Sunday, September 4, 2011

September 4, 2011 - The Pomegranate Incident of 2011

This blog could also be titled, "My Love/Hate Relationship with Nakumatt".  

In case you don't know, Nakumatt is the largest supermarket chain in Kenya.  It sells everything from groceries to appliances to cosmetics to books to furniture and more.  It is basically like a Kenyan Walmart, except it is an expensive store, catering to middle class and wealthy Kenyans, as well as the expat community.  And really, the "love" part of my relationship with Nakumatt is that it does, in fact, have a lot of things that I need or want to buy, including imported goods like Bisquick (pancake mix) and (as you will read below) pomegranate.  The "hate" part of my relationship stems from a number of "incidents" regarding their policies and procedures or staff.  I can't think of any expat I know who completely loves Nakumatt, because if you shop there regularly (or maybe even once!) you are bound to be frustrated by something or someone at some point.  Rose even told me that her previous employer said that the thing she would miss the least about Kenya was Nakumatt!  So anyway...

Some of the "incidents" I've had at (or issues I've had with) Nakumatt are:
  • you pay a deposit on your 20 liter plastic water bottles and when you return the bottles, they give you store credit.  BUT they won't let you use your store credit for anything other than more 20 liter water bottles AND the water bottles have to be the SAME BRAND that you bought before.  So if you don't ever want to buy more water bottles they won't let you spend your credit AND if the water bottles you bought before are currently out of stock THEY WILL NOT LET YOU use your store credit to buy a different brand of water!  I have argued with various staff about this policy many, many times. I can feel my blood boiling just writing about it.  IT IS STORE CREDIT! JUST MONEY!  DOESN'T MATTER WHAT I USE IT FOR! IT'S ALL THE SAME TO YOU! The last time I fought this battle was two days before Noah was born, when I pretty much threatened the manager that I would give birth in the checkout aisle if they didn't let me use my credit for diapers.  It was not pretty (and Charles was waiting to take the shopping cart to the car and was SOOOO embarrassed I'm sure to be seen with the crazy, pregnant, mzungu Mama who was yelling at everyone).
  • they price their cheese at the deli per 100 grams but they will almost never let you actually buy 100 grams of cheese!  I have had more than one fight with people who work at the deli when I've wanted to buy 100 grams of a particular cheese and they will say, "I can't cut it that small..." or "it's already cut and priced at 200 grams..."  Ok, that's fine: BUT THEN DON'T PRICE IT PER 100 GRAMS!  I can't even tell you how annoyed it makes me that they want me to buy more than I need, particularly because imported cheese is sooooo expensive in the first place, which my father learned when...
  • one day he asked for a few slices of turkey at the deli. They gave it to him.  He came home.  I discovered, when I went to make a turkey sandwich, that they had put someone else's price sticker for (more than 100 grams of) imported cheese on his turkey package because he paid the equivalent of $20 for his turkey.  Lucky for the person who went home paying about $3 for their huge block of cheese!
  • the people who are "experts" in a particular section almost never actually know what is in their section, where it is in their section, or what the heck you are looking for.  I know Kristoffer's mom has been sent on a wild goose chase for something that they didn't even sell in the store, because people kept telling her it was in a different section.
Lately, though, I've been a pretty efficient Nakumatt shopper and aside from the occasional cheese fight have not had anything new to complain about.  Until today.

Grace and Noah fell asleep on our way to run some errands, but Kristoffer and I managed to get what we needed at Nakumatt pretty quickly (Noah in his car seat, Grace in Kristoffer's arms), which included one pomegranate.  Pomegranates are imported here but have been "out of season" or something because we haven't seen any in about half a year.  Today we saw some!  And because we like them a lot and Grace is excellent at getting out those delicious little seeds, we bought one (even though they are pricey).

When the cashier had scanned everything, I noticed that the pomegranate was even more expensive than I expected. I mentioned the price to Kristoffer, who said it shouldn't be that much.  Sure enough, the sticker on the pomegranate was less than the price in the computer.  The cashier at first didn't understand my polite question:  "Shouldn't the pomegranate be Ksh 265 instead of Ksh 318?" He seemed puzzled and then mentioned something about it not being his fault.  Riiiiight, I don't care whose fault it is, I just want the price on the pomegranate.  So he had to call someone else to go back to the produce section and check the price.  That guy came back saying the Ksh. 265 price was right.  The register guy didn't know how to fix it because the computer is in charge and said the price was Ksh 318. So he had to call someone from the produce section to come look at the computer.  She also said that the Ksh price was correct but nobody knew what to do or how to fix the problem.  The register guy mentioned that it wasn't his fault, it was produce's fault that the price was scanning incorrectly.  Again, I didn't really care about the blame - I just wanted to buy the pomegranate (and yes, all of this over 53-freaking-shillings).  

So I asked him something like: "Can't you override it and manually put in the correct price?"  
To which he replied: "No, I can't fix it."  
My next question: "So, I can either pay too much for the pomegranate or not buy it at all?"
Him: "Yes."
Me: "Paying the actual correct price of the pomegranate is not an option?"
Him: "Right."
Me: "Wow, that's a great way to lose a lot of business."

During this time, Grace woke up and needed to go to the bathroom, Kristoffer took the other groceries to the car, and the Dutch guy behind me in line was encouraging me to just steal the damn pomegranate.  I ended up asking the register guy to just take the pomegranate off my bill because my 2-year-old needed to go pee-pee on the potty.  He had to get a manager to do it, OF COURSE, so we were still waiting; when Kristoffer came back I left him to pay for the other groceries while I took Grace to the potty (and, sadly, she had an accident just before we got there, thank you very much, stupid register guy).  And I wonder how much money Nakumatt makes when stuff like that happens and people aren't watching carefully as their items go through the scanner.  Seems like a gold-mine to me! 

We came home without a pomegranate, sigh, but with another reason why, like Rose's previous boss, I too will probably not miss Nakumatt in our next life.  


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