Sat | Dec 5, 2020

Patria-Kaye Aarons | Hol’ down and tek

Published:Tuesday | June 4, 2019 | 12:00 AM

Hands up if you won the lotto this year. Hands up if your granny, or anybody else, died and left you a handsome inheritance. Hands up if you got a pay increase from your job this year. Or last year. Or the year before.

In the Jamaica I live in, very many people would have no reason to raise their hand for any of the above scenarios. Ben Johnson week is a permanent state in this hand-to-mouth circle of life.

Yet, some utility companies and service providers don’t think twice about raising their rates. Revenue losses due to anything from the movement in the dollar to theft to the weather, are passed on at the drop of a hat to consumers.

Digicel, for example, has announced not one, but two increases in under a year. Their Internet packages have gone up as much as 16.28 per cent over a period of just seven months. That one I find particularly unconscionable.

In many households, the ‘entertainment budget’ has been allocated near 100 per cent to pay for the Internet. Not only has it become a critical school tool, but it also has substituted for a night at the movies, clubbing, trips and phone calls to family afar. Because people just can’t afford the alternative.

I’d like the Real Estate Board rules to govern decisions made at the Office Of Utilities Regulation. Rent Board says landlords can’t increase what they charge more than once per year, and never more than 7.5 per cent. Similar rules should apply to other service providers.

There is a big disparity between the rising cost of living and the increases in people’s earnings. If we’re going to accept that most Jamaicans can’t find extras to put away for savings, where will they find the funds to pay for increased service prices? What…eat less? Beg more remittance?

DOING THE BEST

Maybe we should approach salary negotiations armed with different tactics. Instead of presenting your boss with evidence that you achieved your set performance targets, perhaps you should bring your bills and your household budget to the table. Do like the Opposition politicians at Budget presentation every year and show how much less your salary is able to accomplish year-on-year.

And I honestly can’t fault employers. I genuinely believe that many aren’t able to pay more. They are truly doing the best they can. If salaries were to increase with the cost of living, some companies would have to cut staff. Bottom line.

I’m not blind to the fact that there are certain conditions that cause profits to diminish when you do business in Jamaica. But like in so many other instances, the good suffer for the bad. Good customers are carrying the burden of theft, revenue losses from ageing and faulty networks, and it’s just lazy on your part.

Telling your customer “times are tough so we are raising our rates” just isn’t enough. Especially when your customers have huge issues with both the quality of service you provide and your customer service.

Happy customers don’t mind paying a fair price. When your service is unreliable and substandard, your competitors are few or non-existent, and I have to increasingly pay more and more, it feels like hol’ down and tek.

Patria-Kaye Aarons is a confectioner and broadcaster. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com and findpatria@gmail.com.