Egypt: Local Reflections on “Going Local”

Date posted: February 2, 2009


Nermeen Edrees of Global Voices Online wrote about Egypt's Going Local Campaign. Today Blogger Juka celebrates the launch of the initiative's facebook group, Ahmed Al Sabbagh reacts to Facebook itself going local while another two bloggers dictate their terms to switch to local Egyptian products. Juka celebrated the Facebook group of her "Buying Egypt Back" initiative saying:

Please check out the group, join it and let us know what you think. During the upcoming week, the initiative will also have a blog to call it’s own, hence the delay in posting success stories. Also, another housekeeping note, I’d love to hear all your input on the initiative, logo, slogans, ideas, actual experiences with local products you’d like to share, etc. Kindly e-mail us at buyegypt@gmail.com

Ahmed Al Sabbagh who supports the initiative is not thrilled with the local Arabic version of Facebook

 لاحظت منذ أيام قليلة بعض أسماء فيسبوكية باللغة العربية .. والفيسبوك كان قبلها لا يسمح بأسماء الأشخاص إلا بلغة إنجليزية .. ثم لاحظت مع كتابة "نوت" على الفيس بوك أن الفقرة عربية .. تبدأ من اليمين إلى اليسار .. عكس ما هو شائع فى "النوتات" الفيس بوكية أعتبره الكثيرون أنه نصر للغة العربية وإنه احترام من إدارة الموقع لأهل اللغة المظلومة .. وربما يكون ذلك صحيحاً .. لا أدرى .. لكننى بحكم التعود على الأسماء الإنجليزية فقد شعرت بالضيق عندما رأيت .. حسين .. رنا … عبد النبى .. وليد .. سماح وقد كنت أراها دائماً بحروف إنجليزية أعتقد أن أكثر الناس المستفيدين من هذة الخاصية الجديدة .. ربما ذوى الأسماء العويصة .. مثل "آلاء" الذى تجد بشر بيصبح عليها كالآتى: صباح الخير يا علاء باشا عامل ايه أو "عامر" الذى يجد الكثيرين ينادونة بإسم "أمير" وهكذا فى الحقيقة أنا لست محبذاً لهذة الخاصية العربية الجديدة .. ربما كانت الفقرات العربية فى "النوت" شيئاً جميلاً .. لكن الأسماء العربية .. لا تضيف جديداً وتعمل على تشوية الشكل العام للموقع… فأنا أعتقد أن الروس أو اليابانيين يكتبون اٍسمائهم أيضاً بلغة أنجليزية وهذا لا يمس قيمة وإحترام وإعتزازنا بلغتنا
 
Some Arabic names written using Arabic letters caught my attention when, until recently, only English typography was allowed. Then I noticed that when I type a note, the paragraph allows for Arabic formatting and that it is aligned from right to left contrary to what we have been accustomed to. Many people hailed the change and considered it a victory for the Arabic language and that the management of Facebook are showing respect to the speakers of the neglected language. This might be true. As for me, I felt rather uncomfortable when reading names like Hussein, Rana, Abdel Nabi, Waleed, Samah in Arabic letters when I got used to seeing them in English. I realize that many people will benefit from this new property especially those whose names were confusing in English, like Ala'a which is read like A'ala and Amer which is read Amir. Personally, I am not in favor of this new Arabic feature. Maybe the ability to write notes with proper Arabic settings is nice but Arabic names do not really add to the site, on the contrary, it deforms the overall outlook of Facebook. Russians and Japanese write their names in English and writing our names in English does not diminish our appreciation for, respect to, and pride of our native language.

In a post titled: Going Local: You Want My Money, You Have to Earn it, Perwin Ali dictated her terms to switch to local brands:

I recently got an invitation from [Mermaid] a friend of mine to join a group called Let’s Go Local, which is a group that aims to support Egyptian products. I also found out that she had written something about using only Egyptian products. Now anyone who knows me knows how much I love my country, even though I have x-ray vision when it comes to its faults. For me one thing has nothing to do with the other. To me the problem is in the people, not the land, or what Egypt represents to me. That said, the invitation got me thinking: am I willing to sacrifice my comfort to support my country’s local products? The answer is simple: no. However, ask me: Am I willing to support my country by buying good local products? Yes, in a heartbeat (which is what I do most of the time anyway). Call me selfish, but I’m not willing to sacrifice my comfort to support a product that doesn’t respect me enough to create something of acceptable standards. Why should I? I work hard for my money (hard being the operative word here), and I deserve to feel the outcome of my hard work (again, hard work here is key).

Her rationale is simple:

Other than my own discomfort, if I buy mediocre products, it would just be an act of enabling the bad products to remain bad. After all, they would still be able to make money even when they are not up to par.

Then she elaborates:

I’m sorry, but I do not see that starting with an act of good faith works here. I cannot start buying low quality products in the hope that they are going to improve. That just doesn’t make any sense. Why would they want to do that? We all know it’s hard work to be good. Easy is always better –especially if you can get away with it. The way I see it, this is a situation of ‘help me help you’. You have to be good enough if you want my patronage. It’s a buyer’s market now, so get with it. You might think I’m harsh. So what if I am? This is tough love. I love my country, but I won’t support its bad habits.

Finally, Insomniac tells us of her experience of supporting a local fast food delivery chain that offers two product lines: one is for burgers and the other for healthy food.

Today, given my new diet plans, I decided to give the Z a try. I tried to tempt one of my coworkers to join me, but he said he felt like eating something “yeshaba3” [fill me up]; so I told him they were the same place from where we get our usual burgers, he said he was in for a mushroom burger. I called them and here is how it went… The guy (who was really friendly and polite): is it your first time to order? Me: yes, I think I use another number, and I always called the X brand, so to save you time I can just give you all the info all over again and then you can merge them on your own… *after giving him all the necessary information* Me: so this is my order, cob salad, and I want to make a burger order, so how does it work, do u put me through to a colleague or I just tell you?? Him: no, you will need to hang up and call the X number Me: oh! But it’s only one number different from yours, so I am assuming you’re in the same location, no??? Him: yes, but it’s a different concept, we offer healthy food while X offers burgers Me: yeah I get that, but I want both orders to be delivered at the same time, since I don’t want to start eating and have my colleague watching me or the other way around!! Him: yes, I understand, don’t worry; I will make sure they are delivered at the same time… Me: no, I meant to say you should make sure they are delivered by the SAME person!!!!! It’s cost efficient for you, you know!! Him: yeah of course, but… ok, I am so sorry, but the owner clearly stated that deliveries from either brands should be separate…. Me: ok, I understand it’s probably because you want to charge me for the delivery TWICE, no??? Him (really embarrassed about it): I am so sorry, owner’s order, it’s a branding thing! Me: look, you don’t have to give me any invalid justifications, I really like your burgers and I have a good feeling about your salads, so I will assume you don’t have the authority to change the owner’s rules and let you charge me twice for the delivery, each order in a separate receipt, ok, but make sure they are delivered by the same person… and you can leave a remark in my name that this rule is rather silly, ok now?? Him (seemed to be relieved that I didn’t start a fight, and really appreciative of my calm tone of voice): ok ya fandem, ana asef geddan 3ala el ez3ag. [Certainly mam and I apologize for the inconvenience] Me: wala yehemak! [Never mind] I hung up and called the other number to order my friend’s burger….

She found out that the same guy answered the phone and again he told her that it was the boss's rules:

Me: it’s ok, I am not upset with you, I just think this rule is LAME Him: would you please log on our website and leave a comment in the customer feedback area, I know the owner checks it on daily basis but he wouldn’t listen to any of the staff unless a customer leaves a comment! Me: ok, I guess I’ll leave a piece of mind there for him…

After she left the comment she wondered:

Now, I am really questioning the owner’s IQ! Well, not to offend, I am questioning his Business IQ! There are online stores who would not charge you for delivery if you buy from more than one subsidiary, even if the items you choose are not available in the closest store, they ship them from a different branch on their own expense for your own convenience!! And that guy is getting two orders from the same kitchen and charging you double the delivery!!! I will stop criticizing him for now; perhaps I would get a positive feedback on my note.

She concludes:

However, is it the kind of service Egyptians offer! I mean with the whole campaign of going local, is that the kind of treatment I should expect from local brands!! I was really thrilled that I have local alternatives for all the junk food on which I spend most of my money. Yes, the food is of good quality, but the service has its own set of flaws! And it worries me that one day; the quality will also decline just like it always declines as far as Egyptian brands are concerned. It makes me question the whole concept of going local; most of the local brands in almost any product/service is of low quality, and those who provide half decent quality overcharge you because they are supposedly targeting the “elite”!! I always wanted to have a discussion with those brand owners and tell them something that perhaps they never considered; the “elite” do most of their shopping from Europe and North America, or at least from European and North American brands in Dubai or other Gulf countries, and if they travel regularly, it costs them a lot less than to buy half decent Egyptian brands for the same price!! It could be the case for a lot of people who read this, or I could just be justifying my way into placing that online purchase that’s been saved on my mailbox for weeks now! Oh, the salad was ok, but I can so make my own salad before I leave to work if I wake up half an hour earlier; so no, not so exquisite, at least not the way their burger compares to other burgers!!

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