Dubai Consumer Mirror

Friday, September 30, 2005


It seems that Consumer Protection in the UAE is starting to grab official attention. Until a few months back, there has been almost nothing to say about consumer rights or protection in the UAE. As a matter of fact, the word on the streets was that Consumer Protection is a No-no topic to be discussed in public.

Thats not surprising! I mean lets face it, if you got screwed over by a shop or a restaurant, who do you head to for complaints? the police? the chamber of commerce? the economic department? Exactly! Thats my point, its not really clear.

Thats why you always end up taking things into your own hands. You head to the place, you complain, you may have yell and scream a little. If you are lucky, the institution that screwed you over may acknowledge the fact that they messed up and rectify the situation. Sadly, in most cases, you WILL end up walking out with your tail between your legs and flashes through your head of you slashing the tyres of the shop owner's car.

I know people who know people who know people. I asked them if there are any consumer protection "people" that one can talk to in the most-likely case of getting a bad service or product. I was told there is a room at one 'economic department'. But they also told me not to try too hard to look for it if i want to complain, cause they won't be able to do much.

It seems that Sheikha Lubna wants that to change with the introduction of the first UAE CPI (Consumer Price Index) and the formulation of consumer protection policies. I just hope its not to tackle price hikes only and that the policies include commercial mischiefs like in-your-face cheating, profiteering and corporate arrogance.

Thursday, September 29, 2005

Carrefour vs. Carrefour

I like Carrefour - my favorite part is the special offer section - I am used to the one in Deira City Center. I like it cause its huge and the turnover there is so high, freshness of products is always guaranteed.

However, i am not down with the over-congestion of shopper traffic anymore. It actually kills the joy of walking around the isles and makes you want to leave the place as soon as you can.

But that ended a few days back with my discovery of Carrefour Al Mamzar. I heard a lot about the new branch in Century Mall (Its the one in Al Mamzar Area in Dubai, on the edges of Sharja), so I decided to drop by one day.

I have to say, comparing to Deira City Centre, it was a great shopping experience. I went there on a weekday, so parking was not an issue what so ever, but that’s not all. Here is why i liked it over there:

1. Great prices as always
2. I didn't have to queue to price my fruits and veggies
3. I didn't have to queue for a cash register
4. I needed to ask someone about a some type of cheese, the Carrefour clerk was spoteed right away.
5. At the daily produce section (fresh cheese, olives, cold-cuts...etc), the guy was actually giving me cold-cuts advice and handed me several taste samples - he was even smiling!
6. The shopping traffic was just about the right rate and mix! The kind of crowd that doesn’t annoy the hell out when trying to dodge awkwardly parked trolleys or getting trolley rear-ended from behind
7. All the trolleys were new! So you won't have to look for a proper trolley or end up with a cramp in your right arm trying to keep a permanently left-turning moving straight.
8. It will take you 1 minute to get to your car, and another minute to be on the main road! Trying doing that in City Centre :)

I think I will be doing my shopping at the place for a while … I just hope it stays this way.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Parking meter obsession!

Over the past 2 years, I managed to gather about 1000 parking meter slips (mostly Dh1 slips). I am thinking of doing something "artistic" with them and granting it to Dubai Manucipality... All ideas are welcome :)

Sunday, September 25, 2005

The B-S wars

A quick look at the stands at GITEX this year, one can never help but notice the amount of corporate testosterone thats pouring out of the halls -a parade of who_has_the_largest_enterprise 'Kohones' (look up Kohones in Mexican and u'll know what i mean) ...

Everyone is trying to get Thee customer to buy into something, anything!

The stand with the strongest sales FORCE, will win the battle. It felt something like a George Lucas picture!

Scene 1. Location: Gitex Hallways. Character "O-Buy One" trying to get through the isle wars as he encounters an unexpected adversary. The heavy breathing, "Dark Blazer"!

Dark Blazer: "We meet again O-buy One!"

O-Buy One: "DARK BLAZER! - The SALES FORCE ... it has taken over you!"

Lame Yogurt: "Ohh... longer, bigger, wider, taller, his 'stand' is this year young O-buy One. Resist it you can't, i am afraid!"

O-Buy One: "I will not give in to the SALES FORCE. I shall not give in!"

O-Buy One suddenly dodges 2 incoming promo females that came out of no where! He successfully evades flying, sharp_edge paper brochures thrown toward his direction.

Dark Blazer: "Your strength ... its growing... that can't be!"

O-Buy One pulls out his Budget-Saver (B_S) and it grows bigger and wider.

O-Buy One cries: "Feel the strength of my B-S"

Dark Blazer brings his own B_S: Bribe-Squad. Seem like a worthy equlizer... A major B-S conflict takes place throughout the GITEX 5_day dynasty -

It was a case of TOTAL B-S.

To be continued!

Saturday, September 24, 2005

Honest People

Egyptians have a saying: "el donia lessa bekhair - الدنيا لسة بخير ". It basically means that the world is still a good place to live in and there is still some decency in it.

Last night, I experienced it first hand.

On my way to have dinner, I dropped my wallet as i got into my car. I didn't realize that i lost it until I reached my destination. I thought I left it at home as I have a bad habit of doing that.

I had cash in my pocket, so i decided to go a head and have dinner. While i was there I get an odd phone call. A person who sounded Indian was asking if my name and my nationality is so and so. I got aggravated by this total stranger who is disturbing my dinner and speaking to me in Hindi which i can't understand; to the point I started giving him attitude.

Then it suddenly hit me - He found my wallet and he is double checking if i am the owner!

He told me that he found my driving license. We agreed to meet up in 15 minutes in a location quite far from where I think I dropped it. (the plot gets more complex)

On my way to the meeting point, I couldn't help not thinking of how he only found my driving license.

I was thinking of all the credit cards, IDs and credentials i had to do, redo and issue all over again - what a nightmare!

Scenarios and flashes of a 'John Doe' emptying my Monte Blanc, throwing its contents away and going on a major shopping spree with my credit cards! Those images were slapping my mind every 10 seconds.

I reached place and i met the guy. He think he was one of those construction workers. He looked very simple AND my god he had my wallet! - Everything was there, not a single dirham missing.

I warmly shook his hands and asked him how he got hold of my mobile no. He said from an Etisalat payment machine slip that i kept there.

The money in the wallet wasn't enough for me to give to him as a reward. I told him to call me tomorrow (today) as i would like to reward him properly. He still didn't call yet, but i am not gonna let him go that easy.

Two lessons I learned yesterday - 1) have more faith in people, there is still some good out there and 2) drop that anal "dubai" perfectionist attitude!

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Recycling the understanding of recycling

I stayed in town during august this year. I didn't take anytime off during this summer. Going to the office was great - cause i was getting paid for doing .. well .. other than browsing the web for spy car photos, i was doing virtually nothing.

One mid august day, i decided to be useful.

I noticed that my company, being a major IT contractor for the almost each and every government department in the UAE, consumes large amounts of paper.

You see, the public sector appoints contractors via bidding. And to bid, you have to submit a tender .. in some cases, tenders can be so big, you need at least 3 boxes of masafi water to pack em in.

Anyhow, i was like, DAMN man .. all this paper is going to waste? what da hell? - so i do a little browsing and i get the number of Emirates Environment something something Association ..

Now, what i know from watching Oprah and reading about recycling, is that companies actually buy waste paper, tin and glass by the bulk (KGs or tons in sometime). They also offer recycling boxes and they come and empty them everyday ... kindda encouraging you to recycle

So i thought to myself, why not add a bit of corporate social responsibility with in our extremely boring corporate culture...

So, i call the Emirates recycling guys up and tell them that i am more than ready to contribute to the preservation of the UAE environment by recycling ridiculous amounts of paper ..

"so whenever you feel like it" i told the lady on the phone, "you can drop that recycling box anytime."
She goes like: "well there are 2 sizes - big and small.."
"do you have medium? .. its OK if you don't - i can live with small, as long as you empty it everyday"
"no, you have to drop it everyday!"
"OK," with a bit a confusion "i think we can handle that"
"and the box will cost you about 350 dirhams" or something like that..
"I have to pay for the box?! and what if i want the big box - how do i drop it everyday?"
"if you take the big box, we can come and clean it up"
"oh .. and i guess its more expensive .. "
"yes, Dhs 500 .... a month"
"OK .. so you want me to pay you money to buy a box which you want me to drop it everyday to your doorstep for you to take my paper, recycle it, sell it again, and make money out of it?"

Something is not right here ... almost everywhere I've been to, organizations and environmental groups knocked my door for old paper, glassware, plastic and tin. They offered me their services and their money to take my "recyclable" waste. That actually encouraged me to keep my trash separated and sorted out (organic, paper, glass ..etc) for them to recycle it.

But here, i have to actually pay for that? Even that i have to pay for it?

Somewhere within the walls of Emirates Environment "Enterprises", someone must've totally missed the point!

Thursday, September 15, 2005

The 7days Spell

I hate the paper! I think it's editorial is crap, it covers old stories from lousy angels and some of the expert opinion pieces there need to be hanged on the walls of 'what-the-hell-were-you-thinking' hall of fame.

The thing that really gets into me the most with 7days is the ever-growing 'Letters' pages. If you gather all the opinion pieces, spread them out, take a step backward and look at the whole thing ... you will see how that section is becoming a mirror image of the great ability of some people in Dubai to be Uber racist, ultra pretentious or simply 100% pure anal!

But the amazing thing is ... i just can not go throughout the day without reading 7days!

How the hell do they do that?

(EDITED ON OCT 7th: 7days finally did it. I officially announce that i won't be reading that paper anymore... It is becoming a podium for the racists, sick-minded and mentally demented people!)

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

A housing solution?

A welcomed initiative - I just hope the government maintains the planned community so that it doesn't turn into the UAE version of the "Projects in da Bronx"!


I have issues with Showtime. Lousy transmission, constant reruns, the program information system is always screwed.. but what happened yesterday was an alltime classic!

I was browsing for some DVDs in Plug-In's Deira City Centre. I notice a guy who kindda looked like an insurance-salesperson who was 'this close' of invading my personal space.

The minute a look at him, he abruptly greets and me asks me if i a UAE resident or not. He then starts telling about this great deal he has to offer from Showtime.

Showtime (ST): "I want to inform you about this great offer we have from Showtime. Total Plus package is now for Dh 170something/month. If you subscribe now, you'll get free home cinema credit ..bla bla bla"

Me:"oh cool, they reduced the Total plus package? cause i currently pay about 250 for it."

ST:"err.. well, that only applies for new applicants - you still have to pay the same amount"

Me:"so, you are telling me that new subscriber will pay less for getting the exact package that i get? .. can you tell me where is the logic in this?"

ST:"well sir, thats the way the system is setup"

Me:"so, your system is designed to make life easier for your accountants, but rip your existing customers off???!"

ST:"oh no sir, its not like that"

Me:"ok, so here it the deal, if i send a letter telling Showtime that i am a subscriber, and i found out the you are offering the same package for a lower price on the market and i demand the current price - they should approve, no?"

ST:"Not really sir, i don't think thats gonna work"

Me:"interesting. So if i tell you now that i want to cancel my subscription would you do it?"

ST (agitated):"Oh yes sir, thats your right"

Me:"and if i apply again, you will be forced to give me a the new market price - no?"


Me:"ok, how about this one. I will cancel my subscription, and apply again with my wife's name - how does that work?"

ST (nodding his head in approval):"umm.."

Me (taking the promotion brochure with me):"thank you for telling about the new offer, i will cancel my Showtime right away!"

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

I hate parking lots!

Whether they are paid parking or not, that doesn't stop those morons who can't get enough satisfaction unless they cause damage to 1 car at least.

Once i was in my car waiting in front of an EPPCO supermarket .. a guy parked his car to the right of mine. Few seconds later, i hear a large thud and the car swayed sideways! I roll down my passenger window to witness the guy's shock to know that someone was inside that car he just redecorated its side door.

He looks at me with a wide grin along with the typical (sideways head nudge) and the "sorry for screwing your car/temper/day/mood" hand greeting you usually see when someone cuts you off while on the road.

I didn't know what to do. Should I redecorate his face using the same door he just dented? call the police and spend 45 minutes filing a complaint for a Dhs 500 paint job? or should i just apply the good ol' Hammurabi's doctrine of Eye for an Eye and do the same to his car?

After hyperventilating for good 10 seconds ... I decided to bite the bullet and add the new dent to my collection of scratches all over my car's 4 corners, doors, fenders and trunk...

Monday, September 12, 2005


From 7days today:

"Dubai Transport has raised taxi prices, according to Al Bayan. The price per kilometre has been increased by six per cent from dhs1.51 to dhs1.60. The pickup fee at the airport has also been hiked from dhs20 to dhs26."

Majority of cab companies treat their divers like crap; when you make a booking it takes the car a good 30 minutes to get to your location, they are never around when you need one. If thats the case, why Dubai cabs are more expensive than Sharja ones?

"The company blamed the increases on the rise in petrol prices. The company said it had no plans to increase the price of bus tickets."

Phew .. thats a relief! i thought they increased it to cover their drivers' medical bills to cure them from severe psycho-issues due to 1) getting stuck in traffic for 18hrs a day 2) being treated like humanity rejects and lowest form of life and 3) trying to figure out the Jabal Ali Gardens roads!

But have no fear my friends. These new prices will not last for long. The not-so anticipated remaining 30% fuel price increase is coming soon to a gas station near you.

Saturday, September 10, 2005

Here we go

Alright .. its about time for someone to pay attention and listen to what consumers have to say in Dubai. Prices are saoring without any justifiable causes. Rent, petrol, groceries, services, fines ..EVERYTHING is going up.

If we are gonna pay more of our hard earned cash .. i say we should at least get something decent in return: Decent service, decent quality and decent satisfaction. And since there is a severe lack of consumer protection laws, i think this is the best place to speak up.

Each of us has his/her own version of consumer nightmares. Things like buying an appliance that breaks down the second day, never getting the food delivery order the way you asked for it... or never getting it delivered at all, car services garages that constantly over-charge you and under deliver.. and the list goes on.

This blog will be like a log-record of good and bad consumer experiences for you to learn from. More of a 'safety valve' for all those who just had it all those companies that claim "customer first", have the "best" service or offer the "cheapest" rates.

My pledge is to share with you all the crazy incidents i go through almost everyday with banks, restaurants, clothing shops, airliners...etc. I want to share with you all my experiences, good and bad ones. I will also share with you all those misleading ads, highlight things that are in 'fine print' or simply just stupid commercials that insult our intelligence.

I want to share them with you so that (1) you won't have to suffer more than i did (2) learn from my good and bad experiences and spread the word .. and (3) have your say on what would have been a better thing to do (or not to do).

I also would like to encourage you to tell me about your experiences.

What can we do to get your money's worth, what can we do to receive better treatment, better quality and better service.

So, here we go ..