Most of us agree that the frontline staff, especially those who answer the telephone, are the backbone of a business.
Yesterday, I 'phoned X taxi services and a lady answered: "Hello."
"Good evening," I said. "This is J speaking. Please will you send a taxi tomorrow morning to Terrylin Backpackers?"
"Hello, can you hear me?"
"What is your name?"
"We are open twenty four hours. Day and night. Seven days a week."
"Please will you send a taxi to Terrylin Backpackers?"
"How do you spell that?"
After much muddling through the r's and i, I said: "The address is ........, a street away from the Premier Hotel.
"You want me to send a taxi to the Premier Hotel? You gave me another name just now."
"Please have the taxi here at a quarter to five. Four, forty five."
"Please repeat that?"
"I must send a taxi to your place at five forty. A quarter to six."
"No. No. No."
"Hold on. I'll call somebody who knows what's going on."
(Oh, Daphne, why did you have to resign?)
While I am having this conversation with Ms No-Name Brand, a gaggle of guests are hovering over me, muttering about 'Missing International Flights', 'South African Taxis' and 'Africa Time'.
Without further ado, here is a 'Say What?' story.
In the 80's, Yvonne, a la-di-da bank colleague from Queenstown, needed to speak to the then Prime Minister of the Transkei, George Matanzima, in connection with his Fixed Deposit.
As it could take over an hour to be connected with the Chiefs office, this was a test of mental endurance and endless patience.
While Yvonne made two cups of coffee, went to the Ladies and dealt with other calls, we took turns holding on. And on. And on.
Eventually, we heard: "Please may I speak to Mr Matanzima?"
"He is unable to come to the 'phone right now...." replied his secretary. So far, so good.
And then: ".... He is busy having a sh*t."
Yvonne dropped the 'phone: "You won't believe what I just heard!" she cried.
As she told us we convulsed with laughter.
"It's not funny," Yvonne went on. "I didn't even have a chance to introduce myself. I could have been Her Majesty, the Queen of England."