Your Business Ethics Make Customers Hate Your Product; Welcome To Mombasa

How many customers have stopped doing business with you since the beginning of this year? Care to know? Does that have anything to do with the way you treat them; directly or indirectly? You could be losing them because you have stinky business ethics!

Trust me, even with a top notch product, the way you and your employees behave can turn off to your customers. Success in your business depends on the quality of your product as well as your business ethics. You can’t ignore one or the other.

Business ethics in the streets of Mombasa
Street business

Walking Down The Streets, Welcome To Mombasa City

For the last two years, I have lived in the same estate in Mombasa; Sparki estate in particular. I tend to use the same street while going to town and have seen buildings come up, get renovated and even demolished over time.

Being a business mentor, I’m keen to notice different kinds of businesses in the estate.

In Mombasa, food related businesses thrive especially if the owner focuses on what the locals like. We are talking of potatoes, wheat flour, spices, cereals and animal proteins. You see, this city can’t do without viazi karai, chapatti, biryani, kuku choma and maharagwe ya nazi. I mean, that would undo the Swahili aspect of the coastal city of Kenya. Anyone running a grocery shop has to know this unwritten code to survive!


If you decide to visit Mombasa and leave without feasting on these meals, trust me, you will be labeled a hater. Worse still, you will never convince anyone you were here. This is our mark of hospitality whether you stay at the Serena Beach hotel or eat in Kwa-Mama-Pima.

Top 5 Seemingly Innocent Business Ethics That Rob Owners Of Their Profits In Mombasa

With all the ‘generosity’ you hear about in Mombasa, I’ve experienced some stinky business ethics denying owners of huge profits. You may not notice it at first, but having lived in this city for over 8 years now, I’ve witnessed these customer-unfriendly habits among business owners and their employees. Here you go:

  1. Business Running from Pedestrian Walks

You may have seen this all over Kenya, but in Mombasa it’s a top nuisance. Business owners tend to extend their shops to the pedestrian walks with the aim of increasing operation space. Not only is this a huge case of land grabbing; a sign of intensified greed, but it also denies the same customers they need a walking space.

Business along Mombasa streets
Busy streets

Roads in Mombasa are narrow, but even then, business owners place their merchandise along the pedestrian walks. You will find grill stands, bales of flour, hardware equipment and advertising boards placed on the pavements. It enables them to serve people on the road while at the same time forcing the pedestrians to share the roads with matatus (14 seater public service vehicles).

Why do they do this?

 Many people in Mombasa prefer trading from the comfort of their vehicles. So anytime from 4pm, drivers have the luxury of slowing down vehicles without leaving the road to help them and their passengers buy mshakiki, drinking water and groceries from their cars. That means everyone else behind them has to wait. Is that annoying or what?!

As a customer, I have made a rule never to buy from such business people. In fact, I go an extra step to make it known to them and the unsuspecting customers.

  1. Serving Customers on “Do I Know You?” Basis

Have you ever walked into a shop to buy your groceries and halfway through the transactions the trader ignores your presence just like that? No?

You haven’t been to Mombasa then.

Imagine arriving at a vegetable shop, selecting all the items you need and when you are about to pay, another customer walks in. The seller grabs your money and makes you wait for the change as he turns his attentions to the newcomer.

I’m simply tired of counting the number of times I have faced this evil! 😈

What the heck!

The last time it happened, I was unable to tame my manners. So I asked the business owner if he wanted to keep the change. By this time, he had switched to his mother tongue and was engaging with the new customer. It was clear, I was no longer a priority.

Why do they do this?

Culture calls for people to appreciate their friends as a matter of priority and also regard new business more than the older. So if the new customer is also a friend, you have to wait for them to be served first. Again, once the seller gets hold of your money, your purpose diminishes.

How about that?

As a business owner, if you have the habit of turning your attention to the new customer before finishing the transaction with the first, you are sending them away for good. And even if they ever return, it won’t be out of loyalty but desperation.

  1. Dirty Washrooms

Am I the only one who hates dirty washrooms?

Despite frequent warnings from Ministry of Health, some pubs and restaurants have the ugliest toilets ever. Even when there is plenty of water, such places hardly disinfect their toilets. That leaves the place stinky all day. Some even have the audacity to stay open when they have no running water in their washrooms!

What’s the theory behind dirty toilets?

One hotel owner told me, ‘A toilet handles dirt; it can’t be any cleaner’ #DealWithIt. Needless to say, I’m still recovering from the shock.

Business ethics go beyond your spoken language. What your customers experience while in your premises determines whether they will refer their friends to you. How about inspecting your toilets every 3 hours or so?

Consider bleaching the toilet every morning and around lunch hour or when you notice huge traffic in your restaurant. Besides, there is a lot of affordable homemade bleach in this city.

  1. Unmotivated services

Mombasa is a leisurely city; from the heat of the day to matching idyllic beaches, rushing is left for matatu. Unless you have the time to search for the item you want in a shop or pay a visit to the open air market; Kongowea, there is a chance you will be served by an employee who can’t wait for you to pay and leave.

It is rare to get the person serving you genuinely asking if they can offer you something extra beyond your ask. The few business owners who care to ask scoop a lot of customers. The rest spend their day counting hours against coins.

Why the lack of concern?

Several times during mentorship sessions, I have been reminded that the fate of the day is pre-designed. If the customer doesn’t ask for anything extra, there weren’t meant to have it; the money is not yours to have.

FYI: If your employees are dishing out only what the customers asks, you are leaving lots of money on the table. A little persuasion jogs the memory and warms the heart.

How about asking every customer if they could use a related item? It would show that you know your niche. You will be shocked how many people forget the exact item they wanted when they get to your shop. A simple question will earn you their appreciation. Don’t forget to smile; it costs you nothing.

Business atmosphere
  1. Idling Guests

Have you been to a shop and found 2 or 3 extra people at the shop yet they weren’t buying a thing?

There are several shops in my estate that always have people milling around the shop front. Their aim is to deliver local updates to the shopkeeper as he serves their customers. The problem is, they hang around there for way too long and don’t remember to excuse customers when such show up.

So they keep speaking to the shopkeeper even when the customer is asking for a product. THAT’S ANNOYING!

But I’m told that catching up with a friend anytime they show up is healthy; you don’t know when they will come around again.

As a business owner, set a good example for your employees by cutting on the chinwags.

If you must chat with your guest for long, shift to another room. You don’t want to keep your customers waiting for your dialog to end before they can buy. Remember you have competitors and a business to run. And that business is not called chatting.

These five ills aren’t limited to Mombasa. I bet you have seen a few in your town or maybe at your workplace. Take time to review how you serve your customers. Are they bearing with your ill services because they know you or do they come to you because you make them feel special?

Make a list of stinky business ethics you have witnessed in your area and ensure you don’t serve such to your customers. Your customer remains the king; anything less, you are losing lots of money!

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