The boatman at the lake of Dokan is sure he will get it his way. He wants 70.000 dinars (57 dollars) for two boats to take my seven guests for a trip on the lake.
I have a standing agreement with a colleague of his, one of the few boatmen who speak English. I have phoned him, and he has arrived. He would take my guests in one boat for 45.000 dinar (36 dollars).
But I cannot do business with him, because the boatmen have a system in which they take a load in turns. And it is not his turn.
Yet I want ‘my’ boatman, and I want only one boat. I stand there arguing at the lakeside, while my guests are placing bets whether I am going to win. It takes over 15 minutes, but then they are on their way in one boat.
By that time I am exhausted and fuming. I have an agreement with a boatman, and because of a stupid rule he cannot keep it. And his colleague could not have cared less had I turned around and just left.
What is this? Is there no incentive to do business in Kurdistan? Never heard of being commercial? My guests were already saying ‘let him be and let’s go’. He could have ended up with no income.
This is not doing business. This is plain stupidity. Doing business means you make money, and if needed you adapt to the market and the costumers. If you do not, you will lose out.
Your customers should be King. You should do anything for a customer to make him happy. Because you want him to remember you and come back. You have something to sell, so make it attractive. Don’t chase him away by having him work to make a deal, or by asking too much money. If he goes, you did not make any money, and you lost a returning customer.
In this case, all has been set to let me never return to the boatmen of Dokan. When the group got into the bus, sharp bits of glass were found placed behind two tires. Had not one of my guests done a tour around the vehicle, we would have been stuck for hours while the tires were changed.
It seems the boys who saw us haggle, or just do not like foreigners, placed the glass there. My guests were shocked, and so was I. The picture of a hospitable Kurdistan was shaken profoundly.
Please, my fellow countrymen, clean up your act. Tourists bring in money and are the best ambassadors for Kurdistan when they leave happy. Make sure they do! Not only for your wallet, for those of all of us. And even more: for the sake of Kurdistan.
This blog was first published in the Kurdish daily Kurdistani Nwe