Xmas Hampers & The Nigerian Factor

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Whatever your circumstances,
Christmas invokes some excitement, the degree depending on how many Christmases
you’ve celebrated.  Naturally, the young are more excited than the more
mature people because they look forward to having a good time of foods and
drinks and entertainment, more than usual.
Once
upon a time, sending/receiving Christmas cards was a big part of the Christmas
season.  The more we received, the more our joy, because we feel it’s a
demonstration of the goodwill people have for us. We proudly display them in
our living room. Sadly, with the advent of the gsm, sending text messages have
so largely replaced cards, that very few shops sell them, and those who do, no
longer have the ones with soul-stirring illustrations/messages we used to
cherish.

We
thank God that text messages cannot replace Christmas gifts. These make the
festive season sizzle for many people, for even if you’re a zillionaire and can
afford everything on earth, you may still enjoy receiving presents at
Christmas. How times have changed the choice of presents!

Gradually,
hampers of all sorts have replaced in many instances, those book gifts,
clothes/shoes/accessories gifts, perfumes, toys, etc., that we used to wrap up
nicely and send out, or receive.  Christmas hampers have become such big
business that they form part of the services that many business outfits provide
for individuals and the corporate world.
Mid-way
into a new year, hamper-makers begin to canvass for business, going round with
samples/catalogue of what they can assemble for you, depending on what you want
to spend.  The competition is fierce, as anyone can turn a hamper
provider.  All sorts of devises are used to make offers attractive.
Sturdy
and pretty plastic containers are gradually replacing the traditional cane
hampers which could sag or even break under the weight of their contents. 
Hampers used to consist of provisions, drinks and some household items, but
these days, their contents are becoming more sophisticated and upbeat –
expensive drinks, cosmetics, designer  towels, footwear, materials for
outfits, iron, sandwich toast maker, table top oven, plates and cutlery, as
well as the usual provisions.
Some
hamper-makers are quite imaginative and gifted in their selection of products
that will excite you.  The funny thing is that in their bid to make you
appreciate their selection, they go for foreign-produced items, whether their
quality is inferior to the locally made versions or not.
Some
tell you, ‘we use only imported items in our hampers’, and thus they have the
perfect excuse for overpricing the hampers.
Then
comes the Nigerian factor!  At times, expired items are stacked in the
hampers.  I used to think this was a mistake on the part of the suppliers,
but when this keeps happening every year, I began to believe that something
funny is going on.
If
you get a contract to supply hampers, or, if you’re selling hampers, shouldn’t
you go the extra mile to ensure that what you’re supplying are safe for the
recipients?  A friend told me that expired products, or those on the verge
of their expired dates come cheaper for these shylocks, so, they buy them.
It’s
advisable not to use tinned/bottled products like – milk, sardines, corned
beef, sausages, baked beans, salad cream, mayonnaise, without first checking
that they haven’t reached their expiry dates. If you don’t check, you and your
family could be in for serious food-poisoning.
A
hamper-maker of integrity, who has the interests of  his/her customers
seriously at heart, would use only products that have at least one more year
before their expiry dates.  This is because many hamper recipients don’t
get round to using the items in them, till much later in the year, or, even the
following year.
Unless
you’re in the catering business or have a large family, you’re most likely to
store away those  cans in your pantry, and forget about them.  When
you stumble on them later, you discover that their sell-by-date was long
over.  You shouldn’t trust the ‘three month grace’ some people say
manufacturers ‘build’ into the expiry date.
It’s
best to dump the whole expired lot, no matter how much you feel you could be
losing, than consume them at the risk of your health/life.  What’s more,
don’t dump them where other people are likely to find them and eat their
contents. You don’t want it on your conscience that people fell ill because of
what you dumped.
Another
Nigerian factor in the items in some hampers here, is the presence of empty
containers/packages. I know several people, including myself, who have been
victims of this. In my case, several times.  I removed the sellotape on a
tin of imported cookies, and found the tin half-empty!
Same
thing with tins of springles, crisps, chocolates, etc.  A relative found a
strange bottle in the beautiful  package of  Remy Matin brandy. 
You hear all sorts of stories about missing items in packages, 
substituted items, etc.  You wonder why cheating has become our second
nature here.
“Madam,
it’s greed and the poverty mentality” a colleague offered in explanation.
“But
that’s stealing,” I remarked. “A hamper should contain exactly what was
ordered. Anything otherwise, should be actionable.”
“True,
madam, but unless it’s a hamper you ordered and examined yourself, the supplier
cannot be charged with fraud.  This is because most hampers are gifts, and
one would be too embarrassed to tell the person who sent you the hamper, that
all wasn’t in order with it.  One tends to keep quiet, and it’s on that
that the suppliers play on; knowing that there would be no complaints from
their clients. So, the fraud will always be there.”
This
is true, but I think it’s time to change tunes.  First of all, when you
place an order for hampers, go over the list of the items, and tell the
supplier that all items should have at least one year sell-by-date left. 
You or your assistant should be shown samples of what would be provided.
Next
include a note in the hampers that says that the recipient should please report
any foul play in the contents.  A close relative once reported to his
friend that the drinks in the hamper he sent him had been tampered with. 
The friend was very grateful for the information, and asked for the bottles, which
he sent back to the supplier with a stiff word.  She apologized profusely,
and replaced them with genuine ones.
Understandably,
not all hamper suppliers are bent.  Some are quite honest, but if they’re
not vigilant when their staff are packing the hampers, items could be
removed/swapped for inferior versions. An acquaintance who’s in the hamper
business confirmed that there could be foul play in supply, but added that this
is usually not to the knowledge of the owner of the business, as he/she wouldn’t
risk losing clients.  Also, some suppliers don’t actually pack their
hampers, but place orders with market women, who make the selection.
Well,
whatever the case, we should desist from portraying Nigeria as a country full
of crooks.  We’re not the poorest nation in the world.  We can easily
make honesty and integrity our watchword if we want to.

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