They look at you with their sunken eyes and emaciated demeanour and only tolerate your presence because you are there. They can't ignore you and so they'll humour you with some response. But if you probe deeper, you'll see that their heart is not in it. They rather be elsewhere or if they had to be there it better be on a higher wage or at the same wage as some of the other privileged staff. They know it can never be and so they just smile back at you in that 'screw you' kind of look.
Why am I saying all this?
I was at the mall yesterday and went to this huge hypermarket to get a new TV and DVD player for my brother. He is on vacation and wanted to surprise his wife with a new entertainment system and asked me to make a purchase. After a series of disappointments in some of Manama's shops I decided the hypermarket would be the best place to go if I had to save my limbs from severe aches.
Well, it has been sometime since I visited this hypermarket (please note I haven't uttered the name of this silly establishment as yet) and my experience in all my previous visits had been fairly satisfying. Many of my friends have told me that things are not the same anymore at this place and that service has been going downhill. Well, considering the fact that most shop attendants in Manama don't seem enthusiastic about seeing any customers made me shake my head and wonder, how different can this hypermarket be anyway?
If yesterday's experience is any yardstick, it can be very different. The service was pathetic. The attendants just didn't seem to care, they moved around the hypermarket as if they were taking a walk and not as if they were working. I asked one attendant for some information about a TV model and he asked me to wait as he goes and asks his boss or someone. So I waited and waited and waited for almost half an hour, and then I ask another man about the whereabouts of this attendant. I was told that he has gone for lunch and that he'd be back soon. This 'soon' became another long wait of roughly 20 minutes and I called another 'staff' who was walking about, and he told me to wait. I lost my patience and told him that I was pissed off with their service and that I can't just wait endlessly till they get their acts together.
Maybe it was the tone of my voice, the choice of words or just my exasperation but it did have an effect. This man quickly went to a counter and explained my situation to a man with a red tie. He looked like someone who was well paid because he was smiling and made some effort to 'assure' me that what happened to me was an unusual phenomenon. To give the man his credit, he did answer my questions and did a much better job in helping me arrive at some purchasing decisions.
But the situation bothered me. It wasn't just the bad service that I received from the attendants that was worrisome but I could clearly see that there were two types of workers in this establishment. The better paid had this happy glow on their face while the others looked tired, exhaused, emaciated, fatigued, and unrewarded. This poor treatment seemed to have an impact on their performance and was affecting the service levels at the hypermarket.
I am not an economist and so I don't understand the subtleties of the budgeting process. However, based on my observation of this hypermarket and other commercial and non-commercial establishments, I've noticed that poorly paid workers do not seem to make good business sense. They have low motivation, they dont like to work hard because they dont feel it's worth it and are ready to flee at the next best offer. And yet, so many organisations seem to think it makes perfectly good sense to cut wages or even hire workers on lower wages... am I missing something here?