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Blogs are a boon

January 19, 2007

I’ve been thinking of Lorelle’s Blog Challenge – about whether blogs have changed the world. The West has already acknowledged the significance of the blogging community with an article in the 26th December issue of Time magazine. Time declared a blogger as a ‘Person of the Year’.
In India however, bloggers are not considered significant. In fact many look upon blogging as an amusing past-time. One article by a columnist in a leading newspaper in India went so far as to call all bloggers ‘liars’. I thought of this was an extreme statement, specially as it came from the media. The media is one who always clamours for freedom of speech…and that is exactly what blogging has given to the world. Freedom of speech.
Are bloggers liars and half-wits?
Sure, as a comment on Lorelle’s post said, there are half-wits who plague the blogosphere but is there a guarantee that there are no half-wits in newspaper offices? In government offices? In private companies? People might argue that there are more half-wits in the blogosphere than there are in newspaper offices. Well, if that is so, it could be because the blogosphere has given everyone the right to speak out. Whether this is right or wrong I cannnot say.
Are bloggers uncivilized?
If there are people in the blogosphere who are uncivilized and leave rude comments or write under multiple identities to harass others…well, a certain section of any population is like this. Bloggers are people after all. And it is not necessary that one needs to respond to these comments or visit blogs that make personal attacks on people. It’s the same reason why we reject a television show or a tabloid or trash a book…
Blogging will help the consumer movement in India 
I believe that blogs will help consumers in India. Here, companies lack consumer orientation and shops, hotels, and restaurants often provide shoddy service, refuse to take back damaged goods or are generally indifferent to the consumer. This excerpt from an article in The Hindu has an interesting take on the psyche of the average Indian consumer, and I find it aptly describes his state of mind:

“An average Indian consumer is noted for his patience and tolerance. Perhaps because of these two traditional traits and due to the influence of the Mahabharata, the Ramayana and the Bhagavad Gita, he considers the receipt of defective goods and services as an act of fate or unfavourable planetary position in his horoscope. When a new television or refrigerator purchased by him turns out to be defective from day one, he takes it reticently, blaming it on his fate or as the consequence of the wrongs committed by him in his previous birth. Very often he is exploited, put to avoidable inconveniences and suffers financial loss. It is rather paradoxical that the customer is advertised as the “king” by the seller and service provider; but in actual practice treated as a slave or servant. Goods are purchased by him along with the label: Items once sold will not be taken back.”

So how will blogs help the consumer?
1) As blogs become more popular, consumers will be able to read more about other people’s grievances, even if they are homebodies. And perhaps gather enough courage to complain.  
2) If the complaint is a minor one, like say colour running off a shirt, most likely that a consumer will grin and bear it. At the most he might try to get his shirt exchanged, but it is equally likely that he will be ignored. My personal experience is that companies think: Who can this person tell? Is he going to stand outside the shop and warn customers not to enter the shop? Most people will not. However now the consumer has a weapon: He can blog. If he is a small blogger he may not get attention…but at least a handful of people will read his story. That can be a source of satisfaction. And the collective voice of bloggers can be very strong indeed. 
My own experiences
I had a poor experience at an eating joint recently and complaining had no effect. I knew that no newspaper would be interested in publishing a letter about as trivial a matter as this. But I was bugged…and so I blogged. (Bad Chinese)
I remember some years ago while I was living in Bangalore, a friend went for a trip down south and spent a few days at a well-known five-star hotel. She said she saw something shocking…after she and her husband had checked out she returned to the room to pick up something she had forgotten. She saw a cleaning lady wiping an used glass with a used pillowcase and putting it back inside a ‘sterilized’ plastic pouch! When she came back to Bangalore she wrote a letter to a mainline newspaper about this incident…but it was never published. Probably the newspaper thought she was making it up!
I remember a time when I bought two packets of burnt and blackened digestive biscuits from Britannia Industries. I complained, the salesman came, was sympathetic, took the two packets of biscuits away with him…and I never heard from him again. My husband admonished me for giving him the defective biscuits…he said now the company will not bother. And he was right. When I called again, the salesman never came on the line even though the company had not bothered to replace those two biscuit packets!  It would have cost the company nothing…just about Rs 25/-.
These are minor incidents which few people will want to take forward to the courts. But at the same time they may wish to spread the word. Blogging is one way.
Looking forward to a thriving blogosphere
I hope that the number of Indian bloggers keep growing. This will help not just the consumer movement, but also help expose those who cheat and lie. Our system is not yet strong enough to net the cheats and liars in the government. Blogging will help expose them…shame them. 
And if a blogger lies? Well, to my mind a politician who lies and cheats is certainly more harmful than a blogger who does the same. And a newspaper which is the mouthpiece of the government is far more repugnant than a lone blogger fudging the truth.  And what about the blogger fighting for truth and justice? May his tribe increase…for collectively we shall win.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. January 19, 2007 12:26 pm

    Wow. I didn’t realize that blogging was considered so “evil”. I know they are not understood yet in the US and Europe. It’s just a “fad” and “hobby” most people assume. But your argument for blogs giving people a voice to fight for justice and fairness is very persuasive. Well done.

    And thanks for making blogging better.

  2. Digish permalink
    February 6, 2007 11:26 am

    Hi, This is to the particular incident of a Britannia salesman having taken away the 2 packs of efective biscuits and never returning. Well, I am an Area Sales Manager with Britannia Industries Ltd., and I would like to (without being defensive) state that this is an unheard of incident for me. We have systematic procedures in place for customer complaint redrssals and if respondens are not satisfied, the complaint goes right up to the Vice President, Quality. If Nita can tell me from where she bought the biscuits and the salesman’s name and contact information, I will certainly follow it up and ensure that it is addressed.

  3. February 6, 2007 12:27 pm

    Hi, it is indeed quite nice for you to reply to this. Well, this incident happened in 2002 in Pune in the Kothrud area. Ofcourse I do not remember the shop’s name as I shop in different places. Unfortunately your salesman took away the packets so I have no proof. Natually, I trusted the man and never took down his name. He promised to get back to me in one day. He didn’t. I was a foolish consumer.
    I do not think this is an unheard of incident though…my husband used to work in Britannia. He worked there for 6 years. It was he who was annoyed with me for trusting the salesman. He told me that at higher levels this does not happen, but at lower levels it does. But I was innocent at that time to the thinking of companies. Yes, I could have taken the complaint to the vicepresident or even up to the ASM and I am sure I would have got my Rs 25/-. But frankly, as I mentioned in the article above, I was not interested in following it up. I was working and my daughter was in the Xth standard. I had no time or inclination to follow it up.
    In any case I think the company is to blame. I never buy Britania anymore by the way. No, not even my favorite Marie. Inspite of the fierce loyalty I had towards the company at one time(we used to live at Britannia Gardens). But don’t worry, other companies are worse. Nowadays I buy Mcvites. The product is NEVER defective so the question of complaining never arises.

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