The cellphone rang. It was a Durban-based number I didn’t recognise. For a while I had been avoiding answering calls from unknown numbers – inevitably those calls ended up with an uninterested “how are you?” on the other end of the line, and someone who wants to sell me something I don’t want or need.
In that process of avoiding calls from unknown numbers, there have been a few missed business calls, too. Authentic business-related calls. So it’s a bit of catch 22: avoid the “how are yous” or miss a few (possibly) important calls. For quite a while though, the telemarketers left me alone. I was happy. So when the unknown Durban-based number appeared on my phone’s screen, my brain started calculating the options: there are a few people and companies we work with in Durban. There was a chance that this was a legitimate call. I answered with a cheerful “Hello, Danie speaking.” “Is that Mr Daniel Botha?” asked an unfamiliar female voice.
This can’t be. The first call I receive in a while from an unknown number, and it’s a marketer again? I replied, dreadfully, yet slightly politely, with a “Yeeeeees?” “How are you?” Noooo! The lady jumped straight in, reading from her cue card. She was from a vehicle-tracking company, and she wanted to sell me a tracking system. “Thanks for the call madam, but I’m not interested,” I replied. She’d obviously heard that one before, and fired her next salvo: “Would you still feel that way if you or your family is hijacked?” What? Exploiting the fear of crime and violence, and dragging one’s family into it, to sell your tracking product? “I said… I’m not interested!”
I responded, slightly more animated, and ended the call. I happen to know what it feels like to be hijacked. It’s not pleasant. And, the thought of my family ever being involved in such an incident fills me with dread and fear and a whole lot of other unpleasant thoughts. If a company wants to use that fear to sell its products, I reckon it will mainly create animosity towards that product. That’s what it did to me. I can’t help but ponder: are there actually customers who, after hearing that sales pitch, reply with: “Wow! You are so right. I never thought about that. Please sign me up now.”
The crime situation affects us in many different ways. Like influencing what family vehicle we should buy. For the past few months I’ve been scanning car ads and going to dealerships to inspect cars, weighing up alternative options to replace our Subaru Forester 2.5X. The Scooby is really perfect for us, it’s just the monthly fuel bill that is a bit hectic. Looking at alternatives, I prefer to steer clear of popular hijacking target brands – even though I really would like to own some of the vehicles that fall in this category. But my family’s safety is more important. Considering the lawless situation on the roads, a small car is not an option. The other day I was driving in peak hour traffic and a huge dump truck was weaving in and out of the lanes, tailgating cars at 80km/h, just like a teenager in a low-riding VW Citi Golf with a doef-doef sound system.
When you see something like that, a small little economical hatch is not so appealing. You’d want to give your loved ones the best shot at surviving such a nincompoop. Also consider how many motorists have followed in the the minibus taxi tracks, adopting the ‘if you can’t beat them, join them’ philosophy, skipping stop streets, driving through red traffic lights and using any available lane to gain a car length or two. It’s not a question of if you will be involved in an incident, but rather when (in the big cities at least). Offering your loved ones the best possible opportunity to walk away from an incident becomes rather important.
There’s also the question of potholes… if you drive a tiny hatch, one wheel will often fit into a pothole (even in the cities). So a bigger wheel, fitted with a more robust all-terrain tyre is far better suited to those holes. I’ve not yet found an ideal alternative to replace the Scooby. Instead I’ll just feed that thirsty boxer engine, and take comfort in the fact that my family is relatively safe during their commutes. I’ll definitely not be subscribing to a tracking system from Durban either. What are your thoughts about safety and buying cars? How big a role does the potential crime play in your buying decision? Send us a mail. In the meantime, be safe out there.
Text: Danie Botha