My son in England – birthday – Please can I order Nespresso coffee capsules for him soonest

Please excuse the rather strange headline, but I thought I’d come right out with what this blog post is about: A collection of the most outlandish questions and requests I get through the Contact Me page on Joburg Expat. Pour yourself a cup of coffee and sit down – this one is going to be fun!

Seriously? THAT is your question?

Don’t get me wrong – I get a ton of lovely comments from people all over the world, thanking me for the helpful info and asking more in-depth questions about their pending move, which I’m all too happy to answer. I also get many comments from South Africans who love how I view and write about the country they love. This blog post is not about those. It’s about the “other” comments and questions I get, and you wouldn’t believe how many of them there are. This is just a small sample.

Let’s start with the not so far-fetched. If any readers think I’m a travel agent, I’m actually flattered a little bit. Travel writing is what I take pride in, and I do respond to most travel-related inquiries:

we intend to go to cape town next year as a group of 15.
can qoute us please

But a large number of visitors seem to think that I’m an online store. The fact that my site doesn’t list any products and has no buttons to add items to shopping carts doesn’t seem to detract them. They figure they can just type up their order and I’ll gladly do the rest. What I love about the inquiry from the headline is the insertion of personal details, presumably to make me more sympathetic in my quest to jump to the rescue:

My son in England – birthday – Please can I order Nespresso coffee capsules for him soonest

Of course! I wouldn’t have, normally, but knowing it’s your SON, and Oh My Gosh it’s his BIRTHDAY, of course I’ll gladly oblige and get the Nespresso capsules to him posthaste!

Some requests frankly freak me out a little bit, like this one:

How do I go about ordering the following:
Lysine Powder,
L-Proline Powder, 

L-Arginine Powder, 

L-Citruline Powder and 

Pycnogel Powder.

I have no idea what all these powders might do – for all I know they’re bomb making ingredients.

Mostly, however, it’s books I’m asked to supply:

Please provide quotations for the following books:
1. Microeconomics Theory: Basic Principles & Theory (2008) by Snyder & Nicholson 10th edition
2. Intermediate Microeconomics: A Modern Approach (2006) 7th edition by Varian H.R
3. The Structure of Economics: A Mathematical Approach by Silderberg (2000) 3rd edition.
4. Microeconomics (2005) by Pyndyck & Rubinfield 6th edition
5. Fundamental Methods of Mathematical Economics (2005) 4th by Chiang.
6. Statistics for Business & Economics (2004) 6th edition by Newbold & Carlson

How very thorough a list! I was really torn by this one. I’d hate to kill what promises to be a brilliant corporate career before it even takes off by not providing the requisite reading material to this budding business student. Such potential – the writer certainly has what it takes to reach upper management in terms of his or her ability to delegate tasks to minions!

There seem to be other items of interest on my website:

Swatch Lekker SUOP102
To whom it may concern:
Kindly advice if you have the above watch and how much is it.
Kind regards,

To which I want to respond: Dear Lizzie, I know how important timely delivery must be to you, seeing as you have such a keen eye for a good timepiece. Which is why I’ll respond to you with more information JUST NOW!

Some tempt me just because I’d like to figure out what exactly it is people want to purchase:


I picture an ancient lady dictating this, telegram-style, to a hunched-over employee in suspenders and cap tapping away in morse code. All it needs is a few “STOPs” in between sentences, which would also make it more readable. Like, is her last name Coffin, or does she want to purchase a coffin? Or a coffin chair or chair yoga, whatever those might be? I almost responded, just because the curiosity was killing me!

This one is along similar lines:

Hi would like to buy beast/big gaint fist (cooler)from amazin, can you hep me im in SA Cape Town

But my all-time favorite request is this one:

I have a wall deviding my yard from my neighbour and in their side they have a huge tree with diversed roots,which has caused a mess on my side.I would kindly want to know who to contact and which Insurance is liable of such damage.I will greately appreciate your advise as soon as possible if you can.Thanking you Regards Vickey

Holy cow, how in the world did Vickey end up at Joburg Expat and then somehow divine that I could help her on insurance questions regarding a neighbor’s dispute? Perhaps I should pair her up with this contractor who thought it important to advise me on his no doubt capable services, which might very well include tree removal:

nkulani management do tennis court repair,painting,electrical,paving,renovation and other related project.for quote contact Willies @ 0827401521

I am helpfully including these phone numbers – who knows, somebody with a cracked tennis court might read this and be grateful not to have to do further research.

If you think the insurance question came from left field, then scratch your head with this one:

I was involved in an accident last night another car road into me and I think my car is a write off , I have no insurance as well as the guy that road into me

I’m still deciding whether this is a plea for help or a very bad attempt at landing a pun – twice. Get it?

Having written about Amazon in South Africa – or, rather, the lack thereof – I get why some people think I’m their extended customer service:

I have 2nd. Generation Kindle Model D00701.
The devise is frozen.I have tried re-booting, no luck!
Can you help?

This next one I actually responded to, because I liked the writing style, I could commiserate with the guy – it IS, in fact, not easy to contact Amazon directly – and I loved the respectful tone. I mean, who doesn’t like being called “Mr. Expat?”

Hi Mr Expat. I am an American but have lived and worked here for the past 20 years. Perhap I should have known better, but that’s a story for another day.Here’s the problem. I signed up for Amazon Prime free trial. Shortly after that I was billed – and paid by my soccer crazy bank – R1000.00! = $99. Horrified, I am now trying to establish if that is for a yearly membership, as I read it, or monthly. It is not easy to contact Amazon directly, then I found you. I sure as hell cannot pay R1000.00 every month! Checking my account i see it appears to be monthly! How do I stop it now?

Something tells me this guy, the coffin lady and the “gaint fist (cooler) from amazin” guy might find common ground:

Hi am john
west Johannesburg
I wanted to buy greenhouse plastic polyethylene
so please give me information
thank you
kind regards john

I kind of like John. He deserves bonus points for proper spelling. And he seems to like plants.

This is what I want to do when I get too many stupid questions.

What baffles me is how little time people seem to spend on my blog, yet determine with absolute certainty they know what it is I am offering and hence what I can therefore help with. For example, don’t you think you should notice, as a reader, what language the blog is written in? See this Afrikaans lady needing help:

Hi middag ek is rerig dringend opsoek na die CD van Gail Seymour met die die van Just Relax Kan ek dit by julle bestel of kan julle vir my cod aanstuur Laat weet my asseblief Belinda

The funny thing is, I could understand all of what Belinda wants, without the help of Google Translate. I much prefer being addressed in written Afrikaans over spoken Afrikaans. When I go to my “Friends of South Africa” Tannies Teas here in Nashville, invariably I’m accosted by one of the lovely ladies who spills a torrent of Afrikaans on me without taking note of my confused face. I always have to gently tug at their sleeves and let them know I don’t speak any Afrikaans. Other than Lekker and Kak. I must somehow look Afrikaans. Good Germanic stock, I suppose.

Martin here sounds kind of sweet:

good morning I will like to be one of your customer but you are far away from south Africa.i wish one day you can think of bringing your business to south Africa.and I will be the first customer or I can even work for you.hope u find this well.

Well, thank you Martin! I hope so too, and you’ll be the first person I’ll look up when I do return to Africa, my prosperous business in tow.

And here, my pet peeve, people who want to contribute to my blog:

Dear blogger,
I sent you a proposal of collaboration a few days ago, I have no received response from you yet, so I think you have not received the previous mail, that’s why I am contacting you again:
My name is Tatiana Amin and I work for an online marketing company in Spain called SMARTUP, nice to meet you
I am writing you on behalf of a client who would like to appear in your blog by means of an advertorial. Your task would be to write and publish a post in exchange for an economic reward.
If you are interested, please write me back and I will tell you more about the project.
Best regards,
Tatiana A.

Don’t hold your breath, Tatiana, I’ not going to respond. You lost me at “Your task would be…” No thank you, I have enough tasks on my plate. At least she’s offering an “economic reward,” whatever that may be. I can’t tell you how many would-be writers offer me free content for my blog, as if I’m sitting around twiddling my thumbs going “Dang, I got this great blog, if only I could think of something to write on it… Oh, goody, here is somebody willing to write something for me! Whew! What would I do without these people?”

I should also add that such offers of “great content” are typically written in really bad English.
Others turn to me for their last-minute homework assignments:

I am in urgent need for input for my Master Thesis research. I am writing it about successful travel blogs and I tried to focus on german and arabic travel bloggers but I am not getting the response I had hoped for, so I am extending the scope now (very last minute!!) to include all travel bloggers.
If you could just spare 30 mins of your time to answer this questionnaire {link} for me, I will be very very grateful.
Thank you very much in advance, I appreciate it!

Sorry, dude, about your Master Thesis, but honestly: I have enough procrastinators JUST like you in my very own house (read: teenagers). And you have the gall to tell me I’m actually not even your first choice?

I must say, I did help a boy with a similar request the other day, just because he was the same age as my son and asked very nicely. I thought that there must be a mother behind him somewhere who’ll be thankful for my cooperation. He was writing about life in South Africa and needed quotes for an interview, which I helpfully supplied. Of course I never heard back, not so much as a thank you. That makes me want to strangle the mother for not teaching better manners.

My blog post about volunteering in Johannesburg also spawns quite a few inquiries from people wanting – or perhaps more accurately “needing” – to volunteer, and can I please fix them up with an outfit:

Hi, I’d like to know if you can contact me on my email or my cell phone number – 076 323 2199. Myself and three other friends age from 16-18 are involved in the presidents award. We want to get involved in volenteering work as soon as possible. So would you please contact me with more detilas on how we go about it and when can we start. Thanks

Ah, the President’s Award! (I took the liberty of improving your spelling.) What world-moving work you’re about to do! Of course, I’d love to jump in and help you volunteer (there, I did it again) – your, whom I don’t know from Adam – to receive this prestigious award! I’m going to list your phone number on my blog so hopefully many other people can call you too and help you on your very important quest! I’m so excited I can’t stop with the exclamation points!

Seriously, what irks me abut these requests in particular:

a) my blog post is very clear on what volunteer projects I recommend, why one might like to do them, and WHO TO CONTACT if interested. To then send me a note requesting more details is so strange – didn’t I just give you all the details you need, with links to the appropriate websites?

b) volunteering, by definition, means giving your time to a cause. To then turn around and ask someone else to use THEIR time to come up with the perfect package so that you might not have to work too hard yourself flies in the face of any notion of what charitable work should accomplish.

I hope this excursion into the strange workings of some people’s minds has been entertaining to you. If you’re a fellow blogger, you’re probably nodding your head so hard that you’re starting to get dizzy.

If you’re NOT a blogger but rather a reader who might feel compelled to ask me a question, don’t be discouraged by my tirade. I won’t rip your head off.

I’m quite tame if you don’t ask me lazy questions.

That is, not if you take the few steps I ask you to take before you pen that tempting request to me:

a) Read my blog. And by that I mean not just the latest post. I’ve put quite a bit of time and effort into designing a menu across the top that features the most popular topics, and there is also a “Browse Joburg Expat” box in the right sidebar. I can spot a lazy reader from a mile away, so if you ask me “My new job will be in Rosebank, where should we look for a school” then I know you haven’t done your part yet. If you had, you’d have seen my awesome color-coded map in Private Schools in Johannesburg and figured it out on your own.

b) Use the comments section. It’s much quicker for me to answer a comment than draft an email, so I’m more likely to do it. It also shows me that you’ve already read up on the topic at hand and have an additional question. If there are already comments under a post, you’re more likely to get advice from one of the other readers too.

c) Like my Facebook page. I discuss a lot of expat topics with other like-minded people on my Facebook page, and more often than not someone there can answer your question better than I can.

Okay, end of rant. Now ask away:-)

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