‘The Customer is King’ and other lies we’re told.

I am a stickler for good customer service. I’m not ashamed to admit it, and neither should you.

However, as you go through life you realise good customer service is often in rare supply, many a business promises it but only a few actually deliver it. Unfortunately, most of us find this out the hard way; when we’re face to face with a rude waiter at dinner or listening to music as we’re placed on hold in the midst of a battle with customer services of some online retailer. I for example, was in a battle with a courier company late last year who had a package of mine that they decided to deliver to a random address I did not even put on the payment form at checkout. However, because of the pandemic I really had no one to complain to because this courier company thought it would be great idea to close down their call centres throughout most of last year – a business decision which makes no logic sense to me but I digress. Sigh.

Fighting for your rights

Me when I’m put on hold by customer services (again)

As much as it sucks to accept, that age old marketing phrase ‘The Customer is King’ doesn’t always seem to translate in the reality of how many businesses operate nowadays. If you, as the customer do not push for what you want (in a reasonable manner, of course) you will often not get the results you want to see. Whether it’s having your burnt food replaced with a new dish, or getting a refund for a holiday cancelled by an airline (as many flocked to do during the start of the pandemic.) It may require lots of angry emails to customer service, visits to store and even letters and phone calls but hopefully it will be worth it when you’re tucking into your newly made dish or rolling around in refund flight money.

This is one of the reasons why it’s so important to know our rights as consumers – there’s many podcasts and online resources out there which can help with this. Many in the UK, for example, will be familiar with TV and consumer finance expert, Martin Lewis who offers a lot of advice on customer rights on his site MoneySavingExpert.

Of course, I hope you’ll never get to the point where you need legal ammunition but it’s always worth having in your arsenal if a company gets lazy and won’t budge regarding your query.

The right formula

From the retail side of things, I can understand that good customer service can be tricky, you’ll often get a variety of customers you have to serve and not everyone will be pleased with the type of service you offer – even if you think it’s great and quite extensive. Some may like the chat bots you offer on your site for example, whilst others – like me – may find them extremely annoying and ineffective – just get me a human to talk to, please!

Yet, customer service at its core is quite simple. People want transparency, quality products and when being dealt with, want it to be done with respect and honesty. Although how those components look on a pie chart may have changed percentage-wise, those demands themselves have not. Additionally, as people within the age of social media, users of brands are being more vocal than ever before about their experience with brands and what they want. In other words, what customers want is not exactly a mystery – businesses just need to make sure they’re doing leg work and keeping their ear close the ground to figure out what we want and then actually make steps to make it happen.

__________

What do you think? Let’s talk! Do you have any good or bad customer service stories to share and what do you value most from customer service?

If you liked this you may enjoy my previous article on our toxic relationships with brands.

War of the Streets

We live in a city where dwellers roam the intersection of boy and man

Carrying blades close to skin

And the weight of a masculinity seeped in poison

Ego eats the mind, reincarnating itself as blood on the streets

Darkness which eclipses the heart

Dagger is protection

Person is foe

Two truths can exist

But in the end only one life can live

How did it get to this?

Why Google shouldn’t always be the answer

There is no doubt that the internet has changed the way we learn things – online courses, Youtube tutorials, how-to blogs, even e-books – the list is endless when it comes to the rich resources at our disposal.  Whenever we’re stuck on something, for example for me – it may be some weird glitch on Excel; I’ll have a browse on Google and suddenly find myself scrolling through a random IT advice forum thread looking for an answer. And let’s not lie – Google is pretty good at its job and will (eventually), four times out of five, usually provide a helpful answer to your query.

Cheers, mate: My polite response when someone gives me the ground breaking advice of ‘just google it’.

However, before the vortex that is the internet, humans were our first port of call for learning things. Apprentices in jobs that require the mastery of the hands – would closely shadow a professional in that field, carefully watching them at work, taking notes and eventually imitating. Similarly, before the numerous recipe blogs and Youtube vlogs out there – recipes were passed down orally or learnt through the close observation of family members preparing a certain dish.

Humans have and always will be valuable to the learning process – and this doesn’t stop in the face of the internet. It’s why I get slightly annoyed when someone asks a simple question and others patronisingly say ‘Why don’t you Google it?!’. Yes, they could definitely do that – and perhaps they will or plan as a second step; but is it so wrong that their first port of call was to actually ask you, a fellow human for your opinion? I don’t think so.

Of course, don’t get me wrong, there are definitely some instances where this attitude is justified. For example, when it comes to educating ourselves on the struggles of marginalised communities, referring to digital resources can often be a more thoughtful approach. This is simply because when asking questions to members of these communities, many people ‘on the outside’ often do so with a sense of entitlement – they don’t owe you or have a duty to educate you. There is often also an emotional labour that comes with explaining the struggles you go through as a marginalised person that can often threaten your peace or happiness, especially if you have to do it repeatedly. For example, many black individuals have to repeatedly explain why non-black people should not use the n-word; explanations that often go on deaf ears and knowledge that you probably have just gotten from Google without involving a poor soul who is probably tired of having this conversation.

This aside though, and overall – I think we need to be find a way to tip the balance and bring humans back into the learning process once more. And by that I mean, asking a question to someone as your first port of call. At the moment, it feels like the balance is skewed and the internet always takes priority – people will trudge through several pages and PDFs for answers, if it doesn’t mean apparently inconveniencing another soul. (To be honest I can’t say I’m 100% innocent on that front!) Yet, the danger is even when it comes to matters dealing with life or death, people will apply this mentality – they, for example, don’t want to bother doctors or they want a quick fix answer (which has a high chance of being incorrect depending on the source), they’ll therefore go to Dr Google and hope for the best.

As a world bombarded by tech, how do we go about changing something so ingrained into our behaviour and normalise…well, just asking people? God knows.

All I’ll say is next time someone asks you something – accept that yes, it could be googled but they’ve asked you and probably for a reason. Don’t chide them and sneeringly say (or type), ‘you should just google it’ – give them some credit. If you don’t know – just apologise, admit you don’t have an answer (or point them to another person or resource) and move on. It’s not that hard, it’s nice and it’s free.

If we’re not careful ‘the grass is always greener’,

Is a mentality that can dictate our lives

Like an angry colonel, deafening and persistent

It turns split second smiles to plastic

It eats away at our happiness as we stand in the midst of it

A relentless fire that starts to burn the ground of your security

Perhaps, the grass is only greener because you’re scorching the ground

of the life-giving grass you already stand on.

Around the World on Netflix

International TV and film content is where it’s at these days. Although the US does continue to produce some fairly good (and addictive content), many countries outside of the West have equally as good content which tends to (frustratingly) often fly under the radar outside of their own borders. This seems to be, in my opinion, because if it’s not critically acclaimed (i.e. the winner of a BAFTA or a film festival of some sort), then there is a lack of incentive to give it a exposure by the media in the West. Films like Oscar winning South Korean movie, Parasite for example have done a great job of gaining Western exposure – but the Academy Award win does play a significant part in why that has been possible.

In this post I’ve decided to celebrate some international content which I’ve watched on Netflix and would highly recommend you do too (if you fancy, of course).

He Even Has Your Eyes – France

A black French family find themselves in an uphill battle when they decide adopt a white baby. I honestly loved this film, it was comedic but knew when to take itself seriously too. The adoption process is not one that is free from institutional racism and this film does a good job of showing that. Similarly, although I’m sure it definitely happens, we hardly hear of cases where black families adopt white children, so for me, the film has strong premise alone that made it really interesting to watch. The couple at the heart of the film were adorable and I rooted for them at every step. Ultimately, it’s not just about race though but about love, family and perseverance.

Ajeeb Daastaans – India

These series of short films, compiled together in a two-hour ish film are simply amazing. They are able to draw you in, get you emotionally invested in the characters of the story and then – in some cases – leave you hanging. The first story is about a poor man who falls in love with the wealthy but suffering wife of his employer; seems like your typical love story at first but there is more to it then meets the eye. My favourite story is the last one which is predominately done in sign language and explores two parents trying to adapt to life with their daughter who is slowly losing her hearing. I could continue but an easier option is probably just watching for yourself! 😉

You’ve Got This – Mexico

What happens when as a woman your star is rising (you’re smoothly sailing to the top in your career) and your partner decides now is the time he wants to have a child? This is exactly the situation protagonist, Ceci finds herself in with her husband, Alex. Interestingly, she has never wanted children and so her husband sets out to prove one is a good idea – something that seems destined for failure. I enjoyed this film and the themes it tackled; also can we take a moment to appreciate just how stunning the lead actress (Esmeralda Pimentel) is?? Anyway, I’ve always been intrigued in media portrayal of women that don’t want children since growing to love Cristina Yang in Grey’s Anatomy whose storylines predominately centred around this fact. It’s still a counter cultural in the media but actually more common then we think, so I’m interested to see how representation increases around this stance.

Diamond City – South Africa

When I say this series had me GRIPPED throughout you can believe me! After becoming entangled in a conspiracy involving government officials, her superiors at work and the human trafficking of women, lawyer Lendiwe finds herself falsely accused of a crime and thrown into prison. The way this series ended had me on tenderhooks – it will definitely be a great injustice if a second season is not produced.

It’s Okay to Not be Okay – South Korea

This recent watch of mine really melted my heart. It has been on my radar for a while and has come highly recommended by friends, and I can now see why. It’s gentle and nuanced portrayal of mental health makes it a realistic, encouraging and I’m sure even relatable watch for many. I love how each episode is themed around a different children’s story and the significant investment this show makes in each character’s personal development. At its heart it’s about the power and meaning of family but it is also intertwined in a complicated love story between the two protagonists – renowned children’s book author Ko Mun-yeong and a carer on a psychiatric ward – Moon Gang-tae (played by Kim Soo-hyun, who is apparently currently the highest paid actor in South Korea!)

Betty en NY – Mexico/US

This heartwarming telenovela was one of the best things I watched over a lockdown. Based on the original telenovela the popular US TV show Ugly Betty was based on, this series follows Betty as she takes a job as an EA in a fashion house – finds herself and finds love and fights for it! There are so many hilarious moments and the production of this show is so intricate – from the gowns to the sets themselves – everything is to be admired. Do bear in mind though that as a telenovela it’s quite a lengthy show, spanning over 100 episodes I believe. But even with that in mind I was so disappointed when it finished!

Citation – Nigeria

At the start of this film, we see that the protagonist student, Moremi (Temi Otedola) has filed a complaint against one of her university lecturers for attempted sexual assault. What follows is a battle of he said/she said accompanied by flashbacks which reveal the truth to us watching of what really happened. Moremi is a smart, determined female character, I like that she wouldn’t take the injustice she experienced lying down. I did find the constant jumping in between the present and the past a bit confusing at times but there is good commentary to be taken from this film on the many obstacles victims of assault and harassment face when trying to ensure their perpetrators are punished.

The Fishermen’s Diary – Cameroon

This remarkable film chronicles a young girl called Ekah who lives in a fishing village with her dad and longs for an education. She often sees all the young school kids running through the village and longs to be amongst them. However, he dad – one amongst many in the village who don’t see educating girls as a necessary investment – refuses to let her go to school. However, this doesn’t stop Ekah and she decides to take her education into her own hands; – the question is, will she succeed? The sombre realism of this film, was saddening and made it a hard, but yet inspiring watch as you witness this resilient little girl overcome so many obstacles to obtain something many of us take for granted.

______________

That’s all from me! Let me know if you have watched any of these or have some international film/drama recommendations for me to add to my list.

Don’t forget to follow me on IG @TheArtofChatter 🙂

The higher we climb, the harder we fall…

Trigger warning: I touch on the topics of mental illness, addiction and eating disorders in this piece.

Watching Demi Lovato’s docu-series on Youtube ‘Dancing with the Devil’, which chronicles their journey with addiction and their road to recovery, got me thinking this weekend about just how fragile we as humans are. We are flawed, often egotistical yet constantly learning as we navigate each stage of life. Why is it then that we love to put fellow humans on pedestals, elevating them to a standard even they themselves often feel they cannot reach?

This is one of the things Demi touches on during the documentary, as over the years they have become somewhat of a role model for many when it comes to mental health advocacy. However, what no-one knew was that they were battling with addiction on the side lines; making the public perception of them and what the real Demi was like as different as night and day.

I honestly could not imagine the amount of pressure such expectations can place on a person. You have 5,10,15-year-olds saying your art has changed their lives or got them through a hard time and that one day they want to be like you. It would be impossible to shrug that off without feeling some sort of burdensome weight of a duty to live up to this fantasy they have moulded of you.

Humans were not designed to be worshipped (for several obvious reasons.) A key one being we don’t have it all together, we don’t possess the perfection that is exclusively associated with God. Being idolised can definitely build ego but it can also create a quick path to inner destruction. Celebrity worship is often reductive – individuals are often being lauded all the time for a carefully crafted perception of themselves they and their teams have worked hard to portray. Or more simply, it could be because of looks alone or a talent like basketball or singing that makes people all googly eyed. Unfortunately, such talents are fleeting – they can take years to build and be gone in a matter of minutes.

So, in other words, we’re never really worshipping celebrities for who they are because we’ll never be privy to the real them, we’re in love with who we think they are. The unrealistic expectations of others become internalised which can then manifest themselves in toxic ways – for Demi, for example this was through disordered eating. This coupled with the toxic nature of cancel culture means there’s also a pressure to never step over the line. Making mistakes (whether publicly or not) is part of growing up but nowadays, one wrong step and your career is in jeopardy.

Demi isn’t the only one who has recently grappled with mental health in the public eye. Naomi Osaka recently withdrew from the French Open after being forced by event organisers to since they wouldn’t allow her to pass on media interviews for the sake of her mental health. Jesy Nelson, former member of the British girl band Little Mix recently left the band, stating reasons related to the protection of mental health. Similarly, in the past many other celebrities have been open about their struggles with mental illness – Billie Eilish, Kanye West and even Mariah Carey, to name a few.

Of course, fame hasn’t been the direct cause of mental health struggles for many celebrities but it can certainly exacerbate them, especially if they previously existed before fame. For Naomi and Jesy it seemed as if they had reached the point where mental wellbeing and peace could not exist alongside the environment they were working in, so an ultimatum was reached. The fact many people, famous or not, have to choose between their work or mental wellbeing is very unfortunate. It shows – despite or the lovely ‘discussions’ we are having around mental health – we still have a long way to go in properly providing the related support people need for recovery, treatment or prevention.

_______________________________

Thanks for reading! If you’re interested in reading more on celebrity culture I wrote about some thoughts after watching the Framing Britney Spears documentary which you can read here.

The Evil within: A review of Girl From Nowhere

‘Underneath it all we’re just savages, hidden behind shirts, ties and marriages’ – Savages by Marina and the Diamonds

Many theories have argued throughout time that without the laws, social conventions and norms society has created, humans would truly not function properly. The result? Think Lord of the Flies/ The Purge type anarchy. Of course, we’ve never been in the conditions to truly test the validity of this line of thought but if many true crime cases, past and present, have taught us anything is that in the right circumstances humans will naturally care about nothing but themselves.

Recently I’ve been watching the Thai drama on Netflix, Girl from Nowhere. The series centres around a seemingly innocent girl named Nanno who joins a school and starts causing havoc by bringing out the inner demons in those around her. In each episode she operates in a new school and deals with different characters who battle with different individual vices. For the most part she acts as their tempter, the snake to their Eve, honing in on their deepest desires and dangling in front of them something that will unlock them if only they take the bait.

What distinguishes this drama from many others is that not much is revealed about its mysterious protagonist at all – all we do know is that she is devious – borderline genius, borderline maniac. She also doesn’t appear to human meaning the lengths she goes to to teach people the error of their ways will undoubtedly shock you. A Thai audience may perhaps see Nanno has an executor of karmic justice, avenging those who have been wronged and punishing wrongdoers for acts that may have otherwise gone unpunished.

However – and bafflingly so – in some episodes she does seem to torment people that don’t necessarily seem to deserve it. (TK from season one (ep8) and Jenny X from season 2 (ep7)) come to mind.) Yes, they have their issues but then again who doesn’t? Does makes you wonder a bit about how exactly Nanno goes about choosing her targets…

Lots of questions are raised and I enjoy the subtle social commentary found in each episode. Ultimately at the heart of each episode is the question, can this person change? It seems like the assumption to this question in most of the dramas episodes is ‘no’, although we can never say for sure with certainty.

Season two was recently released (which I have now finished 😅) and definitely ups the ante whilst, interestingly, revealing a possible more ‘human’ side to Nanno.

Note that although I would recommend the drama, I would do so cautiously since it has very dark themes (it is rated an 18 on Netflix). A few twitter users have circulated guide with trigger warnings for each episode of season one, which may prove useful. For those who liked the popular drama Black Mirror (also on Netflix) then this drama is definitely for you.

___________________________________________

Have you watched Girl from Nowhere or do you perhaps have it on your Netflix list? Share below and we can discuss! 😊

Some films I’ve recently watched on Netflix include: The Woman in the Window, Run (Netflix film featuring Sarah Paulson), Love Squared, Rich in Love and Atlantics.

*Featured image belongs to Netlfix.

Image description: Protagonist Nanno stands leaning on a wall within a corridor, wearing a school uniform whilst looking into the distance.

You Had to Be There

Sometimes moments are just for us

Between us two

Between our eyes, between our hearts, between our lips.

As gravity pulls us down and love draws us closer

We’re sworn to silence with

echoes of laughter

It’s often very hard to capture certain moments you experience in words. This is why I’ve often been in awe when celebrities who go on late night shows like Graham Norton retell funny stories with the enthusiasm and enough dramatics in the right places to have you hooked and eventually chuckling. Perhaps the skill partially lies in their acting training, after all mastering the ability to create whole worlds with your words would, naturally I presume, make you a great storyteller. It’s likely they’ve had practice telling certain stories too since I’m sure some have the ability to be natural crowd-pleasers wherever they go.

However, on the other hand, sometimes when I retell a story I can just hear myself letting the story down, not doing justice to the moment itself and how vivid or exciting it was. How scared or taken by surprise I was. Or how elated I felt. It’s almost feels like how when you boil certain vegetables, they tend to lose the goodness they hold in their raw state. You’ve experienced the ‘raw goodness’ of the moment (so to speak) and now or you can serve those who weren’t there is the boiled leftovers of that moment.

Moment 4 Life

To be honest, this inability to capture some moments in words is not always a bad thing. It can actually make you more appreciative of the moments you share with those close to you because it’s likely that outside of the bubble of that moment between you and the people within it, the magic of it cannot be recreated.

Sometimes when on the verge of such moments I often get excited and – with the anticipation – even feel a tinge of sadness as I imagine the moment fizzling to an end and becoming a simple memory. Does anyone else experience that or is it just me? The best way to describe it is like the anticipation you feel as you bake something and are watching the batter rise in the tin through the small oven window. You’ve done everything the recipe instructed, and now you’re expecting greatness. Of course, with moments you experience there’s lot of other factors that come into consideration; even if you’re with your favourite people or person in a great place, moods, actions and conversation need to align to create that magical spark you’ll remember for years to come when recollecting that period. It’s not often the spark happens, but when it does – especially unexpected – it’s really beautiful.

_____________________________________________________

Thanks for reading. Don’t forget to follow my blog here and on Instagram @TheArtofChatter

Liked this topic? You can find another post I’ve done exploring the nature of memories here or one on special moments here.

*Featured Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash

The Alcoholic

He looks into his glass

Hoping to see the reflection of a saviour

In the swirl of brown liquor before him.

Propped up by the blindness of others

He sips and is violently propelled to a high

Of ethereal happiness

Narrowly just avoiding the grasps of reality

By ordering another drink