In earlier years of this post- Independence era of Barbados, Barbadians were known to have bitterly complained about the treatment they received at the hands of sales assistants when attempting to do business in some establishments in and around Bridgetown. There was much talk of Barbadians being treated as second class citizens, since they were readily ignored for those of other races and pigmentation.
It would appear that cruise ship passengers and land-based tourists were often welcomed, accommodated and treated far more favourably than nationals.
Some would recall the times when taxi drivers ignored locals who sought their services in preference for the visitors, who often paid in United States or Canadian dollars. It is hard to believe that over time that this has changed. It is a sight to behold as taxi men now call out to locals to fill their empty vehicles.
It is an amazing sight to see sales assistants ushering locals without fuss or questions into establishments. The outreach has now reached the point where locals have been treated to duty-free shopping days in Bridgetown. This may be a dream come true, since this was once reserved for non-nationals.
The million-dollar question to be answered: is the country now paying a price for the shortcomings on the part and the business community?
There are lessons to be learnt from this. Nothing will last forever. Change is something that we should drive from within, or as fate may have it, it will be forced upon us. Who would have predicted that the tourists who once invaded our shores in large numbers would have slowly drifted away?
Nothing seems to have changed, as Barbados still sells and prides itself as the land of sun, sea and sand. Whereas this is true . . . .
Aren’t these obvious shortcomings that will impact on the island being the destination of choice by prospective visitors?
It would come as no surprise if persons identify the issues of crime and violence and the trafficking in drugs as the primary things to be fixed. The problem may however be wider than that. Given that the island has to compete with other destinations, it ought to address the issues of Barbados being a high-priced destination. The offering of quality services needs to move beyond the employment of attractive female sales assistants, to having such employees trained in service delivery.
The horrendous, sloppy and inefficient service now being handed to local and tourists alike in many quarters is totally unacceptable. Many stores and other places of business appear to be short-staffed. The current economic climate seems to be the perfect foil for some employers to lay off staff, even if the business has no real justification for doing so.
It is now customary to see long lines of customers in establishments waiting to be served, but alas there is virtually a skeleton staff to serve them.
Take for example some of the commercial banks who are apparently on a roll in executing staff redundancies. The teller stations are empty, and customers are often greeted with the signs Teller Closed or Next Teller. Those who have a gold card, or some other such designation, may be lucky to get served within a reasonable time, while the ordinary customers suffer long and frustrating waits.
The last thing that this country wants to have in a time of recession is inordinate downtime by members of the workforce. The man-hours spent by those who wait in long lines in commercial banks serve to put a further dent in the GDP of the nation.
Those who manage places of business in Barbados ought to be aware that there is a great price to be paid for the offering of poor and efficient service to the public. They should also come to grips with the fact that making adjustments is part of the survival strategy. (Dennis De Peiza is
a labour management consultant at Regional Management Services Inc. Visit our website www. regionalmanagementservices.
com Send your comments to [email protected] caribsurf.com)