Business Etiquette

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A few incidents over the last few years have left me wondering whether expecting privacy to conduct business is a thing of the past. I once found myself sharing the counter with a gentleman who insisted that his business was going to be brief, so I should not have a problem with him waiting alongside me while I paid my utility bill. Perplexed, but thinking that perhaps he did not understand that he was infringing on my personal space, I asked him to afford me some privacy and he stepped back while grumbling in local parlance that I was “fresh”, in order words, so full of myself that I could not tolerate another human alongside me. Then there was the time I was attempting to complete a purchase at a distribution warehouse when a young man thought it was okay to shout his order out while I was being attended to and even pushed himself at the window to be served. I asked him to allow me to complete my transaction, but “being polite” did not work, so I placed my bag at the window to block him out and turned my back to angle him out and hoped that he got the message that he was infringing on my personal space and invading my privacy. These are but two of many such incidents, and I am sure as I related these experiences, many of you can attest to having had similar experiences at Automated Teller Machines, banks and other business places where you are often told by someone who infringes on your personal space, ’ I just want to pass a message…, ’ but you soon realize that the individual is being served alongside you and the message was the transacting of business while you are either put on hold, or dealt with simultaneously. This brings me, therefore, to the gist of this piece, the need for privacy to conduct business.

It has become very accepted in Dominica to rob others of their opportunity to conduct personal business in private. What is even more disheartening is that it is encouraged by business places either because the employees are not trained to recognize when someone’s privacy is being infringed on, or because in many instances, the ones inflicting the wrong is a friend or family member and so it becomes okay. I will even dare say, that maybe some employees do not understand the need for privacy to conduct business and so see nothing wrong when the customer being wronged complains. Whatever the reason for its encouragement, I believe it is time that businesses do what is necessary to discourage such practices.

Businesses need to ensure that they win the trust of customers and affording privacy for business transactions is one way of gaining such trust. Additionally, they need to assure their customers that they have done what is necessary to allow them to conduct their transactions comfortably by establishing and consistently enforcing rules to govern customer behaviour and employee response. If customers are not entertained when they break the rules; i.e. infringe on the personal space of other customers while they are transacting their business, they will eventually fall in line. I realize that this is easier said than done, but if we really want to improve the environment in which we conduct business, we must “take the bull by the horns”. Attracting foreign investors is not solely the role of Invest Dominica, it is the role of

all Dominicans. Let us recognize that we are all stakeholders in this venture and play our part in improving or creating a business environment that would attract and retain customers.

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