Posts tagged ‘kidnapping’

December 12, 2011

UPDATED (FINAL) A story of customer exploitation in Trinidad resolved.

To show how fighting for what is right online can make a difference –  here is the perfect example.  The company faced with an an online campaign that was starting to go viral responded by rectifying the problem. Time elapsed  – less than 48hrs.

At exactly 1:23 PM on Monday, December 12, 2011 I received a called on my mobile phone.  The person identified himself as Mr. John Wallis, Owner of Ma Pau and co-owner of Sweet Lime Restaurant.  I was livid and utterly speechless not anticipating what the conversation was going to be like.  I was very silent on the phone but Mr. Wallis proceeded to speak.  He apologized on behalf of his restaurant and offered some form of re-dress to the situation.  I responded very guardedly that a refund to the tune of the 7 extra meals be paid to which he responded in the negative.  Instead he indicated that a full refund would be made.  At first, I indicated my hesitance to do such but Mr. Wallis is a professional.  He understood my viewpoint and was very sympathetic about the outcome of the incident.  He re-iterated that on behalf of his establishment how apologetic he was for the turn of events.

Earlier this afternoon, around 5.20 PM, a full refund to the tune of $3038 was paid to me.  I am satisfied that through it all that the owners were very professional and did the right thing.  But here is a suggestion from which we can all learn:

  • On the part of the Restaurants – take it upon yourselves to establish a properly publicized reservation policy and ensure that managers implement it.  If it was known that I would have been financially liable for the 12 meals things would have been much easier.

I would like to thank my closer FB friends JD, VOR, TOP, SSA who encouraged me to make public what started off as a personal status update for my FB friends only.  I would also like to thank Mr. John Wallis, co-owner of Sweet Lime for his speedy resolution of the matter.  And the biggest thanks go to YOU, the FB community, who shared my pains of the last 36-48 hours and really took the time to read and repost.  Through it all, Trinidad and Tobago is truly a magical place filled with magical people.  I never thought that my simple note would have gone so viral that a matter, which I thought was dead, would have been resolved this quickly…

 

Compliments of the Season and Merry Christmas to each and every one of you.

Regards,

Bis Ram

ORIGINAL STORY BELOW

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A FB friend in  T&T had a most unfortunate experience at a restaurant on Saturday night.   I find it totally unfathomable that  any restaurant  would  be so callous to a client.  I should mention that this is also a young person who was just trying to have an Xmas get-together with colleagues. I wasn’t there and I don’t know both sides but in this case I can’t imagine  what the other side would be.  I am posting his public post with no alterations. He wants word spread.

As some of you would realize by now – I was kidnapped by the management of Sweet Lime Restaurant on the Ariapita Avenue last night. Most of you all are wondering what I meant by my statement so the following is my account of the events leading up to my kidnapping and ordeal.

This year has been a challenging one for my co-workers and I, as such I thought it was best to have a Christmas Dinner to re-connect with them. As you all know, there are numerous restaurants offering a Christmas Menu this season. I made a seating RESERVATION for 12 persons, however, last night only 5 persons showed up for the Christmas Dinner at Sweet Lime. During our dinner, the manager asked to speak with me at the front. I obliged and proceeded to the front where I was told that I would have to pay for 12 meals as it was “specially” made for us and that I had made a “reservation for 12”.

I pointed out to the “manager” that a reservation is typically for seating and that the Christmas Dinner option was part of their A la carte menu that they have. FB – If I had known I was going to be billed for 12 christmas dinners @ $250 per plate then would I have still booked the reservation? At no point prior to the event did they make it clear that I would have to pay for 12. In no way was this event a booking either as no invoice was generated and sent to me. No legally binding document or agreement was signed by me to commit me to 12 plates.

I went back to our dinner table and my co-workers quizzed me about what had happened. I, hesitantly, told them about the claims Sweet Lime were making. Again, the manager requested that I meet her at the front. I have the best co-workers ever. We operated as a TEAM and went to the front. To our utmost surprise the Manager had called “Security” who flashed something resembling a badge/I.D. card. He told us that the meals were “specially” prepared and that we had to pay for all 12 plates. We told him that we are willing to pay for the meals we ate i.e. 5 plates and not the 12 they were forcing to pay for. He then proceeded to call the police…

Next in the scene, the cashier handed me a phone with “owner/manager” on the line. My co-worker took the phone and spoke to the manager trying to explain the situation and a lesson a CS relationships. He kept on insisting we had to pay and then insulted my co-worker before requesting to speak to me. I took the phone and tried appealing to the nobler motives suggesting that ultimately the Restaurant would get a negative review… that didn’t persuade him instead he said I had to pay for the 12 meals or face jail time “tonight”. I again re-iterated that I am willing to pay for the meals we ate and that I am in no way financially able to pay for 12 meals. He threatened me to call the “Police” and have me arrested to which I asked “for what?” He hung up the phone on me….

During this ordeal we were made to sit at a table essentially kidnapped with the ransom of having to pay 12 meals or face going to jail. We weren’t allowed to leave or get up from the table…

All the time I was on the phone, my co-workers had already called the police. However when the 3 police showed up they weren’t the ones we made the report to. In addition to which 2 of them were in plain clothes and only the WPC had on her uniform. The “Police” didn’t even talk to the management of sweet lime. Instead they walked up to us and told us that these meals were “specially” made for us and that we had to pay for them. We tried explaining our side of the event to them but they weren’t listening to us. They kept on insisting we had to pay for the 12 meals. One of the police officers who happened to be the most aggressive wanted to speak to me along to which my co-workers said that we came here in a group and that they weren’t letting me go anywhere. The “Police” eventually got me alone. He asked me why I was scared to which I replied “Sir, you may be a ‘good’ police officer but I read the newspapers everyday” He tried to instill fear to get me to pay the bill for 12 plates. Clearly, TTPS is not the only ones paying their salaries, as evidenced by the dismal refusal to give us their ID numbers and names. This was agreed upon by all of us based on how the entire event panned out.

In the end we were made to pay a bill of more than $3300 to Sweet Lime before being escorted out. No dessert, no food packaged to go, nothing. In addition to which the police took all our info: names, addresses and phone contacts, which I am inclined to believe is in the possession of Sweet Lime Restaurant.

So what do we do now? Well I paid the bill and I am NOT going to contest it. “Why Bis?” is the question all of you that read this will ask. And I will reply, that I am seeing the bigger picture here. Anyone who knows Sweet Lime/Ma Pau knows about the connections that they have. I am of a strong morale belief. While this event is most unfortunate and unfair, I cannot compromise the security and well being of my co-workers who I hold dearly to me for a couple hundred dollars. No amount of money is worth their lives. In the end I made the reservation and I will take this one and let it slide. Against all better judgment and argument, I love my co-workers who proved to me last night that at John D we are/were best friends and family…..we stuck it out and I love you guys. I’m sorry I cannot call out your names…you know who you are!!! God Bless….even those at Sweet Lime Restaurant

Regards,

Bis Ram

**UPDATE** Dec 12, 2011

…..” Mac Ward and I own Sweetlime. We were absolutely wrong and apologise for the way Mr. Bisnat was treated. We have no excuse and have apologised to him and will be making a full refund. We unreservedly apologise to himk and his guests and sincerely hope they will give us a second chance. We thank him for putting his comments on Facebook as this is the only way we would have known about our error. We welcome all comments that will help us build an better experience for our customers and staff.”

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May 9, 2008

The Ministry of Shame

Nosferatu  - F. W. Murnau

Another day another blog entry. Make that several days but I have begun to think it is better to build up something to say rather than just saying things for the sake of filling space on servers. There are a few things that have been on my mind lately and they really have no connection to each other. I am still very perturbed that Ms Talma is still being held by her kidnappers. This is the first time this year ( to my recollection) anyone has been held for more than 2 days. While being held for 2 days is horrifying enough I can only imagine what trauma the poor woman must be enduring after almost a week. It stands to reason that the sort of scum that would perpetrate such an act are probably not exactly concerned about her comfort. Her kids and the rest of her family have probably not had a night’s sleep since the ordeal began. The police are doing their usual thing arresting people and releasing them but as far as I can gather have made little progress in her recovery. I am sure we can expect the usual twaddle from the ersatz National Security Minister at some point as he explains that this is just another minor glitch  and the country is, in fact, safer now as we implement his “crime plan”. If I am ever held by unspeakable elements and Joseph is in charge I think my best bet would be to pray for a cyanide pill.

I have spoken to a number of people and the consensus ( if 100% counts as a consensus) is that were they a minister with his track record the PM wouldn’t have to fire them as they would step down in shame. Then again, the PM put him there and seems perfectly content with his performance despite an out of control murder rate, kidnappings and the fact it is much easier to get drugs than water in many parts of the country. I imagine the idea of stepping down in shame is fairly meaningless when those in

question seem to have a limited quantity of that particular commodity.

Rather than let me blood pressure reach clinically dangerous levels I have been trying to think about  other subjects for the last few days. A few of these, however, have also had a deleterious effect on my BP. The government recently announced it was stopping live broadcasts of the Joint Select Committee meetings. These meetings/hearings were designed to ensure that there is oversight in the operations of certain state corporations. Seeing the heads of these corporations such as Calder Hart  of UDECOTT being questioned about how they spend our money was an excellent example of a healthy democracy. Apparently, though, the discomfort of some of these officials in being grilled has been deemed more important than the public’s right to see accountability in action. Sure, the media is ( apparently) still allowed to cover the events but the live broadcasts allowed the public to see the proceedings without having it filtered through the media first. If someone is being paid a handsome salary from the public purse and is spending a lot of tax money in order to do something on our behalf they should certainly expect to be asked questions in full view of the public. This is a great step backwards in transparency and not a good sign for the future. I am not sure what precedent there is for a government allowing proceedings to be public and then changing the rules of the game but I would love to know.

On a different note, I went to the gym today, ostensibly to do a little cardio but really because I was running low on Haagen Dazs Chocolate, Chocolate Chip ice cream  and MetroMint Water, and I was marvelling at the ethnic mixtures in this country. Of course there are people of African descent and Indian descent but it was the mixtures that really caught my attention. Men and women with unusual and often beautiful features whose ethnicity would be almost impossible to guess. I certainly tried to see if I could figure some of them out but given the sheer number of groups in T&T the possibilities left me totally frustrated. The best I could manage was “well African and maybe Spanish..but there might also be a hint of Chinese or Carib in there”. It is amazing the things one does to ignore the fact one is running like mad and not actually getting anywhere – allegedly in the name of health. After a couple of post-gym cigarettes I was much better able to handle my inability to make definitive guesses.

And since I mentioned shopping I have been examining my food shopping habits of late. As someone who has grown up..as they say..elsewhere…I tend to go to ridiculous lengths and spend far too much money to get certain things that I consider essential. The other day I found myself spending the equivalent of $9 US  to buy two parsnips. To be honest they weren’t even healthy specimens but they are so rare here that I felt it a reasonable price to pay. Never mind the fact I could have bought a bushel of them in Toronto for that price I just knew I had to have them and , frankly, the aroma of them boiling brought back so many memories it was well worth the price. Somewhere I also developed an obsession for Metromint Water ( www.metromint.com) . This is something I cannot explain. The good people who make it describe it as “pure. Simple. Mintwater” as if it  is something that occurs in nature and they just harvested it from a mint spring that emerged from some vast underground mint water aquifer. Basically it is purified water with a bit of natural mint ( or spearmint ) flavour added. It is beautifully packaged in a tall cylindrical bottle but it also costs twice as much as the local bottled water or even Gatorade. For some reason I cannot get enough of the stuff which is only sold in a few shops here ( and only one in Port of Spain). I have been known to grab the entire stock on the shelf and gleefully rush to the cash register waving my debit card. It has reached the point where visiting friends express concern about the row upon row of mintwater in my fridge and even my gym trainer  is wondering if it has some narcotic properties I am not telling him about. I suppose there are far less healthy taste obsessions to have.

May 4, 2008

The Fear Factor

 

Apparently I have been rather derelict in adding entries to my blog. It is amazing how quickly time can elapse when the everyday distractions of normal life get to work. I suppose this society lends itself to distraction of one form or another as the average citizen tries to do everything but actually think. I have personally eschewed the usual feting and drinking in favour of conquering the various hurdles of Zelda, Twilight Princess on the Wii and catching up on some reading of various sorts. 

Crime is a current that underlies most aspects of living in this country and ,though it is sometimes possible to ignore the perils that surround us, we are always brought back to the reality of the situation. While the government and ( especially) the so-called Minister of National Security dither about and  spend a great deal of time saying things are improving – the reality is somewhat different. This need to be wary was brought home again in the last couple of days when Philippa Talma, the daughter of the widely respected Professsor Julian Kenny, was kidnapped while closing up her boutique at 6:45 in the evening. She was not doing anything unusual and was certainly not out and about in the wee hours of the morning to make herself a target. She was simply doing what   thousands of business people do at the end of each day and then she was snatched and thrown into a car. Her whereabouts are still not known and it is now reported that the kidnappers are asking for a million dollars for her safe return. Quite apart from the fear she must be experiencing goodness knows how she is being treated by the scum that have committed this evil act. The horror of the act is even worse when one stops to think what her kids and family must be going through for the last 48 hours.

This is not the first kidnapping we have had and, sadly, it will not be the last. There seems to be a class of people that regard the crime as a sort of industry. How this can happen in a country that is not large by any stretch and how the police cannot manage to capture these criminals is beyond me. I can understand why the police are powerless to stop gang slayings and domestic situations that go bad because of the nature of these sorts of crimes but kidnapping is an organized business and the police should have an organized response. The situation is made even more maddening when rumours abound that some police officers are complicit . 

While all this happens we are seeing a major exodus of business people who, in my view quite rightly, see little point in hanging around when they or their family members may be taken at gunpoint and held pending a ransom payment. Those business owners who choose to stay live lives surrounded by security arrangements and usually send their family overseas for safety. The rest of us are told that we should take measures to ensure that we are aware of our surroundings at all times and not place ourselves in situations that would make us easy targets. I am not sure exactly what this means as people have been kidnapped while in their homes, while walking to their cars in broad daylight and even while attending class. My life consists of leaving home, looking around while I open the gate to get to my car, locking the car doors the second I get in, varying my route to work slightly every day, looking around when I get out of my car to get to work and generally assuming anyone walking on the street wants to do me harm. All of this is not the ideal situation when it comes to having a normal quality of life. I do these things even though I am not even in the kidnap-worthy category although several people who are just middle class by any assessment have been kidnapped in the past. I cannot even imagine what someone with money must go through as they try to live their daily life.

It find it ironic that the average person in New York, Toronto or London has good reason to feel safer than i do living on a small tropical island. Then again, they have police services that work.

 

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