In my younger days, there were only small neighborhood stores that you would go to get whatever provisions you wanted and there were really not too many different brands either. Over the years however, more and more variety of products started coming into the market accompanied by larger stores, leading up to today’s hypermarkets where you can get everything you need for your household and where you can easily spend thousands of Rupees. However, with all this convenience and speed of purchasing, there is a darker side that you need to be careful about. I will detail some of my experiences in points below.
In addition to these large hypermarkets, there are also many ecommerce sites available that let you purchase almost everything and get it delivered to your house free of cost, but there are certain problems associated with these, which one needs to be aware of. These are also detailed below, so please be careful.
1. Discounts: Discounts are one of the biggest problems and rip-offs that are present in stores, and the perception is there is a lot of problem with the concept of discounts. I ran into one such problem where I was buying a suitcase from one of the large hypermarts, and it was offered at a great 40% discount (for that day only). At billing, I made payment (along with some other items), and just out of some instinct, I took a closer look at the bill. The price did not seem right, and when I confirmed at the billing section, they stated that the discount in the system was 20% and that was what was given to me. It took around 30 minutes after that, including calling the salesman at the luggage section before they resolved matters and gave me the 40% discount. If I had not taken a closer look at the bill, I would have lost out at the 20% discount. Post this, when doing the billing, I always ask the billing person to tell me the discounts for each item.
Another major problem is about the rate when discounts are offered. It was laughable. I went to buy some jackets at a store that is in the business of offering 75% discounts. A typical jacket that would have cost Rs. 2000 was available at Rs. 1800, so I thought that after applying a 75% discount, it was a great offer since the final price wold be Rs. 450. Imagine the shock when they confirmed that Rs. 1800 was the final price, that price pre-discount was Rs. 7200. I was blown out, since a great jacket of a great brand would be less than that. So, before buying stuff at discounts, do keep in mind that many (not all) retailers increase the price of their products before they then apply a discount, which means that you are really not saving so much money.
2. Expired items. This is a real problem. It takes up so much time now, that one wonders whether the advantage of buying slightly lower priced items at these hypermarts are really worth it. You find an item with a good discount, but be careful that the expiry of the item would be close. So you could buy some sauces or dips or some other exotic stuff, and find that prices are lower, but be careful, the item would only have a month available before expiry. There is no way that you can finish off the whole bottle in a month, in which case if you buy the item, you will use for a month and then discard the remaining, which turns out to be more expensive. I have had similar problems with buying perishable stuff online. And if you start seeing the expiry of every item that you are buying (you should), it can end up increasing the amount of time needed by a significant percentage.
3. Broken stuff or exchanged stuff when buying online. A lot of people have had experiences such as this one. You spend some time identifying what you need, and then find that the stuff you wanted is delivered to you, but big disappointment. Either by mistake the stuff you wanted has not been delivered and something else has been delivered, or it is in a damaged state. I have had personal experiences and learned from friends that ecommerce retailers are not so good when it comes to customer relations. Imagine buying a phone, getting it delivered in a cracked condition and then the retailer disputing that there is a problem (and this happened with the largest ecommerce retailer). A lot of passing the buck between the retailer and the phone company, and it took a lot of effort to finally get the phone exchanged, enough to push the person away from ecommerce platforms.
I have been a long time customer of Dr. Batra for hair care treatment (long history of dandruff and also fear of an impending decline in the covering on top of the head). The promise was that they would provide me treatment that would lead to a decline in fair fall rates and also eliminate the dandruff, depending on my taking the treatment properly. Further, I had to do other things such as doing some head stimulation (using finger tips to stimulate the scalp), eating more of soya based stuff, eating cod liver capsules and consuming more green tea on a regular basis. Some of these I did, although I could have been more consistent in doing all of these actions.
My visit to the consulting doctor was somewhat inconsistent, depending on the availability of time and whether I was available in the city or not. However, overall things were not too bad. Dandruff gets bad when there is a weather change, and my dandruff was also dependent on these factors; overall performance with Dr. Batra over a period of 5 years of treatment was that the hair fall was not very high (although there was some hair fall). Dandruff levels were also under control. Although keep in mind that treatment over a 3 year period is fairly expensive, over Rs. 15,000 plus.
However, I was nearing the end of my current term and the last meeting was on. Typically whenever I meet the Doctor, there is a dose of 4 weeks medicines given and then an appointment for the next month that is provided. In the last meeting however, I was in for a rude shock. First the meeting with the Doctor where she showed me photos of my head from the first meeting many years back and then current photos of my head for my comparison.
Then I went to collect medicines, and there I found that they have provided only 2 weeks medicine. Now, the last thing that both the reception and the doctor had told me that I could contact the reception about whether to renew the treatment, and then they do this by reducing the amount of medicines that they provided. I was shocked. If it was a question of trying to induce me to continue with the treatment by not providing the medicines for the usual period, it had the opposite effect. The cheapness of the gesture totally blew me apart.
When people buy a ticket, they expect that the service will take from their origin to the desired destination. In fact, they deserve a certain amount of service, including the right to know whether the flight or train is one time, whether there is anything that could cause delays or otherwise impede the service, and they expect the Government and regulators to make sure that airlines are doing this.
However, the recent (past many months) events at Kingfisher Airlines have caused a great amount of distress to passengers, with the Government not really doing anything about it (except for allegedly changing the official who was the head of the regulator who tried to get more tough with the airline); so there have been many strikes in the recent past which have impacted passengers, with flights being changed or re-scheduled, and so on. In most of these cases, passengers have been badly hit. The number of flights available overall to passengers have also been reduced, which has led to another problem since other airlines have capitalized on this reduction of capacity by increasing the prices of tickets on most routes.
But, whatever happens, the Government should prevent something like this from happening, where a sudden strike stranded even passengers who were on flights and could not find a way to move from the plane to the airport since the ladders or the aerobridges could not be activated because of the engineers being on strike. Now, one sympathize with these people who have not been paid for many many months, but yet, that is something that the airline and the regulator should deal with, with the passengers not having to put up with such problems. It would only be fair if many of these passengers actually filed consumer cases against the airline for the inconvenience they had to put up with (link to article)
In an unprecedented occurrence, passengers flying or booked on Kingfisher flights were stuck in aircraft and airports across the country on Sunday evening when the airline’s engineers, unpaid for months, went on a flash strike.
Passengers landing even in big metros like Delhi or Mumbai suffered the same fate as the airline engineers did not put chocks on aircraft tyres as a result of which aerobridges could not be attached and passengers were stuck inside the aircraft. Similar things happened at other airports with step ladders not being attached to the airline’s planes to allow deboarding, also leaving harrowed Kingfisher passengers waiting to board their flights stuck at airports.
Technology changes real fast nowadays, with one direct impact being that whatever you buy will soon have an updated version available soon, and which will cause the version you have with you being no longer the hot new version available in the market. Invariably, soon after your purchase, you will find that what you purchased has been surpassed with more features, and the version you hold does not cost as much as you would have liked. One example of that was when I had gone for a 3 month visit to the US, and purchased a camera for around $560. By the time it was time for me to come back, that same camera was costing around $505, which was a big pain since I felt that I had lost something.
Stores can get affected, since the stock of devices that they hold would become cheaper when a new version would become available, and there would be pressure to clear the stock. However, for a customer, this does not matter, since he / she would want to pay the price as per the version that they are buying, and if the price of an older version is now cheaper, they should only have to pay the lower price.
So what happens when the store or some salesman inside the store tries to cheat a customer, by promising that the version sold to the customer is the latest version and charging the current price for that item, and then the customer finding out later that the product that they bought was not the latest version, but an older version ? The customer would feel cheated and would try and convince the store about what happened. Now if the store does not agree, then some customers walk away in disgust, while others exercise their right to file a consumer complaint and ensure that they are provided what they paid for (as should all of us, you should never shirk from exercising your rights). This is even more problematic since this was for a store selling an Apple product, an iPod (link to article):
The North District Consumer Disputes Redressal Forum held that iWorld, a premium reseller of Apple products, “practiced deception” by selling Ankit Singhal, a medical student, a second generation iPod by “representing” it as third generation and directed it to refund the cost of the gadget.
“When the customer demanded third generation iPod, it was duty of the seller to sell only third-generation iPod. In the present case complainant (Ankit Singhal) was sold a second-generation iPod representing it to be a third-generation which is in the nature of deception practiced upon a customer just to sell inferior iPod.”
Ankit Singhal, a student of Maulana Azad Medical College, had alleged that he had asked for a third-generation iPod but the iWorld had sold him a second-generation product instead.
He had said the invoice given by the store showed the iPod as third-generation, but later when he had checked its details on the Apple website he found it to be second generation.
And the store even refused to attend the case, not sending somebody on its behalf to try and present its case.
This is more of a crib about the level of customer service available nowadays. You all would have read about how police can track down cell numbers and mobile phones, doing this tracking when the phones have been used in crimes, and use such tracking to eventually detect the criminals who they are trying to find. As a result, it is also becoming more important to ensure that your own mobile phones and numbers remain safe. Earlier, when such police tracking was not available, if your mobile phone was stolen, then you were less worried about the numbers being used for some crime. Nowadays, with even your Wi-Fi not being password protected being a threat (since in the past terrorists have used open Wi-Fi networks to connect to the internet for sending of terror emails), keeping track of your SIM card and phone is important.
As a result, if these devices get stolen, then there are a number of steps that are recommended:
1. Talk to the mobile company and get your number deactivated as quickly as possible
2. Get confirmation of this deactivation
3. Get an FIR for the loss of your mobile phone instrument
As a result, when my mobile phone was snatched from my hands by 2 motorcycle born youths on a busy Delhi evening, I knew the steps that I had to take. The only thing I did not know was that my mobile phone operator would make it so difficult. So, I knew the support number for Airtel and called that number. First of all, when you call the number, the automated menu options do not have a option for reporting a lost mobile number, and it was not easy to located the option to talk to an operator (maybe they wanted to make it difficult for users to take up the time of a telephone operator).
After connecting to the operator, I was not surprised when I heard the waiting sound whereby my call was very important, but all operators are busy. I was kept on wait for some time, and then after around 3-4 minutes of wait, the call got disconnected. I kept on trying, and got very frustrated that even after around 30 minutes of such trying, the call would not get through. Normally I would have given up, but since this was an important item, I did not give up and continued trying; it finally took 45 minutes to connect to an operator and provide my complaint. For me, this was an incredible time, since if it takes 45 minutes for a consumer to get through to the customer support, it means that the company really does not care about its customers, and further, it also means that if the company is sincere, whoever is doing an estimating of the service requirements of the company is doing the company a great dis-service and deserves to be removed from the company.
The next day, when I went to the customer center of the company located in Noida, I got a new SIM card within a span of 15 minutes, very smoothly and with a lot of courtesy. Given all the studies that I had read about the cost of manpower, whereby the costliest was personal interaction, with phone banking being cheaper than a customer walking into an office and talking, it seemed that Airtel had read such planning the reverse way. I would anytime prefer to go to a nearby Airtel office rather than try their customer relationship numbers.