JOIN THE LINE, GT&T BRASS – by Dave Martins.

JOIN THE LINE, GT&T BRASS  – by Dave Martins.

Dave Martins

Dave Martins

Following the election, the press has understandably seen numerous suggestions from citizens concerning things in the government that are in need of urgent attention. The words in this space today, however, while squarely in the “urgent attention” category are aimed not at the government but at a private sector entity, namely GT&T. For the background to this, I take you with me to an experience this past week attempting to pay my telephone bill at the GT&T office on Church Street.

With the appropriate “amount due” documents in hand, I entered the area on the ground floor to make the payment. The place was truly a mob scene. There were approximately 30 GT&T costumers in one long snaking line inside, another 11 in a separate “senior citizens” line, and more customers waiting outside. To cater to these persons, the company had 5 cashier positions; one of these is usually not manned. On this day four were operating, and while they were obviously doing their best, the payment process was painfully long. To make matters worse, in the midst of this congestion, the casher in the “senior citizen” line, suddenly posted a very visible “Closed” sign on her window and abruptly departed, turning a bad situation into worse; we now had two cashier posts vacant.

No supervisor came out to explain this development. No announcement on a p.a. system was made. The increased wait was apparent to everyone, and although most customers said nothing (Guyanese are apparently used to such treatment), several voices were raised in protest. A tall gentleman at the head of one line was very vocal about having to come all the way from the East Bank, and spoke loudly about the need for more GT&T payment offices; several people supported his call. I told one of the security guards. “This system is a mess, madam. You all work here; you see what is going on; almost every time I come here it’s bad, but today is the worst. You all should tell the big ones inside; this should be fixed.” With a slight shake of the head, she said, “No, sir. We have no authority to do that.” My comedic mind often intervenes in such circumstances, so after the suddenly-departed cashier did not return, I said to the security guard, “How come she disappear just so? She must be suddenly get a job at Digicel.” The guard bit her lip, hiding a smile, and I turned back to the wait. Suffice it to say that along with most of the GT&T customers that day, I stood in line for almost an hour to pay my bill. I was left to wonder how persons of advanced age, or who are perhaps infirm, would be able to endure that ordeal.

Apart from the obvious poor public relations spectacle for them, it also occurred to me to say to my friends at GT&T that there must be a financial consequence for your company as well. Here you have over 40 customers standing there with money in their hands that truly belongs to you; they have journeyed here to deliver it in the middle of the day (I came from the East Coast; the tall gentlemen from the East Bank) and you are, in effect, saying “no” to your own cash flow. I’m no banking expert, but I know for sure that daily in the business world there are examples of frequent financial benefit accruing from simply being able to hold someone’s money for even hours at a time. To judge by that one office on Church Street, GT&T is missing the boat there.

But that is truly an aside; where the boat is really being missed for the telephone company is in the damage to customer relations that is resulting when people come with their hard-earned money to pay their bill and routinely find impediments in the way. Most striking to me is how Guyanese seem to accept this ill-treatment. I have witnessed, first-hand, huge uproars and shouting matches in businesses overseas for much less benign neglect. I have seen supervisors and even managers having to come out to deal with such matters. In Montreal, one time, I saw the manager emerge with his lunch-time coffee cup in hand to calm the natives. In Cayman, I saw a bank patron and a teller almost come to blows over poor service. In Guyana, we smile and shrug, and come back next month and spend another hour in the line, as I’ve been doing. This week, knowing I have a voice in a column, I decided to let my friends at GT&T be told (I know two individuals there well) that they have some business to fix.

By pure coincidence, in the midst of preparing this column, a GINA press release appeared in Stabroek News to the effect that our new “Minister of Social Protection, Volda Lawrence, had spent a day visiting several post offices in Region Three in order to have a firsthand view of the working conditions of the employees and to interact with pensioners.” Following this, a perceptive citizen (the name escapes me) responded: “I heard that there was television coverage of Minister Volda Lawrence visiting a post office and expressing consternation at the way pensioners were treated. I think that this is a most welcome step for a Minister to take, and one that should be initiated by others.” From that very apt observation, I suggest that the “others” mentioned in that point by the blogger should include the upper echelon at GT&T. For a trial period of say two or three months, senior people in that company should be required to join the line at Church Street early in the month to pay their phone bills the way ordinary citizens do; in short order they will get a personal understanding of what their customers are enduring.

I remember this like yesterday: I was standing at the baggage claim of Eastern Airlines in Miami waiting for my suitcase, and I was gaping. Former US astronaut Frank Borman (head of the first mission to fly around the moon), and then CEO of Eastern, was shagging customer suitcases shoulder-to-shoulder with baggage staff at the carousel. The company’s CEO was out there in his shirt sleeves, dealing directly with passengers and Eastern staff and chatting with them to better understand the baggage problems at the terminal. This column and comments from other writers may have no impact, but the GT&T brass, following the Lawrence and Borman examples, should face the ordeal of paying a phone bill in person; it may result in improved service. Whatever the propulsion, for all those patient GT&T customers, it will be a heartily welcomed change.

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  • wentworthcarrega  On 07/13/2015 at 5:16 am

    Being away from the county for fifty years, from ongoing reports, nothing has changed besides personnel in the same positions. There is no plan with foresight to fix the economic mismanagement that has always been wrapped up in political dogma. Identity politics will be the death blow to this bifurcated society that is filled with pseudo doctorate holding persons who are void of working knowledge in their areas of specialization from fourth ranked institutions of learning.

  • de castro  On 07/13/2015 at 6:33 am

    Does Guyana have a “monopolies” commission ?
    When companies/corporations enjoy “monopolies” in day to day operation
    this government sponsored organisations “fine” them….in more serious cases
    stop them from “,buy outs”/mergers of their competitors.

    Maybe new government should appoint a monopolies commission who will fine them heavily for offering such poor services…..monies collecting in fines will more than offset the operational cost of the commission.
    Dont think there is even a ” traffic warden” imposing fines for abusive parking….
    Culture shock for us visitors from around the world.
    It’s not an uphill struggle for Guyana….more an up mountain one…..

    With more articles like above being published in “daily rabble” nothing will change.

    Wake up Guyana ….wake up Guyanese….its 2015 in case you forgot !

    • Thinker  On 07/13/2015 at 9:38 am

      A simple solution is to allow a private company to collect public utility bill payments around the country and issue the proper receipts. People must also be able to pay online with credit and debit cards. Measures like these will also reduce hold-ups etc..

      • de castro  On 07/13/2015 at 12:33 pm

        GT+T are too big to care….they are putting nail in their own coffin.
        CABLE + WIRELESS was BIG in BG.
        Today most people do most everyday tasks over internet.
        Banking Shopping even Socialising…..does GT have broadband fibre optics network ?
        Come on Guyana wakey wakey ! It’s 2015.😇

        GT not unlike Havana is a “a time warpe” for most visitors
        but some like the slow pace of things.
        Most find it amusing/embarrassing.

        Que sera

      • walter  On 07/14/2015 at 10:45 am

        Private company collecting the money. I think there is a “Airplane magnate” going to jail for collecting and redirecting.Careful

  • Farhaud Amin  On 07/13/2015 at 10:16 am

    It is deplorable to watch and experience this Mr Martin but I know first how GT&T treats their customers just week I had to wait pass the promise date for my Internet service my wife more that one day waiting for the service man to come at my residence after repeated call to the supervisor and unkept promise they finally show and completely the work. We need to take a hard look as to how much time we have spend in lines at public cooperation trying give them our money into loss hours for them and as consumers and conclude that Guyanese are mindless and can we really aford this injustice?

  • Deen  On 07/13/2015 at 11:11 am

    Thanks Dave Martins. iit’s good of you to bring awareness of the lackadaisical and poor services in Guyana. Over 5o years ago, when Burnham took control of Guyana, there was much emphasis on “effiency and productivity,” obviously Guyanese in the service sectors never heed the call. To create change, Guyanese need to be less complacent. They need to be more vocal, assertive and aggressive to address poor service within businesses and government. Thinker has made some good suggestions. Silence will never bring change.

  • Arnold Girdharry  On 07/13/2015 at 11:57 am

    Only in Guyana have we remained stagnant for close to fifty years. From the people who run the country to the people who work for the country, including those in the private sector, there has been a don’t-care attitudinal complacency. There should be a separate ministry to oversee these kinds of problems.
    Why can’t companies like GT&T bill and accept payments by mail, or through the Internet, wherever possible? These methods would save consumers a boat-load of time and frustration.

  • de castro  On 07/13/2015 at 12:43 pm

    Deen with you 100%….change will come its the pace of the change that concerns most expats…..would much prefer spending my retirement pensions in Guyana
    staying up to six months (winter months here in EU) than some other southern hemisphere country… next trip Xmas new year.

    Suggest Comrade Martins compose a song to “stimulate” Guyanese interest in changing attitudes.

    Que sera

    • detow  On 07/13/2015 at 10:44 pm

      It is good that the problems have been identified, but with the exception of the Thinker, no suggested solutions seen to have be offered. I really do not believe that there is no desire in Guyana for change, nor that they do not have the necessary expertise to drive change. I believe that the real problem is the lack of sufficient funds to acquire the necessary equipment to bring the level of service to what we experience in the developed countries.
      On my last visit to Barbados I bought a suit case from one of their largest retailers and stood in amazement when I had to visit two areas to have a receipt issued and at both stations (cashiers) they were still using rubbed stamps, no cash registers. So, Guyana is not the only Caribbean country that is still, we would say, behind the times.
      Guyana needs help in finding new markets for its rice, any suggestions??????

  • de castro  On 07/13/2015 at 11:09 pm

    USA UK EU markets are the markets for Guyana s rice.
    Certainly not Venezuela Russia India or China.

    Will Google RICE as a commodity to check out “world market” prices for it……
    isn’t Guyana s sugar (demerara brand,) traded on world markets.
    In my local tesco supermarket Demerara sugar is £1.80 per kilo.
    Will also see if I can find Guyana s rice……two popular brand names are
    “American” long grain and ™Indian” basmati.
    World trade is a very complex subject but am sure Guyana has the
    talent to find the answers to its dilemma.
    The greatest obstacle is “corruption” which is endemic in its society.


    forever the optimist.

    Que sera Sera

    • Thinker  On 07/14/2015 at 8:13 am

      Demerara sugar sold around the world is really “Demerara-type” sugar. Most of it comes from Mauritius, not from Guyana. It is not like Scotch Whisky which has to be made in Scotland. The French are rather upset that the Americans call all sorts of things they produce “Champagne”. If it doesn’t come from a certain region of France, it is not Champagne.

      • de castro  On 07/14/2015 at 12:41 pm

        Label on package in TESCO supermarket says.


        However reading on it says Produce of Mauritius.

        Questioned this and was told that there is a region in Mauritius named DEMERARA……wonder why and how recent !😈
        Today Branded names are copied everywhere.
        CAVA is my Spanish Champagne at a fraction the price.
        Pops like champers also !😀

  • guyaneseonline  On 07/14/2015 at 12:34 am

    In the past Barbados had the same problem regarding long lineups for service as each vendor attempted to collect their bills independently and at few locations,
    This was solved about eight years ago by a company called Sure Pay who collect money at multiple locations for a number of companies. (see list at bottom):
    Their website says:
    The SurePay network currently has thirty one (31) payment centres at convenient retail outlets across Barbados.

    If you have your bills with you, just hand them to the SurePay teller and tell her how much you want to pay toward each bill. We’ll then give you a total amount and you can make your one payment! Simple…Why pay any other way??

    SurePay securely handles the distribution of the funds to each of the billers on your behalf and at no cost to you! It’s easy….one total, one payment and you receive an official proof of payment receipt for your records.

    The SurePay system is constantly in communication with each of the biller’s accounting systems, updating payments to each account on an on-going basis which means all account information is kept current and secure. It also means you can pay bills on the day they are due and not risk penalty. You can even make payments after the bills are due!

    No longer does paying bills mean writing cheque after cheque or wasting time in line after line. It now means just one simple payment at any SurePay payment centre and that’s it, bills are done…simple as that!

    So if you’re looking for an easy way to pay bills give SurePay a try! … the convenient way to pay! There are no extra fees to use the service
    List of Companies here:

    A similar service is offered by Bill Express in various islands and it also lists Guyana, but it seems that fees are charged in Guyana and some other islands. However there are no extra costs in Trinidad and Tobago and Grenada.

  • de castro  On 07/14/2015 at 3:54 am

    In UK its even simpler as most use their smart phones/internet to pay bills or do their banking. If you have a bank account its even better as direct debits can be set up
    to pay bills banking etc. Plastic cards also make life much easier if you travel
    abroad. Use your card to withdraw cash from local “ATM”cash machines in local
    currencies…..can even obtain ” balances” while travelling from these cash machines.
    In my local branch.Barclay’s… can also pay in cash to machines….note by note… more cashiers in bank and customers assistants to assist in use of machines to do all your banking with just a plastic card.
    Life in the fast lane !

    Que sera

  • Ron. Persaud  On 07/14/2015 at 7:48 am

    Guyanese have been conditioned to endure this treatment ever since the days of shortages. Indeed we used to make jokes about it. Like the guy who broke out of a line screaming, “Ah kyan stan dis no more. Ah goin shoot Burnham!”
    In a haste, he rode off. Fifteen minutes later, he returned with the explanation, “De line mo long dey!”
    Then there was the shopper who asked for item after item; only to hear, “Dat short”; “Dat short”. Finally she said, “I think I will complain to the Mayor!” The shopkeeper exclaimed, “He Shortt too! In fact, he gone!”
    Mr. (Kenneth?) Shortt had recently left, or been relieved of, the Office of Mayor..

  • de castro  On 07/14/2015 at 12:43 pm

    Wonderful Guyanese humour….every street corner has “stand up comedian”
    Entertainment fuh free !😀

  • Thinker  On 07/14/2015 at 3:11 pm

    Kamptan, just for the record there is no such place in Mauritius.

  • de castro  On 07/14/2015 at 3:49 pm

    So what is new name ?

    • Thinker  On 07/14/2015 at 11:02 pm

      There is no place called Demerara in Mauritius

  • de castro  On 07/14/2015 at 3:59 pm

    Republic of Mauritius or Portuguese name Cirne ?

  • de castro  On 07/15/2015 at 3:22 am

    Ok understood.

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