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Was It Worth It?


Thinking. Photo: Talent Talks

Have you ever dealt with someone who carries the fact that he’s paid top dollar for mediocre service as a badge of honour, only because the mediocre service was provided by the oyinbo?

Why is it that, in Nigeria, such boasting is allowed, or even encouraged?

It’s almost like having dinner at Shi Shi Restaurant in Lagos, which made headlines back in May for its staff’s racist treatment of Nigerian customers, paying a fortune for what is possibly mediocre food serves with a big side of contempt, then going out to boast about your meal.


Most recently, discussing a business opportunity with a potential client, halfway into the conversation, I began noticing a pattern.

Bear in mind, the discussion was a result of their dissatisfaction with the agency they’d hired and worked with for a good part of the last six months. While in the same conversation they were voicing concerns over how badly the agency had performed, they also couldn’t help themselves, they had the repeat the agency was a City-based one.

City-based of course meaning run by the glossy oyinbo, in snazzy offices in a glitzy building in the City. City-based means, of course, they are better than everybody else providing the same service.

The more they repeated ‘City-based’ the more I had to practice refrain to ask them why they had to stress the point and go on to educate them that glitzy offices didn’t automatically guarantee perfect service, as was the case in their narrative.

The education had to come to a few emails later when I had to explain that working with a ‘City-based’ company doesn’t always mean you get the best talent; it often means your monthly retainer pays for the overheads and if you’re a small client, you end up with a graduate, or a junior talent at best while top dogs get top talent.

I’ve heard such statements like ‘City-based’ or ‘Fortune 500’ or ‘British expert’ bandied about far more than I can remember. While of course, some give great services, there are quite a few that sees Nigerian clients and see dollar signs. If I put a penny aside for the number of times I’ve had to fix a brochure, or a corporate report, or a CEO’s note which was commissioned to ‘City-based’ agency who set a graduate writer on the job and couldn’t deliver the goods way past the 11th hour, I’d be starting a ‘City-based’ agency by now.


The problem with most Nigerians is their penchant for status symbols.

This is why husbands get their wives Bentleys for milestone birthdays, or why celebrants of a certain age throw birthday bashes in Dubai, why young women aspire to Louis Vuitton bags and young girls paint the soles of their stilettos red. This is also why there’s nothing wrong with eating at a racist establishment as long as you’ve paid top dollar for it, or being taken for a ride by a ‘City-based’ agency as long as you can flaunt the fact that it was indeed ‘City-based’ and you paid good money – just swiftly omit the fact that the service you got in return was worthless.

Imagine what our world would be like if there no status symbols to boast of? If people genuinely didn’t care what car you drove or what bag you had on your arm, or what agency you did business with? If people got real value for the hard-earned cash they paid for instead of glitzy international name and nothing to show for it? Maybe we’d be making more sensible decisions with our time, our money and more importantly in whom or what we put our trust. And the return on that investment would be absolutely priceless.

Next time you hear someone telling you how they spent big sums on a ‘City-based’ agency, I urge you to ask them this one question: Was it worth it?

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