The Ghanaian Dollar
January 18, 2012 § 3 Comments
My stress level has spiked way up in the past 24 hours. I’m in a semi-permanent pissy mood. I’m even suffering some heart palpitations. I’d been mulling what could’ve created this immediate swing of physical and emotional changes this morning in bed. Then she called out for me. I immediately went from calm to annoyed. The stress from her sent me to the E.R. and earned me a $24k hospital bill 8 years ago. I don’t know when she’ll go back to New Jersey, but I can only hope there’s a lot for me to do the rest of this month away from her. There’s a long history behind that strained relationship, and the same can be said for my dad, but no worries, I’ll never share any of that here. I just know living with both of them again is more stress than I can manage. Don’t get me wrong, though, I love them dearly. But soon enough, she’ll be back on her return Delta flight, and he’ll go back to wherever he actually lives (which isn’t here as mom expects) and I’ll have some peace of mind for a change.
I left home early today to meet up with my first potential hire. It was a huge disappointment. Let’s back up in time a bit here. In 1998, I learned object-oriented programming in C++. I’ve learned Java, html, and have a very good sense of the underpinnings of the internet. I also have a mind that is eternally restless. I can never fully concentrate on one thing unless I’m emotionally interested, or I’d easily forget what I’m doing and why I started it in the first place. Read Brother’s Karamazov, and Anna Karenina in one day and remember what I read, no big deal. Write a simple integration program on a TI calculator, and add one more function for it to execute, well… although that’s a handful of lines of code, that’s easier said than done. So building my own website is one thing I know I’ll never finish on my own even with a gun pointed at my head, and even though I should be able to do it with ease.
So, I met with a guy recommended by a fellow blogger a few months back to discuss plans for my company’s website since I have no interest in doing the email@example.com thing you find everywhere in Accra. I want you to see what I’m offering on my own website, not just contact me through some generic gmail-backed email account. We met at a friend’s internet café near Atomic Junction, and being Ghanaian, he was true to form and showed up a bit late. I showed him exactly what I wanted to do. He gave me his CV (worthless, if you asked me). It was loaded with all these qualifications I knew he didn’t have. He had SPSS as a skill. I took an engineering stats course in college and learned to use SPSS. It was clear this dude had no clue what SPSS really was. If you don’t know it, or never done it, don’t list it! He then told me where he used to work, but it seemed very clear this guy had probably never built anything before. Ok, no problem. I have no problem giving people a chance to show me their potential. But we had a HUGE problem. If you’re a local Ghanaian and you really don’t want to turn me off, never quote the price of your service or product in U.S. Dollars. I know the cedi is in a rapid free-fall, but it doesn’t mean you have the right to quote your figures in dollars.
[Full disclosure: I do educational consulting, and I quote my fees in dollars, but that’s more a function of this society than anything else. Tell a parent your fee in Ghana Cedis, and he/she thinks you’re cheap, even though you’re a pro at admissions to top 10 US universities and colleges. Quote them the dollar equivalent, and you’ve got their full attention. So let’s not suggest I’m being hypocritical since I do it.]
My problem is that this pervasive attitude about using the dollar undermines and further hurts the value of the cedi, and it seems so many businesses charge rates in dollars without impunity from government. You’d be out of your mind to insist on charging an American for a service in Ghana Cedis, and it’ll be outright illegal since the dollar is the only legal tender in the U.S., so why do we allow it here?
Anyway, this idiot gave me his price: “only $600 to build the whole website.” I loved the “only” part. A wordpress template 10 times better than anything this dime-a-dozen, skill-less Legon graduate, would cost me no more than $75, and this would even include features for an online store! This dude had balls, alright. I asked him for references- he seemed nervous as he explained he’ll contact me later about that. I asked for a portfolio, and he was completely lost. “Your portfolio. I want to see work you’ve done before.” “But…” “I know… sorry, but your CV is just skills on paper, and I’m not even sure you know some of these. I’ll still need to see what you’ve done before. Right now, you’re not worth even $6, let alone $600.” We exchanged a few kind words and parted ways. 600 dollars, my nuts!
The same should be said for all these empty over-sized echo chamber boxes sprouting up everywhere billed as “executive” mansions. Ooh, I can’t stand that word. I’ve worked in home construction before (luxury townhouses in Cobble Hill in Brooklyn, NYC), and know how much just about everything costs in building homes. Do you really think the houses in those gated communities are really worth those listed prices? How about half? A Quarter? Give me one of those $700-800k homes, and I can build the same and better with $200k or less. I have designs for a 3-storey home for my mom, which should cost me less than $250k with skilled labor from the U.S. included in the total cost. I can sell that shit for $1million based solely on what features I’ll put into the house- and a lot of this can be built with cheaply sourced materials and appliances at wholesale price or less, but an idiot Ghanaian with money to burn and an obsession with all things status, will buy at my inflated price without question. If only a bank will loan me this $250k. I’ve had similar experiences with cars, which left me walking off laughing at the outrageous prices quoted. I know a car’s blue book value. I know how much it cost to Ro-Ro or box it here; I also know how much port will take in fees, and I know what a decent markup should be, yet these jokers think they can always pull a fast one over me.
Walk into Game and a $300 notebook is inflated to three times its worth. Mind you, this thing is already worth less by the time it hits these shores. An ex tried to impress me (or at least that’s the impression I got) by trying to convince me that she bought her stock/entry-level $7,000 Tata for $30,000. Right! Is it the $ sign that Ghanaians find so impressive? I’m going the WordPress template route. That should save me about $525 in headache cost. Now, it’s on to finding a Sales/Marketing girl. That should be a trip.