July 08, 2007

Never on Time

Boloji, 07.07.07

“Date- 04.05.2007, Amount Paid Out- £24.30, Recipient- “X” Ltd, Mumbai (India)”

On the morning of the 5th I found this on my online bank statement. A couple of hours later, I was found yelling, “Do you think this is some kind of a joke?” to a surprisingly brazen customer service representative of a reputed online portal based in India who told me point blank that they had not charged my card for this transaction.

“You will have to fax us a copy of your bank statement, sir. Your order is not confirmed and so we have not charged you for this.”

“Are you telling me I’m lying? I can see the outgoing sum on my statement right here. And I am not faxing anything over to you, particularly sensitive details such as these.”

Did I sound rude and uncooperative? I had a reason to be. This precise thing happened last time when my friend was using my card to send a birthday cake to her mother and I had to fax these documents to authorize the payment and was told 48 hours later that I had in fact forgotten to fax them. The audacity! I expected better from a leading company in a country that claims to be on the advanced frontiers of information technology. Why couldn’t someone else pay for a product for another person online? It happens on all reputed websites all over the world.

“So will the item be delivered on the 11th, as I requested when I placed the order?”

“No sir. Since you have not confirmed the order, we cannot make this delivery date. And you have not requested any delivery date.”

“Actually I did mention the 11th. Also, once I have placed the order why do I need to confirm again? And how should I know I had to? And excuse me, you HAVE charged me.”

“No sir we need proof. And we have sent you the confirmation e-mail.”

“Well, check your bloody bank account ‘coz you’ve taken the money from mine. And no, you haven’t sent me anything”

I was getting nowhere. This was ludicrous. A few minutes later I was given the supplier’s number to ring and request the item to be delivered on time. I was wondering whether it was really the customer’s business to chase up suppliers for the seller. When I did get through to the supplier, he told me that the item had already been dispatched and will reach on time.

It didn’t. So I called on the 13th and was told that the courier has got it and the supplier had no clue why it hadn’t been delivered. After another round of banging my head against the wall, the item arrived on the 18th. Am I missing a point, or should a birthday gift actually arrive on the birthday?

Last week I bought a phone from Amazon.co.uk which arrived in faulty condition. I e-mailed the seller who appeared to be dragging his feet about the refund. I sent an e-mail to Amazon customer service. 12 hours later I received a response saying that have contacted the seller and will credit my account with the refund as soon as possible.

This was all the more impressive because I bought the phone from a seller, and not one of Amazon’s own suppliers. But it really is the norm here, and it is so very disappointing to see Indian companies who aspire to be world beaters to fail so miserably in putting the customer first. The arbitration process in India is notoriously opaque, and I felt extremely helpless as the customer who’s shelled out the cash for the product.

Please don’t take me for an arrogant buffoon who unfairly compares the infrastructure of a developed country with a developing one. The point is that online technology is widespread in India, and I am not even talking cutting edge and expensive gizmos here. Simple project management, efficiency, transparency and empathy will do the trick.

Capitalism would have us believe that customer is king. In India instead of getting value for money, the customer has to pay the money and pray that the value comes with the order.


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