I glance at the clock just before I leave the house. 8:00 Am. That is great time since my appointment is at 9am. I have factored in an hour due to the many stops Matatus make between Roasters and Juja. I get to the bus stop and thankfully there is a Matatu waiting with the conductor screaming “Thika, Juja, Githurai kumi” – all places on Thika Road. I calmly ask how much it is to Juja is and the conductor responds “60 bob”. On peeking inside, I see only 1 seat – the middle seat at the back of the Matatu. I get in and sit and soon we are on our way. We make a few stops with passengers alighting and others coming in. In a few minutes we are the Githurai bus stop, a place notorious of thieves that prey on passengers. I instinctively clutch my handbag tighter and stay alert as I continue reading my Standard Chartered Bank – Half Year Report 2012. Yes, I read financial reports even though my area is in ICT. It is always good to stay abreast with economics but that is a topic for another day.
The Matatu is full with a certain passenger even sharing a seat with the Conductor. Just before we leave, another passenger gets in and is instructed to come share our seat. As he comes towards us, he notices I have not moved and gives me an angry look. I look at him unaffected by his look and calmly say “Sit wherever you can see an empty seat”. This agitates him since of course he can see no vacant seat. He has no choice but to sit suspended between two seats in front of me. As we keep moving, some passengers alight and more come in and each who dares come to where I am receives the same treatment. Just as we near Juja, the conductor loudly grumbles at me. “Madam, kwani wewe ni nani unakataa kusonga? Si basi ushuke na kiti – Madam, who do you think you are that you share the seat? Why don’t you then alight with the seat?” I glance up from my report and laugh. My response catches him off guard since he expected me to be offended and he is furious. Eventually, I alight and head for my appointment which goes pretty well.
This is just one example of how bad the public transport sector in Kenya is. You will encounter 14 seater Matatus that often carry up to 18 passengers. What completely annoys me is that you are expected to sit and watch as this goes on. You are supposed to share your seat with any and all without complaint. Should you hold your ground, you are insulted by both driver and conductor. This is one industry that totally disregards customer service.
Their list of bad behavior is long, ranging from loud music (for themselves not for the customers), overcharging, pretending to forget to give change, refusing to take you to your designated bus stop and worst of all insulting and mistreating customers who stand up to them.
Even worse, passengers have resigned to fate. They enter in to crowed Matatus which encourages this behavior. They even look strangely and offensively at anyone who stands for their rights.
The Consumer Protection Act having taken effect on March 14th, 2013 stipulates the rights of every consumer. This definitely covers you as you get in a bus or Matatu to get to your destination. You are entitled to receive service for which you have paid. Don’t let anyone lead you to believe different. Don’t also let anyone cower you into giving up your rights. You are a customer and you deserve to be treated with respect and given the service you have paid for.
To the rest of you who insist on getting into full vehicles; you may be ok with paying for half a seat or for squatting mid air. That is your decision. Do not at any time harass a fellow passenger for not sharing your misguided opinion. Before you enter into a full vehicle, carefully consider that in the event of an accident you will not be compensated by the Insurance companies if the vehicle was beyond capacity.
Those who share my strong view that customer service is key, don’t lose hope. Keep fighting for it. It doesn’t come easy but it is worth it!