ISLAMABAD: A salesman at any business outlet is trained and supposed to greet a customer with a smiling face as one walks in, who knows what stress and strain this fascinating job may have for some in reality.
Same is the case with the capital’s most attractive and visited destination, Centaurus Mall, where traders have some serious reservations against its management for imposing unprecedented barriers, challenging the laws of the land.
The Centaurus Mall’s self-styled management, already going through severe public criticism for charging entry fee targeting only underprivileged, has created a hostile work environment for its marketeers, enforcing unusual and self-introduced business rules.
“We are not allowed to form a trade body to convey our reservations. There is no freedom of expression at all. Doing business here is not as charming as considered,” a salesman at a brand store said expressing his sentiments requesting anonymity.
Another popular brand owner showing a recent circular issued by the management said: “we are forced to keep our shops open even on national gazetted holidays and in violation we have to pay heavy amount as penalties in cash and are threatened with expulsion from the mall.”
A shopkeeper criticising levying of entry fee for students said it was hurting their business. “Students are our unpaid advertising agents and this move was affecting our business.” Today’s window shopper is tomorrow’s sure customer and this decision must be revised in the best business interest, he stressed.
A student Mohammad Ehtisham from Institute of Chartered Accountant of Pakistan said a father and two brothers are not considered a family, unless they have a female member with them.
Terming it “ridiculous approach” he asked for exemption of entry fee to encourage and facilitate every segment of society.
An Advocate of Islamabad High Court, Hafiz Khurram, said freedom of expression was a fundamental right enshrined in the Constitution of Pakistan. “No trade entity can impose rules contrary to the country’s approved and practised laws” he remarked.
He however regretted that this kind of practice was being carried out in the heart of the Federal Capital.
The general manager of Centaurus Mall said they were looking after their business interest. On traders’ concerns and public queries he said: “There is no morality in personal business.” The entry fee was enforced on receiving complaints of eve-teasing and riff-raff.
However a shopkeeper said it was discrimination. “The mall’s point of view on entry fee does not justify the stance. it just conveys that the underprivileged are only eve-teaser and riff-raff,” a shopkeeper dealing in low priced items reacted on the manager’s statement.
“My business is at stake as low-income people are my potential buyers who cannot afford Rs300 as an entry ticket,” he added.
The mall’s general manager however said, if a shopkeeper has reservations, he can lodge a complaint with the concerned department and their grievances will be heard.
A social-scientist said Centaurus Mall was fanning class consciousness. “Business interests must be a priority, but enforcing such rules that encourage class consciousness can make a society morally bankrupt,” warned a psychologist Sundus.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 3rd, 2017.