point we felt that we had probably spent enough and needed to head to the airport. It was 3:30.

We went back into the office area where we watched our salesperson look up the items on her computer. After ten minutes of that she said she did not have the orange drink. Not a problem, scratch that. Then about five more minutes of checking, she said she did not have the all-purpose cleaner ... not a problem, we can do without.

Next, she confirms that the remaining items are correct, shows us the prices and asks Troy to look at the invoice. He nods his head that it looks good and she draws this strange star-like scribble pattern on the paper ... but clearly, it means something official just by the serious way in which she draws it.

Troy asks if he can pay her. "No, not yet." is the answer he receives. We sit another five minutes. When she comes back she takes the money. She counts it and paperclips it to the invoice, brings it to a different desk and sets it down. We wait another five minutes. A different lady shows up and slowly produces the change we are owed and tells us we can go outside to pick it up. The time is now 4:20.

We go outside to a loading dock, hand our invoice to the guy who checks it and re-checks it. We claim the goods that are stacked up at the end of the dock.

As we waited forever in the office area I pointed out the wall hangings to Troy. Even our interpreter knew that there was something funny about them. When he asked why we were laughing, we pointed to the "Successories" posters and he laughed too.

The first one was: RULE #1 - If we don't take care of the customer someone else will.
(To which we all responded, WHO????)


The second poster: CUSTOMER CARE - It is not so much what we do, but how we do it that matters."

(They do it slooooow and inefficiently -- and that matters!)