On Saturday April 21, 2018, my companion and myself had the time of our lives as we enjoyed a leisurely cruise on one of Guyana’s rivers between Parika and Supenaam. We considered the passenger fare as well as the cost to ferry our car to be reasonable and the amenities on board were very good. Although the required two-hour pre-departure check-in to ferry a motor vehicle seemed long, we were able to consume the time with our obsession with the attractive sights and scenes all around as Guyanese went about their daily routine.
Then it was time to board the trucks, cars, goats and passengers. The goats stayed with the vehicles and the passengers went upstairs to enjoy the first class accommodation. I watched with interest the visible details of the crew’s professional operation of the ferry; asked my usual many questions; and was impressed by the informed responses.
Approximately ninety-five minutes after leaving Parika, and not a moment without the welcome verdant grandeur of the forestry on both sides of the Essequibo River, we docked at Supenaam, and when it was our turn, disembarked and drove off the Stelling. But not so fast. The Exit Officer requested our two passenger tickets and the ticket for our car, and that is when the first dark cloud descended. The Officer took all three tickets and beckoned us to drive on. And of course, I could not proceed.
He had just breached an internationally accepted protocol of Consumer Protection law that requires the Provider of any goods or service to provide the consumer a receipt in exchange for cash at all times. I thought that the tickets were mine to keep as my receipt. When asked to surrender them, I expected at the very least that the “stub” would be returned to me. As a last resort, I demanded a receipt, and was told that I should have “asked for a receipt” from the person to whom I paid the money before boarding.
Needless to say, I demanded a receipt in Supenaam for the return leg of the journey, and was told that on my return to Parika, I should request a receipt from the Officer on duty. Night had fallen, and there was not much to be seen on the return leg. It was my signal to take a nap in preparation for the approximate ninety-minute drive from Parika Stelling to Georgetown. But the worst was yet to come.
The Officer on duty at the Parika Stelling refused to give me a receipt for the better part of half an hour, despite the encouragement and promptings of her lower-ranking colleagues on duty. In her defiance, she committed several breaches.
First, she ignored me after being told that I needed her assistance, and it was only after standing for what I thought was the mandatory, punitive fifteen minutes, that I began to make my presence audibly felt. When I was literally “lovingly” pushed in the “restricted” area so that I could confront her, the verbal exchange began.
In her second breach, she told me that if I wanted a receipt, I should have asked for one. A receipt is the legal evidence for money paid by a Consumer and to be given one is a right. The Consumer may waive that right, but is not obligated to request it. It is obligatory on the part of the Provider of the goods or service to offer the Consumer a receipt. I explained to her that I was unfamiliar with the “best practices” of the Transport and Harbours Department (T&HD) of Guyana, and, being a reasonable man, presumed that the tickets given to me were in full, or in part, mine to keep as evidence of the transaction. Unmoved by my legal arguments, and at the same time reflecting her own ignorance of same, she proceeded to her third breach.
She asked me if I gave her any money. Of course, I was thrust into a position in which I had to acknowledge that I had not given her any money. She then gloated, that I could not have given her any money, because she was not even at work when I paid for my mid-day outward bound journey. I was obliged to point out that although I had no doubt that it would be a significant achievement to be added to her list of personal acquaintances, that was not the purpose of my trip. My transaction was with the Transport and Harbours Department (T&HD) of Guyana, and not with any of its Agents. That means that regardless of the Agent who collected my money, it was to T&HD that I paid and it is from T&HD that I was demanding a receipt, based on all the evidence of my transaction and travel in its possession.
Her next question was revealing, and at the same time conclusive. Defiantly she asked me, “How do I know that you paid any money at all to travel… what evidence do you have?” To which I replied… “That’s my point!” I read that the operation of the ferry service had been plagued by corruption and that remedial measures had been put in place. Clearly, in protecting its revenue, T&HD failed to protect its lifeblood – the Consumer.
Because as part of my profession, I conduct courses “Conquering through Creative Communication’, you would expect that I would eventually get my receipt from her… and I did. But what about 99% of travellers and tourists who exercise their right to benefit from the breath-taking beauty that Guyana has to offer; and who will be taking the ferry and other public transport facilities; but who, understandably, are unwilling and or unable to enforce their right to the legal protection that is provided by an official receipt? It is to the law as implemented by the Parliament of Guyana that they must look.
I am therefore asking the Transport and Harbours Department of Guyana and the Minister with portfolio responsibility to immediately ensure that all paying passengers be given a receipt, ticket stub, or any other tangible legal evidence of having paid the required fares for utilizing the services offered by the Government with all its attendant responsibilities and liabilities. When the Minister of Tourism, President Granger and proud Guyanese like me promote Guyana, we will be able to do so with even greater confidence and pride.
Godfrey E. McAllister
Editor’s note: Mr McAllister has sent this letter to Marlene Merchant, Managing Director of the Transport & Harbours Department