Readers Have Their Say

Written By: The Lowdown - Jul• 01•00

I hope you will publish this contribution on rates used when calculating Dollar amounts to be charged to VISA card users.

DAYLIGHT ROBBERY  As the Kwacha loses value against the Dollar, it has become necessary to carry substantial heaps of money to do shopping. One way around this is by using a Barclays’ Connect Card or a VISA card. This is not only advantageous for the customer but for the shopkeeper as well, no chance of being robbed of that money. In the case of VISA there is the added advantage of cheap Dollars: K2820 per Dollar instead of K2950 (at this moment in time), 4.6% extra income. Even if a small percentage goes to VISA this is still a good deal. By receiving the money some time after the paying date there is also the real possibility of getting more Kwacha than at the day of the transaction.

Many shopkeepers are satisfied with these benefits, e.g. Shoprite and The Book Cellar. Some want more, a bit more (e.g. Game, K2800 per Dollar), or a lot more, for instance when buying CD’s in Sounds at Manda Hill. That prices of CD’s are relatively high is understandable because of transport to Zambia and a Dollar rate of K2950 (at least) in order to recover forex. A few CD’s thus quickly exceed the available money in the pocket, but luckily VISA is accepted. ‘Can you sign sir?’ (shocked) ‘I think you miscalculated.’ (confident) ‘No sir, I used a calculator.’

(suspicious) ‘What rate are you using?’ (barely audible)‘Two, seven, one, five.’ (loud voice) ‘You mean 2715?’ (bit embarrassed) ‘Ehhh, yes sir, that’s what we do here.’ (indignant) ‘Why don’t you use the bank rate?’

(plain) ‘It is the manager who decides on the rate.’ This ridiculous rate is not announced anywhere in the shop. The manager’s wife being around explained that it takes two months to receive the money, so they need to add a bit extra. ‘A bit extra?’ – another 3.9% extra profit. Which bank adds 3.9% to a Dollar account over a period of two months? Of course it is possible to return all CD’s to the shelves but with the whole family in eager anticipation and after spending half an hour looking around, this is not an easy decision.

This practice creates an unexpectedly large hole in the wallet. Why do some shopkeepers have a need to squeeze their customers, while others dealing with the same VISA do not? Is VISA aware how much their card users are put at a disadvantage in such places? Do they approve if they know? Can a greedy shopkeeper use any rate that pops up in his greedy mind? It seems there are no rules on what rates must be used and customers are at the mercy of shopkeepers. Some treat their customers respectably; others treat them like dirt.

I remember when ‘The Lowdown’ started reviewing restaurants in Lusaka. This quickly improved quality and service available. A comparison of rates used in shops, restaurants and hotels where VISA (and similar cards) is accepted seems a project worth undertaking. It will reveal shopkeepers and managers attitudes to their customers. It can also warn the general public which places to avoid, or enter only when armed with bags of cash.

Carl Beel, Kitwe


Congratulations. Your first edition as Editor of the Lusaka Lowdown was both informative and relevant. Your article on the cost of education in Zambia was well-researched and offered constructive solutions to parents who are desperately trying to keep their children home, whilst trying to cope with the financially crippling education costs which leave them with very few alternatives.

The information given on the Wimbledon Tournament made fascinating reading. With the final stages of the French Open coming to an end most of us look forward to Wimbledon and will somewhat appreciate the comfort of our favourite armchair as well as the convenience of watching it at home. The article was interesting and positive and made the reader feel better off than the poor bum queuing for hours without the guarantee of a good seat.

I am an avid reader and read everything and anything. If I want to hear about corruption, greed, poverty, natural as well as man-made disasters, crime, the deterioration of the economy etc., etc. I just need to turn on the television and focus on the variety of news channels available to get my fill. The new Lowdown offers light reading and entertainment, as well as being a great source of information.

A true heroine and icon of these modern times is Jane Raphaely (editor of SA Cosmopolitan/Femina/House and Leisure magazines) who I had the privilege of meeting in Cape Town. When I congratulated her on the success of twenty years of brilliant journalism, she told me just one vital word ….. HOPE! She said an editor is only truly successful when she can offer her readers hope!

By exposing the plight of the disabled in Charity Chase hope was given to the sufferers as well as informing the reader that there are still people out there willing to help.

Your mission of increasing this editorial to the broader Zambian community is long overdue and very welcome. Perhaps a survey would be in order to obtain the views of the entire population and not the previously targeted ‘expatriate few’. This can only add to the success of your magazine.

Finally, my best wishes go to you and your staff. I wish you only the best in the exciting step you have decided to take.

Karin, Lusaka

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