Tuesday, July 28, 2015

The Runaround!

Have you ever been given the runaround?  If you're living in India, then I'm guessing you have!  It could be for a drivers license, paying a bill at a Government office, or even procuring a school leaving certificate.

I used to think that runarounds were confined to Governmental offices, hospitals, or educational institutions.  I was so wrong.  My tryst with the seemingly endless runaround circle happened when I tried to get my rightful customer service from a Multinational that had long established its presence, not only through endorsements on TV and print media, but also through the adoption of its wide array of consumer products in Indian homes.  I'm going to refrain from taking names here, as I would like to believe that my experience was a standalone one.

The product in question was a hair trimmer.  Yes, in Mumbai, men haircutting saloons are a dime and dozen.  In fact, they are not very strategically placed as they can be seen at every nook and corner, and are still thriving.  After all, everyone needs a haircut, right?  Anyway, my hair is of the stubborn type that doesn't respond to any sort of styling.  So once in awhile, I just  run the trimmer through my hair.

My few month old trimmer suddenly died out on me one day (luckily not in the midst of a hair mowing).  It was well under the warranty period so I knew that the company would take care of it.

I called the Company customer service line in Hyderabad or Bangalore - I can't recall.  I expected to be apologized to for my inconvenience and assured that the needful would be done immediately.  But instead, the Customer Service Representative (CSR) asked me irrelevant questions, as if he was interrogating a criminal - "What were you doing with it when it stopped working?", "Did you try to shave your face with it?", "Did you drop it?", "Are you sure?" and so on.  Soon a 'case' was opened and I was given a case number.

The CSR asked me where I lived.  When I related the details to him, he provided me with their Mumbai Service Center Number.
"Don't worry, Sir," he said, his voice taking on a reassuring tone.  "Just give them a call.  And they will come and pick it up from you and fix it."
"But shouldn't your company be replacing the product?" I asked.  This was the norm with the same company in the US.
"No, Sir.  We will fix it.  It'll be as good as new."
"I don't want it fixed," I protested.  "I bought it new, and it turned out faulty.  Your company should not be selling products with defects.  It's your duty to..."
The line went dead.

One thing that I learned from dealing with people working in customer service is that you need to be nicer to them than them to you.  They get hassled by all kinds of people all day, and if you turn out to be one of "those," they will just hang up and let someone else deal with you when you call back.

So I tried calling the Service Center Number.  All the numbers were not in service.  I was shocked.  How could I be given a wrong number.  So I called Customer Service again and explained the situation.
"I'm sorry Sir.  These are the only numbers I have on file."
"How does that help me?" I asked, agitated.  "If you don't give it to me, who will?"
"I'm sorry Sir," the polite lady said.  "These are the only numbers were have.  I could escalate your claim."
"This is not an insurance claim.  Just a simple problem.  What is the process of escalating a claim?"
"It would be put on priority.  And then transferred to the regional office, who will get in touch with the Service Center and have them call you."
"But how will your Regional office get in touch with them if the numbers are not working?" I asked challengingly."
Silence.  She was trapped.
"That's true, Sir," she finally spoke.
"Can you give me the address?"
I jotted down the address and thanked her.  She apologized for her inability to solve my problem, but promised to "escalate my claim."

So armed with the defective product, original bill, and frustration, I set out towards the service centre.  An hour later, I reached the area but had to let the rickshaw go as the gully was wide enough only for a two wheeler to enter.  By the way, the rickshaw ride cost me a hundred rupees during which I inhaled exhaust fumes from all possible vehicles gracing the streets of Mumbai.

In Mumbai, the best way to find a place is to ask for directions.  I made several enquiries and was directed into a chawl colony.  I was directed twice again till I found myself outside a chawl of which the door was shut.  Several angry voices emanated from inside.  They were muffled but it seemed like a domestic argument.  Nevertheless, I knocked on the door.

A woman answered and I asked if I had reached the right location.  She banged the door on my face.  I was stunned in shock.  Was that a yes or a no?  A few seconds later, an elderly man answered and beckoned me in.

As I stepped inside I noticed that the chawl had been partitioned into a home and workspace area by a curtain.  The workspace area, that we were standing in, had shelved of electronics stacked haphazardly.  I explained my problem and showed him my bill etc.  He made no attempt to look at the bill and instead inspected the trimmer.  His hands went in a blur as he fidgeted with it.  Within a few minutes, it was working!

I enquired about paperwork.  He merely smiled and handed my trimmer back to me, "as good as new."

And that was it.  True story!

Where there's goodness in people, there's hope for the country.

Today I went to watch Bajrangi Bhaijaan.  The movie was delightful, despite my five-year-old daughter whispering the events (right before they appeared on screen) into my ear as she was watching the film for the second time.

When we were driving back home after the film, I felt in my pocket and was shocked to find that my wallet wasn't there.  I pulled the car to the kerb and searched frantically all over the car.  My wallet not only housed my bank debit cards, but also my drivers license and pan card.  Alarmed, I rushed back to the cinema hall.   

After haphazardly parking in the compound, I pulled my daughter up the staircase and retraced our steps.  I rushed back into the cinema hall, where the next show of the movie had already begun.  I told the usher of my predicament who wasted no time in training his flashlight on my seat and around the area.  All eyes were glued to the Salman Khan blockbuster, yet people (who got wind of my ordeal) joined in my search.  As expected, the wallet was nowhere to be found.  I presumed that someone had picked it up.

Once I reached home, I got a call.  It was the theatre usher, Sanju.  He informed me that after we left, he checked all the rows and happened to find my wallet a few rows down.  I must have accidentally dropped it while walking down the aisle.

I rushed back to the cinema hall, raced up the three stories and found Sanju.  He handed me the wallet.  Everything in it was intact.  There was a little over Rs. 2000 in the wallet and it was all there.  Sanju appeared to be from an impoverished background.  He could have easily taken the cash and told me that's how he had found it (that's how lost wallets are usually returned).  Yes, he had opened my wallet, but only to look for a visiting or ID card which would have my contact details.  I was so touched that I took all the cash out and forced it into his pocket.

The cash wasn't a small amount.  But honesty must be rewarded in the most gratifying way possible.  That would only encourage a person to stay honest.  My tip/reward was probably twenty times more than what anyone would have normally given.  So I believe that my amount makes up for the next twenty times Sanju does the same thing for any other lost items.

This incident reinstates my faith in people.  Where there's goodness in people, there's hope for the country.  If we all could do the right thing for others whenever the opportunity presents itself, our country could never go wrong.