(Photo of Malaysian consumer who's been screwed so many times he's decided to take it lying down)
If you didn't feel any pain up your rear end but have been reading the papers over the last few days you might just have been awake enough to know that you've been screwed yet again. This time by the petrol companies and the retail petrol stations. After some hoohah about not wanting to accept credit cards for petrol purchases the usual committees were set up to "discuss" the matter. Then the government stepped in and made the mandatory statement about how things should not affect the poor raayat in a negative way. Those of us 'older' flers were expecting the next step to be announced which was "Screw the blaardy consumer. Again." And so they did. It was announced yesterday that the petrol companies and the petrol station owners had come to a mutually beneficial agreement. And notice I picked the word "mutually" very carefully. It's just between them and them. You and I have no say in this. Read this...
"Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs Minister Datuk Shafie Apdal said the agreement was reached on Oct 19 at a meeting attended by petrol dealers, petroleum firms, banks, credit card issuers and representatives from Bank Negara.".......New Straits Times, Tueday, October 26 2005. Do you see you and me in that equation? Of course not.
Drum roll please......................From November 1, all petrol purchases with credit cards will no longer be eligible for reward points.
Now do you feel a little fire in your rear end? Well, maybe a little pinch. During good times we don't get anything special from these big businesses and when things go soft we are the ones paying to bail THEM out of their problems? I can hear some of you saying that it's nothing what. Just don't get a few points toward getting a free bar of soap or a free bottle of mineral water only what. That's true. With the system it will take some years of fill-ups before I become eligible for something as valuable as a box of chocolates. But that's not the point is it? If petrol companies need loyalty programmes it means that there is keen competition among them and they NEED our custom. So why are we letting them get away with it when it comes to losing a few sen profit per litre? And when you think about it what do credit card companies do for charging you a couple of hundred Ringgit a year in subscription fees? Ya, what? It makes it more convenient for us, the consumer to spend money and so we do and they make profits out of that. And we need to pay them for that???!!! What do petrol stations offer us other than a facility to get fuel? Their toilets are still filthy. Their so-called convenience shops sell crap at inflated prices and now they don't even offer to wipe your windscreens or inflate your tires. Service at service stations has become a privilege. Which you pay for.
Doesn't sit well with me I'll tell you. So what am I going to do?
Sigh. I must admit that I am also going to submit and hang my head in defeat. What to do? Don't buy petrol and don't drive ah? Take LRT and bus ah? Cannot lah. Inconvenient lah. I am ashamed of myself but I will still drive and buy petrol with my credit card and be F***ed up the ass. Cash? No I don't fancy carrying a thick wad of Ringgits just so I can add "mug victim" to my list of 'screw'-ups. If you know what I mean.
This is merely the latest in our long history of getting the shitty end of the stick as consumers. Think about it. How many times has this happened just in the last 6 months. No make that the last 6 years! Of course, it is no longer a surprise that the Malaysian consumer is another apathetic creature that is not going to become extinct in a hurry. And big businesses have learned this and are using it to great advantage in swelling their annual bottom lines.
Now I am going to do something gross. If you're squeamish or if you're under 18 please leave now. I shall not be responsible if you throw up all over your Imbi Plaza keyboard.
I am going to pull the shitty end of the stick out of my behind and read the ringed history of how I have been screwed. Ready? This is your last chance. Okay, here we go...........NGMMMGPH! There it is. Let's see........
1. I pay taxes, cukai pintu etc. but the water that comes out of my tap is not fit for drinking. And so I spend more money buying those water filters. Now that's become a "keeping up with the Jones' "fad too. My filter is better, shinier than yours. Mine costs more than yours. And big business is laughing all the way to the bank.
2. I go to see a movie. Pay the ticket price and then get screwed by scratched prints, bad sound and censor's butchering. But that has been the subject of another bellyaching session here. (Go to "Pay Money Orso Cannot Get Ah? Niamah!" below)
3. I pay good money to park in a parking lot so that I can patronise and spend more money in some shopping mall. Then I get accosted by signs that tell me the management is not responsible for anything that happens to my car while in that parking lot.
4. I pay tolls so that I can drive smoothly from one place to another. Then I get stuck in a traffic jam just to pay my toll.
5. I pay good money to get hooked up to a satellite TV network. Then I get out-of-date programmes that my Singaporean friends keep reminding me are so "last season" leh. Of course these satellite TV flers are constantly coming up with new "packages" which means that you need to pay more and more money for programmes that you don't want to watch. Simply because the programmes you want to watch will packaged with those that you don't.
I can go on with more examples but I think the smell is getting a little too much to bear. But I'm sure you get the picture.
I think we're so used to being screwed that we don't even feel the pain anymore and I swear that some of us really are beginning to enjoy it.
My prayer is that one day the Malaysian consumer will stand up and scream, "I'm mad as hell and I won't take it anymore!!!"
Errrrr...but no lah. Too inconvenient lah. Too much trouble lah. Hiyah! Waffor make trouble. Can make money enough lor. Or as my friend Jit Murad would say, "At least we're better off than Ghana."
Sigh. Kerana Mu Malaysia. Boleh.