By Ogova Ondego
Published April 6, 2018
What would you do if you were to be made aware, prior to visiting a newly-opened shopping mall, that you’d be charged for the parking lot, the toilet and the children’s play ground?
Yes, I guessed so.
Would you still travel on that supposedly discount airline if you knew that it would charge you Sh200 per minute you spend in its toilet?
Yes, you are right once again.
But did you know that non-critical adoption of the worst Western capitalism practices in Africa is not only messing up African hospitality but also robs businesses of would-be loyal customers?
I have for a while restrained reporting on this practice that is fast catching up in the Kenyan capital, Nairobi, and its environs. But that restraint, after reading of a Canadian low cost airline’s introduction of Sh100 per minute to use its toilet, can no longer hold.
“There are costs associated with offering onboard lavatory amenities: Maintenance, water, cleaning, etc. Since not every traveler needs to use the lavatory on a flight, it stands to reason that using those amenities should only cost the people who use it, and not those who don’t,” a spokesperson for Swoop of Canada is quoted as having said a couple of days ago.
But Swoop would hardly be the fast so-called budget airlines, to charge for what is natural to and expected of every normal human being. Other airlines, like Ireland’s Ryanair, charge extra for items like hold luggage,food and drink, credit card payments, online and airport check-in and high fees for luggage that exceed 15 kilogrammes to make up for their so-called low basic fares.
Some time back, Ryanair was roundly criticised when it started charging passengers for use of toilets on its aircraft for flights scheduled for up to an hour. What irked critics even more was the fact that Ryanair said it was looking at reducing the number of toilets on board, leaving just one available cubicle for up to 190 passengers.
But what has Canada or Ireland got to do with Kenya?
A shopping mall in Ngong Hills on the outskirts of Nairobi is charging customers for the use of its toilets, motor vehicle parking space and a children’s playground. To be fair, the customers spend lots of money on shopping in the supermarket in the mall, the coffee and fast foods eateries and the clothes and shoes shops in the mall. Why would PCEA Milele Mall charge them again for a visit to the toilet? Or for children’s play area? Or for the parking of their cars?
Is a visit to the bathroom, to a healthy human being, not as natural as breathing or breaking of the wind? Is Milele Mall, that is owned by a church, also planning to charge customers for just stepping on its grounds?
To use a lavatory at Swoop, Canada’s ultra-low-cost carrier (ULCC), one will need to tap one’s credit card and the meter will start running as soon as one locks the door. The quicker one does one’s business, the less one will pay.
Though Milele Mall is not as sophisticated, I see it installing metres and paypoints for collecting fee for the use of the lavatory and parking and play areas while not only alienating but also pushing away would-be customers. Especially of the traditional African type.
Yes, there are costs associated with running the business. But why not factor these costs in the prices or fares without customers, clients or travellers being told they are for items such as lavatory use?
If you own or manage a shopping, travel or any hospitality facility, then it makes sense to have amenities to cater for the needs of young professionals, i.e. the 25-44-year-old demography. As they have their meetings or shop or work, such people need assurance that their children and cars are safe and secure on the premises. Don’t charge charge them for the air they breathe. Don’t tax them for the use of the lavatory. And you shall not only customers over but shall also make the tonnes of money you are looking for from loyal and returning customers who spend more time on your premises.