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Poor service at shops and malls – a consumer’s travails

December 17, 2008

Whether it is at the local shop, a fancy mall, at the hospital or at the airport, a laissez-faire attitude is becoming common. Shopping, an activity I never enjoyed too much, has become more of a chore. And interaction with  highly educated professionals has lost its personal touch. Whether it’s denial of obvious facts to make a sale, or lying to cover up their own faults, or simply a callous attitude, tthe truth is that consumers are generally considered people who can be dispensed with. The only explanation I can find for this behavior is that with the rapid expansion of the kind we have seen in many service industries, there is a shortage of trained staff. And when it comes to professionals, there is something similar at work here. There simply aren’t enough good people.

Here are some of my recent experiences:

While shopping at a well known shop called “W” one saturday evening, I noticed that there were only three colours available in ready-made salwars, black, white and red. The conversation between me and the sales lady went like this:

Me: Do you have any other colours?
Shopgirl: No, people don’t wear salwars anymore
I look around and see two customers (besides me) wearing salwars.
Me: But people do wear salwars. You see those people.
Shopgirl: Salwars are not in fashion
Me: Oh. So that is why W has stopped  selling them?
Shopgirl: No no.
Me: Then what are you saying? Are they out of stock?
Shopgirl: Uh. Yes.
Me: When will they be available?
Shopgirl: Not sure.

At this same shop I had purchased a brown kurta with a blue pattern along with a brown churidar. It was a mix-n-match sort of thing and one had to purchase the duppatta separately. However, I was unable to find a matching duppatta. The shop boy found one for me for the princely sum of Rs 800/- but it was a dirty green. The conversation went like this:

Me: This doesn’t match.
Shopboy: It matches. See that mannequin is wearing it.
This same dialogue was repeated again. Finally I thought maybe I was colour blind. I took the items to the cash counter. As the bill was being made the friend I was with saw the duppatta.
My friend: Nita, this doesn’t match!
Me: (to the cashier): See, that is what I was saying. Don’t add this to the bill, I’m not taking it.
Cashier girl: But ma’am it matches.
Me: No it doesn’t.
An argument ensues.
The shop boy arrives.
Shop boy: It matches ma’am.
Me: No it’s green but I need a brown.
My friend: It’s so obviously green!
Cashier: It’s the lighting in the shop, that’s why.
Me: Let me check it outside then. Do you have any objection?
Both the cashier girl and shop boy shook their heads.
So we trooped out and thankfully, it was still light. The duppatta looked so remarkably green that the shop boy fell silent.
Luckily that was the end of the arguent.

A few weeks earlier I had been hunting for a yellow duppatta to go with my yellow kurta and thought I would try a small shop where I was sure it would be cheaper as compared to a designer store or a mall. I showed the shopkeeper the yellow kurta.

The conversation went like this:

Me: Do you have this shade?
Shopman: No.
Me: But you haven’t looked.
Shopman: I know the shades of yellow we have, and we don’t have that.
Me: Can I see the different shades, maybe I might like one.
Shopman: We don’t take out the duppattas unless we have the colour.
Me: Oh. But how do you know I won’t like any of those colors (pointing to about 1 dozen yellow duppattas behind him.)
Shopman (now irritated): I told you we don’t have the colour you want.
Me: See, this kurta also has a churidar which also has some yellow in it. Perhaps one of those colours might match with my churidar, but unless I see I cannot be sure.
Shopman stares at me sullenly, refusing to budge.
I shrug and walk away, quite sure that a designer store or a mall was better because at least one could look and feel the clothes.

Another experience was at Shoppers Stop, Bandra. I had bought a duppatta, paid for it with my card, and then me and my friend decided to have coffee at the brio outlet on the top floor. After having a cuppa I went up to the counter to pay with my card. The cashier tried the card but apparently it didn’t work.

Brioman: Something is wrong with your card
Me: But I just paid right here at Shoppers with this same card.
Brioman: (aggressively) Something is wrong with your card, I’m telling you!
Me: But I just told you I just used it, just 15 minutes ago.
Brioman: You want me to say that something is wrong with my machine?
Me: Yes. Something is wrong with your machine, not my card.
Brioman (angry now!) Okay, okay, something is wrong my machine. Now are you satisfied?
I shrugged. Yes.
I paid cash, but it’s strange why people get so attached to their card eating machines that they don’t admit that something is wrong with them!

I have had a similar experience at Shoprite once. My card which had just been used at another shop wasn’t being accepted, and the cashier refused to admit it and started telling me that my card was blacklisted! I complained to the manager. When he tried my card at another machine, it worked.

But the most irritating experience I had recently was at Wockhart hospital for an appointment with an ENT specialist. The hospital is about half an hour’s drive from my house and I called up around 12:30 p.m. to fix an appointment for two ‘o’ clock. That would give me enough time to russle up a quick lunch before leaving. But the secretary/reception whom I spoke to on the telephone told me categorically that no, I had to come by one p.m. sharp. Can I come at 1:30, I asked. She was quite curt in her refusal, telling me that the doctor was busy. I arrived at the dot of one. But guess what – the doctor wasn’t even in! And after half an hour of waiting, the conversation went like this:

Me: Why can’t you tell me whether he is here seeing a patient or whether he’s at home?
The secretary (avoiding my eyes): You see you were the only appointment, so he…he.. (she fumbled for words)
Me: He took it easy? He bunked?
She: He is on the way.
I don’t know why but I felt she was lying, but I decided to wait anyway.
The doctor swaggered in at 2 ‘o’clock and guess from which direction he came from? From the direction of the hospital canteen! Not the lifts!
Well, even if he had emerged from the lift it would have been irritating. Anyway, he didn’t even bother to apologize for being one hour late. In fact he took two phone calls when I was with him. No, not work-related. He was chatting with his friends. He made a dinner date and during the second call he was persuading another friend of his to wait a minute, he had almost finished with a patient.

On the way out I told the receptionist that at least she should have given me a two ‘o’ clock appointment like I had wanted. She just stared at me blankly. There was no apology.

(Photograph is copyrighted to me)

Related Reading: More post on consumer issues.
Poor After-Sales-Service for Consumer Durables.

67 Comments leave one →
  1. December 17, 2008 10:10 am

    Nita – I started feeling irritated and frustrated reading through your shopping trials, and the ENT appointment recounting raised my hackles, let me tell you. The coldness and lack of caring by the shopkeeper assistants, the receptionist, and the casual mannner of the doctor is execrable. Moodiness and lack of manner is inexcusable when serving the public. What ever happened to a ” customer is always right” attitude. Cheerful people, and people who truly try to accommodate others generally make any business transaction go smoother. A win-win situation for a customer and for a business. Doctors tend to forget they are a business as well, not necessarily dispensing largesse and sagacity.
    I was in the hospital a couple of weeks ago undergoing a stress test for my heart. The doctor interrupted his report to me by three phone calls he took, and then left me to the devices of the receptionist as he left to see to another patient in the hospital. At least he explained and was clear as to what was involved in his time in a busy hospital setting. But it was a bit off-putting. G

  2. December 17, 2008 10:30 am

    I have had many such experiences with Shopper’s Stop staff. For some reason, as per them, if the mix n match is not what the mannequin is wearing, then it is not available/doesn’t match/ not the fashion of the times!

    I mean you do not even have the freedom to wear what you want, be it whatever the match/ non match is!

  3. lallopallo permalink
    December 17, 2008 10:52 am

    Nita, your experiences were really terrible..I would have lost my cool on each one of your above incidents..
    Iam bit surprised also as I always found customer service/salesmen/receptionists etc in India too friendly and eager to please..perhaps I have limited experience then or things are changing now. Here, my worst experiences will be those when the customer service person on phone or otherwise was not very friendly, but still not rude or callous as the people above. However, as a general rule, I hardly expect beyond the very basic from customer support people anywhere in the world..this way, I stay satisfied and happy most of the times. 🙂

  4. December 17, 2008 10:58 am

    As you said “The only explanation I can find for this behavior is that with the rapid expansion of the kind we have seen in many service industries, there is a shortage of trained staff.” is what is the root cause.

    But hey!too many shops/brands/malls, so the sellers should try wooing the customer with the best trained staff,rite?And not leave the customer unhappy.


  5. December 17, 2008 11:02 am

    Actually Nita, to be honest with u, I have never shopped on my own in India [surprised?] ..I was a student and never an employee in India….My mom did everything for me and i was never alone! Now I do my shopping in UK….all these do happen there also, like the color doesnt match, card doesnt work, etc….but mostly thats dealt with a sense of politeness….even in the baddest of their days the sales girls/boys [sometimes asian and indian] show a response which shows a regret that they are not able 2 serve!If the card doesnt work, the immediate response would be “Gosh, this machine is not taking in!” thats my experience in chester ….again in London things are pretty much similar….the reason i felt was coz of rush and crowd in London….But if u go to big shops like debenhams/M and S etc the culture is the same..calm,polite and fit to serve comsumers!
    Also, one more thing which I observed here is, people at the pay counter/till, are so damn patient with the customers….they wait, clear all doubts, chat with a smile and then pass the bill…even in a big long queue…..i sometimes used to get so irritated at start but now i got used to it and started respecting the fellow customers! And people dont take advantage of this !

    coming to ent doctor incident…Its horrible to wait for a doctor if u have an appointment…i mean, may b ent /dental checkup is not urgent but gen when one goes to a doc , he expects automatically the attention!

  6. December 17, 2008 11:25 am

    Reading through your experiences had me nodding my head, as I have gone through the same things …westside, shoppers stop… the small shops in the by lanes… its as though they are too lazy to show you or they just do not know. I’m trained in handling them now… instead of asking them if they have in a particular, I ask them to check in their stocks and wait till they actually go and check!

    But I must mention, there is this baby shop, where tirelessly they show me clothes, pulling out the whole rack and its impossible to walk out of there with nothing… these guys could teach a thing or two to the “big” shops…

    Its surprising really, one would think that the malls would train their staff, to retain their customers, so that they keep coming back.

  7. Vinod permalink
    December 17, 2008 11:52 am

    Gulp…And I’m considering coming back to India.

  8. December 17, 2008 11:59 am

    Even if there is something wrong with the card, shopkeeper or steward etc. are not supposed to say it, good places train their staff to be politically correct and they usually say it in way in which the customer understands and s/he doesn’t feel embarrassed.

    I have observed that staff at most of the malls is rude and assertive. May be they are frustrated with window shoppers and mall rats but still its their job to be polite and entertaining to any prospective customer.

  9. gauri permalink
    December 17, 2008 12:04 pm

    You don’t want to get me started on this! I’d say customer service is comparatively better in the US – more because it’s the employees’ derriere at stake if they’re rude. But gosh, that doctor story is the same, at least in my experience – doesn’t matter if it’s a pediatrician, neurologist, dentist, gynec, or a GP.

    The best part is, they have the gall to say “your appointment is automatically canceled if you’re 10 minutes late”. This is a good way to instill a sense of punctuality if you’re seen within 10 minutes of a timely arrival. Sadly, even if you arrive 5 min early, you’re invariably seen 30 (if not 45) minutes after your appointed time.

    The worst I’ve seen was at a dentist: “A consultation fee of $50 will be charged and your appt. rescheduled in case you arrive 15 minutes late.” No kidding! Boy, that was so ridiculous, it rather made me laugh than got me angry. Anyway, I scratched that entire line and put my initials. When the receptionist said it was a “rule”, I asked her if they’d pay me $50 if the doc made me wait for 15 minutes instead. Idiots. Who’s to say what delays you, traffic, weather, breakdowns…?

    Anyhow, on another note – I could be wrong, but this new trend that you mentioned (cocky salespeople) – may have to do with the new marketing (and perhaps Western/American) cultural school of thought. Aggressive/persuasive = go-getter = more sales = more commission/promotion. Meek (what was once construed as polite) = submissive = weak/uninfluential = no sales. Never say ‘we don’t have X’; say, instead, “we have Y”. Customers are idiots, they’ll buy anything you sell them.

    There. I warned you not to get me started 😉


  10. December 17, 2008 12:09 pm

    dear Nita,next time you come to HK you should call me and we will have an easy & enjoying shopping tour together! Cheers, r

  11. December 17, 2008 12:25 pm


    None of this surprises me. The shop staff is usually paid peanuts so of course, what do you get? Monkeys! The paucity of not just trained but train-able staff in retail is routinely highlighted in all the work I do. Of course, I avoid experiencing it precisely because I really have no truck with laziness or stupidity.

  12. December 17, 2008 12:28 pm

    @ Nita : The other day I was standing in front of my own house and this happened….

    A car comes to a halt…
    Lady : Where is house no. XXXX (no excuse me, no please)
    Me : You are in the wrong area.
    Lady : Okay point me towards the right area then. (again no please)
    Me : Just turn right around.
    Lady : What do I do then!

    Well it seems to me that the problem in this and every other instance that you have pointed to is the lack of politeness. People here simply do not know how to speak properly. What they do not realise is that in the service industry it does make a lot of difference. If you do not like to deal with people you should not be in a job for which it is a requirement. It is that simple.

  13. December 17, 2008 12:41 pm

    Nita, unfortunately that’s the way how things are going on in India. I have had similar experiences many a times myself at different places, at shops, at hospitals, at restaurants and where not! No operational difficulties can ever be made an excuse for not being pleasant to others, in particular when the other is a customer! We have lost the ‘personal touch’ that you were talking about, but we haven’t yet reached the level of professionalism it takes to live without personal touch, I think.

    Tara Prasad

  14. Vinod permalink
    December 17, 2008 1:45 pm

    I had an experience at the other end of the spectrum in an ice cream store in US. The strange thing is that this salesguy was so over enthusiastically friendly that even my American hosts thought the shallowness of it was too palpable. We had a good laugh imitating him once we came out of the shop.

    I wonder why we’re perpetually vexed with each other in India. Life is already miserable for all, it would only make it slightly more bearable if atleast we spoke politely to each other.

  15. Dnyanesh permalink
    December 17, 2008 2:11 pm

    I think man at the counter in typical shops is still old ‘Sheth’ who does not really care about customers. The salesmen/women work on commission so they don’t care too. There job is to somehow ‘manage’ the customer. Most of these shops have very strict (rude?) or no return policy. So once you buy anything from them then it is yours for life. In the US, there is 30 day return policy, no questions asked. But there are Indians too who take disadvantage of the same. I do not really understand why we ‘lower ourselves’ for few dollars.

    We, indians are not punctual. We always have our ‘IST’ and tolerance associated with that. Its high time our businesses should understand that outside India people are punctual and expect you to be. Also, commitment is something that must be followed at any cost. People always forget that by not keeping your word you are losing ‘real value of your word’.

  16. rajatarora permalink
    December 17, 2008 2:21 pm

    Strange! I find my local Shopper’s Stop staff very polite!
    The other day I was shopping for a Mixer-Grinder at SS. I wanted a particular model Morphy Richards. They had it on the display but the salesperson couldn’t find a packed piece for delivery.
    He apologized to me for the delay (although there was no need for it!), went to his manager to inquire whether the particular piece was available for delivery or not, and then even the manager came to me – explaining that they didn’t have the piece available at that time.
    These people then took my address, and the same salesperson home-delivered that Mixer to me the next day.. At no extra cost!

  17. Vivek S. Khadpekar permalink
    December 17, 2008 2:52 pm

    As an up-country type, living in what is merely the seventh or eighth or ninth largest city in India (though one with gracious old-world traditions of doing business) I am happy to report that I have more experiences in common with Rajat Arora than with all the others. The few bad experiences I’ve had have been at the fancy malls and supermarkets with their superior airs, their arrogance about the high-equity “brands” they offer (which does not always mean “deliver”), where no one, from the indifferent manager sitting aloof in his secluded office to the dumb shopfloor boys and girls, has a personal stake in the business (Dnyanesh, I would disagree with you about the “old Sheth”: he is directly concerned about his business, its reputation, about retaining loyal customers and ensuring they come back even if location and parking are not convenient. And this is as true of the most unbusinesslike Marathi shopkeeper as it is of the sophisticated Gujarati Baniya).

    It gives me unalloyedly wicked pleasure to report that many of the (surfeit of) big-name, fancy, electricity-guzzling superstores that rushed into Ahmedabad, creating supply far exceeding demand and raping the city fabric, have either closed down or have had to drastically cut down their scale of operations. In the process, many underpaid, untrainable (thanks, Shefaly), uncouth, smart-ass young and not-so-young brats have lost their jobs. And no, this has nothing to do with the global meltdown. It had already started happening when everyone was raving about the bull-run of the Sensex.

    The higher they rise the harder they fall.

  18. December 17, 2008 2:54 pm

    I usually get damn irritated..I try to be patient if it is crowded..and well just ask for their manager and start threating them,they work 😛
    And something I have observed,the more curt you are,the more polite they are ..

  19. Chirag permalink
    December 17, 2008 2:56 pm

    Nita, One small part of my job is to talk to some really pissed clients and what makes it worse is these guys have invested half a million and thing is not working makes them hulk.

    Yep you are spot on , service indeed is deteriorating specially in India. Not that we don’t have a educated staff, but this is due to “Conspicuous Consumption” most of the times.

  20. December 17, 2008 3:06 pm

    Hehehe! Hilarious! 😀
    Happens to me all the time!! Not that I shop for women’s clothes, but whenever I do shop, I think service with a smile worked only a hundred years ago!

  21. December 17, 2008 3:51 pm

    So true! It happens all the time.. Not just the unhelpful staff , what I hat more is the inability to keep time.. One time , I had a appointment with somebody and he was late – said he was 10 mins away – will be there in 10 mins – and came in after 3 hrs! Its crazy!
    On another note, there is an award waiting for you at my blog.. Please do accept it…

  22. December 17, 2008 4:20 pm

    Truly Laissez-Faire! A french word meaning something like “Let go or let it be”, or rather “Chalta Hain!”
    I wonder despite this much of competition how come such things really happen?
    Yes, buying from a mall or so, is much better. We get to choose from a wide variety, check all things ourselves, and it guarantees complete freedom.

  23. Siddharth permalink
    December 17, 2008 4:29 pm

    A long post, but am glad you had the patience to write it. I’m sure all of us have these experiences.. but I’ve never had the patience to put it down. People nowadays seem to be a disgruntled lot. And it shows so obviously on all the people who are in the service industry and have to interact with customers. Helpful shopkeepers, salespeople etc. are a rare lot, and are usually the poor ones who’ve perhaps come from small towns etc.

    It won’t be long before the big city corrupts them too 😦

  24. December 17, 2008 4:33 pm

    I think in general shopping in India is much more fun in India than in the US. There just seems to be much more variety here, and better service, especially in the smaller shops. I shopped for some clothes in a small shop and a big store and could definitely tell the difference. I think its because in the small shops, you are directly dealing with the owner, whereas the salespeople in the bigger stores didnt seem very interested (since they might not have a direct stake in the store).

    In the US, there doesnt seem to be much of a concept of persuading the consumer (except in the case of shoes). The consumables are put on display and if you want to buy them, you just pick them up and go to the counter.

    @ Odzer, yes by western standards Indians are definitely not polite. I get weird looks here when I use the words please, thank you etc.

  25. December 17, 2008 4:55 pm

    well yes, me and my friend last summer had some “incidents” also…
    > One day at the National Bank (delhi):
    We were in a hurry and also it was very hard to find a bank opened…
    We had to wait almost 1 hour, to get some money…because the man was eating there and chating with other work.mates…We were really polite but he semeed he was going really slowwwwww on purpose, just to fuck us…

    >In a kind of big shop store in jodhpur…5 young boys attending the textiles department…we were also very polite..they just started to laugh about us (we are obviously tourists), making jokes in hindi…Finally we got out of nerves and ask to talk with the manager. We told him about the incident (beware of what kind of people u have selling here,…this isnt polite at all…)…But anyway, he just said yes yes yes…but he just ignored us…

    We are not used to receive this kind of behaviour in places like a Bank or shop…

    • December 17, 2008 5:21 pm

      suburbanlife, like you I too feel the most irritated when a doctor or any other well trained professional is callous. I think the reasons for the callousness by a highly educated professional and an untrained sales person are different. The first is simply taking advantage of his position, while the latter is simply untrained.

      Aathira, the bullying is really beyond belief!! Yes, me too have had other experiences at shoppers stop. Overall I find their staff, at least at the ready made clothes counters quite ignorant.

      lallopallo, if you lived in India you would have learnt not to lose your cool. 😦 These instances of rude behavior from shop staff is too common here! But I agree with you, these incidents should not be ignored. I have complained to the top people many times. Once I made a written complaint to the pizza hut people when I was served burnt soup but the waiter refused to acknowledge the same. To my delight I found an easy way to complain via their site. Most of the time such methods are not available though and the “manager” of the shop is not interested in taking one’s complaint. But again it may vary from city to city…

      Nikhil Narayanan, I think they don’t know the basics of wooing customers! And worse, they know that few people complain.

      Sahaja, well I guess you are lucky that you are living in a country where the customer is king! Here one cannot even return defective goods without a fight!

      Imp’s Mom, as you say we become so used to these kind of experiences that we try and solve the problems on our own! There are very few shops of the kind you mentioned, the baby shop, who take the trouble of showing you their wares. About the malls, I think they simply hire just about anyone.

      Vinod, you will learn to deal with it!

      Anshul, even I wonder why the staff at various shops is so frustrated and irritable and often ignorant. I think we customers shouldn’t take it!

      gauri, I am quite shocked at what you told me about the doctors! How can they have a one-way contract like that, it can’t be legal!

      radha, HK huh! I would love to, one day. 🙂

      shefaly, as you said pay and picking up people who are train-able is what counts, and I guess that is why the staff at five star hotels better. I guess the shops get the least able ones. 😦

      Odzer, and what do you have to say about our road manners? Pretty bad huh!

      • December 17, 2008 5:51 pm

        Tara Prasad, I think you have got the exact thing, something I was not able to articulate. You said:

        We have lost the ‘personal touch’ that you were talking about, but we haven’t yet reached the level of professionalism it takes to live without personal touch, I think.

        I think this is the real problem.

        Vinod, now that is a question that I assume is a philosophical comment, so prefer not to answer it. 🙂

        Dnyanesh, returning something to a shop can be sheer hell unless the brand is a multi-national. Recently a friend of mine managed to return a Benneton shirt with complete ease. She said she was all prepared to be aggressive and fight (there was a tiny hole in the knitted top she bought) but they were nice and replaced the top instantly. I remember last year I had similar experience at a shop called Goody’s from where I had purchased a silk kurta. They refused to take it back and insisted that I had made the hole myself! I never returned to the shop again. I think as shefaly said, it’s sheer stupidity on the part of the shops.

        rajat, there sure are good sales people too, just that indifferent ones are far more than the good. Also, from the example you gave it seems to be that you had already made the purchase and therefore the staff went out its way to ensure that the deal was closed.

        Vivek, isn’t it possible that as you do not live in a metro that the service of the shops there is better? And also I feel that Gujarati businessmen and shop-keepers are far better than the MH ones, a point which I think you mentioned. In fact recently a friend of mine came from Lucknow and she said she was amazed at the service in the clothes stores! So a combination of smaller places + business savvy people does the trick. Which reminds me, I think the Udipi restaurants give better service that many of the modern restaurants. The waiters as you said are supervised closely by business savvy owners.

        Vishesh, being curt doesn’t always work. One has to tread carefully.

        Chirag, I think our economy hasn’t yet matured. We have just grown and don’t have the properly trained people and there is a an urgent need of systems.

        Nikhil, service with a smile? what’s that?

        smitha, keeping time is not a virtue of our people! 😦

        ameyawaghmare, my experience too has been better at malls. I find the small shop-owners mostly sullen and reluctant to show you the stuff as they do not want to make the extra effort. I find this even at pharmacies. Medicines which are there under their nose and they say it’s not there! Once I had to point out to a sales person that he had the vitamins I was looking for even though he said (twice) that he didn’t!

        Siddharth, I too think that maybe this callous attitude is more a big town thing. Difficult to understand why…some level of frustration of the staff I guess, and unavailability of people. I have also seen that service is better in smaller places, it may be slow, but the people are more good natured.

        • December 17, 2008 6:01 pm

          Vikram, if one is dealing with the owner, I agree the experience can be quite pleasant. But I find that in many of these shops the owner is not around. And when you said that “In the US, there doesnt seem to be much of a concept of persuading the consumer (except in the case of shoes)” well, I would love that. What I don’t like is if the sales person is constantly looking over my shoulder, advising me to take this and take that, and refusing to understand that I have my own choice too!

          francina, sad to hear about your experience. those kind of experiences you mentioned are very common here. actually I didn’t want to mention it in my post, but I find that women are taken less seriously. I get far more respect at any store if I go with my husband. 😦

          Sraboney, I am not at all surprised. Actually neither bengalis or maharashtrians have too much of business sense. 😦

          Anshul, I think all of us should boycott any place where the service is unreasonable. I have done this to several shops but I don’t tell them, in case I have to go there for an emergency buy! 🙂

  26. December 17, 2008 5:31 pm

    Are you sure you weren’t shopping for your yellow dupatta in Calcutta? The response of the shopkeeper sounds exactly like the responses of Bengali shopkeepers in Cal…First of all, they open their shops between 11-12 , then shut at 1 pm for lunch and afternoon siesta, open again at 4 pm and shut again at 7 pm…The non-Bengali shopkeeper opens his exactly at 10 am and shuts at 9 pm without taking an afternoon nap…Then the Bengali shopkeepers complains that the Marwaris (all non-Bengalis are Marwaris in Cal)are taking away their customers and how the Centre helps other states and not Bengal…
    I had gone once to a shop to look for curtains…

    Me: (Pointing at a roll of material) Can you show me that roll?
    Bengali Shopkeeper: Sure (climbs on a stool to get the roll down)
    Me: (Pointing at another roll which is similar to the one he has shown me) Can you show me that one?
    Bengali Shopkeeper: No
    Me: What?
    Bengali Shopkeeper: It’s similar to the one you are looking at…Why do you want me to bring it down? If you want it, only then will I get it down…
    Then he walks off and starts chatting with a friend…
    Me: I’m going to a Marwari’s store…I’m sure they’ll appreciate my business

  27. December 17, 2008 5:32 pm

    Nita, I usually do not go to places that have staff like this and pass on this information to my friends too. So, now I patronize at only few good shops and they treat me pretty well as a customer and a regular.

  28. December 17, 2008 6:17 pm

    well, in both cases i was there with my friend (BOY)…but our impresion was that their rude behavior was because we were turists and not indians…

    But we cannot generalize anyway…

    • December 17, 2008 6:19 pm

      No no it certainly wasn’t because you were tourists. In fact tourists often get more attention and better service. Overall there is a male bias though in Indian society, but that is no guarantee of good service! Men too get a raw deal.

  29. wishtobeanon permalink
    December 17, 2008 6:42 pm

    Hi Nita, the first conversation was funny! I wonder if the businesses really care about doing well. If they do, they would make sure that the customers are satisfied. Maybe, they are confident that even if the customers were not happy with the service, they would return to make a purchase since they have nowhere else to go.
    So far, I have found customer service here in the US to be good. There are customers satisfaction surveys(usually sent by email) by chain stores to make sure that the customer was happy with the service during her visit. If the customer does not like the way she was treated, she could complain.
    In India, I think you get treated well in smaller mom and pop stores than in the bigger chain stores.

    I too believe that service is better in the US. And I think the reason why sales people are not polite despite competition is that all of them are the same! And my experience of these mom and pop stores has been pretty bad. They generally have some sleazy guy at the counter and there is no guarantee that that they will show you the wares. In a mom and pop store you are entirely dependent on the guy at the counter. At a mall, you can browse and pick out things yourself, if the sales staff is uncooperative. – Nita.

  30. Vivek S. Khadpekar permalink
    December 17, 2008 9:13 pm

    @ Nita:

    //Vivek … as you do not live in a metro …//

    Watch out!!! We Ahmedabadis are very touchy about such presumptuous statements. 🙂 Don’t you know we are already a megacity (oops! MAY-ga city!!) and aiming at becoming another Singapore, Shanghai … whatever is the favoured flavour at the time of going to press? We have adopted the Olympic Games motto — Citius Altius Fortius. And we will get there. Just you wait and watch 🙂 .

  31. December 17, 2008 9:35 pm

    @ Nita : Yeah the road manners are a reflection of other manners. I guess we are so many that we are insecure about our lives. The insecurity and the lack of manners make for an ‘interesting’ combination.

    @ Vikram : They are not polite compared with East Asian standards either. Although western politeness can be overbearing as well. I would appreciate a please/thank you sometimes though.

  32. December 17, 2008 10:48 pm

    Nita, I’m reminded of experiences from my childhood when I would accompany my parents to a sari shop in Kota. The shopkeepers always worked one-on-one and took their time showing different saris. While my brother and I would get bored because it took usually 45-60 minutes (my parents usually bought a number of saris for relatives), I do remember that the shopkeepers were always and without fail courteous and paid attention. And that resulted in a big sale, followed by repeat business, as my parents had 2 or 3 regular/favorite shopkeepers they returned to, and Kota saris were really famous among our relatives. I think almost always, the shopkeepers were also the shop-owners, so they had a direct stake in the proceedings.

    I wonder if the following is taught in business schools as a way to train those who work in shops:
    “Ask those applying for a job at a shop what was their reaction when they interacted with a really good staff person while buying xyz? How about a rude one?”

    In both cases, the most likely answer would be that they told many of their friends about their experience – good, as well as bad. This kind of free publicity can result in new customers (or a bad experience can turn away existing and likely customers) if the employees get this idea in their head by looking at their own experiences as a customer. People usually go by the recommendations of their friends, and this is just basic human nature as well as common sense.

    Amit, I have some memories like that too, on Pune’s Laxmi road which is full of saree shops. Haven’t gone there in a while, but more because I don’t shop for sarees anymore. I am convinced that the service in the old days was far better and perhaps it is because of what one commentator said, in those days 99% of the customers were serious buyers but today sadly only about 25% are. I am not sure why this is so, perhaps it is because there are mall rats as some commentator mentioned, not that it excuses the sales person. – Nita.

  33. Kumar permalink
    December 17, 2008 11:34 pm


    Though some people may find your article & shopping experience not that interesting/important but its a nice article in consumer section.

    The problem is attitude.Though business houses are comming up with more and more malls & shopping plazas,the kind of people they are employing is creating all this stuff..They are just not professional due to variety of reasons.Their education quality,pay & perks,..etc..Another thing is the stocks from the management side..they really dont keep enough stocks.finding no stock in a big mall is irritating as we just cant step into different place so easily like in good olden days we use to.Finally its the attitude of the stock pushing whatever they stock.

    But, still i found India is better place to shop as in west we can’t find a person also to discuss about the product…:) very few sales people…And i am not comfortable with it.

    Somehow i am comfortable with traditional shopping places where sitting at one place (gaddi) and the salesmen shows what all he is having rather moving in the Big floor space in mall..its not a pleasure for me.

    I guess we Indians prefer to have someone to discuss/argue with, rather than have no one at all! 🙂 But I guess it’s individual. – Nita.

  34. Dnyanesh permalink
    December 18, 2008 1:20 am

    Yes, I agree with Vivek. It is location independent in India. I have seen many Marathi shopkeepers who has ‘will show only if you buy’ attitude.
    On the contrary, salemen in saree shops usually have no limit to their patience as their task is the most challanging one 🙂 I always experience it whenever I shop with my mom or sister or wife.

    Dnyanesh, I wonder why salesmen in saree shops are so patient! I am trying to figure it out. – Nita.

  35. December 18, 2008 1:51 am

    They are so terrible experiences.. even though our malls depicting the Mahatma Gandhi’s quotes in the billing department, they didn’t understand what it really mean.

    /*A customer is the most important visitor on our premises. he is not dependent on us. We are dependent on him. He is not an interruption in our work. He is the purpose of it. He is not an outsider in our business. He is part of it. We are not doing him a favor by serving him. He is doing us a favor by giving us an opportunity to do so.”*/

    But here in Chennai I never encountered such experiences. I don’t know whether the shopboy/girl and cashier was polite or May be I am not shopping much? 😛

    Maybe you aren’t shopping much! 😛 – Nita.

  36. December 18, 2008 2:15 am

    Ach, those lazy swaggering bleddy docs. When will they ever learn? You were too nice to him, Nita; you should have bitten his head off.

    I was hungry, true, but am sure it would have spoilt my apetite! 🙂 – Nita.

  37. December 18, 2008 2:26 am

    Thanks for visiting my blog Nita 🙂

    Such a dreadful experience! I think you wrote on behalf of many that experienced this issues before. It is frustrating and yet they had the nerves to argue! Are they seriously interested in the service industry, where consumers are always right? 😉

    Pathetic and rude service by the dentist and staff. I say, we all should boycott this kind of services.. Where are common courtesy these days? We pay for services, and they pay nothing to be polite and show some courtesy!!! It angers me!!!

    Kiran, I felt really good reading everyone’s comments. When one realises that so many people have similar experience it helps. – Nita.

  38. December 18, 2008 9:29 am

    My conversations with any shop assistant is just any shop go like this.

    Me: Do you have this model in size XL?
    Assistant: Ma’am, size XL won’t fit you. You are too fat. You need a size XXL (or XXXL). We don’t have ladies clothes that size.

    At that point, I walk out. I make it a point to get my clothes stitched because of this disgusting attitude. Unfortunately, i cannot do that with shoes. So, I tolerate their bullshit. Of late, I have taken to shopping for shoes only at Kobbler. it’s good, and the staff is courteous.

    Amrutha, I have had this kind of exchange. The sales person trying to insist that a certain size would be too small for me. I have often tried the one that the sales person insisted I should try (knowing it would be too big for me) just to show her that she was wrong. When I do, they grin and giggle as if it is nothing! I just cannot understand why they should know our size better than us. I have this problem with innerwear all the time. – Nita.

  39. December 18, 2008 9:41 am

    Entire fun of shopping gets screwed with this type of conversations. It really gets on nerves when shopboy/shopgirl decides upon what should be bought by me and wore by me.
    Couple of my friends have always out of fashion end up buying stuff that is not moved in ages from shelf in terms of clothing. They end up giving lame excuse.
    “Arre yaar, woh roz kapade beechtah haiusek patra hi hoga naa, kya aachaa kya bura”
    Why should we let someone else decide what will look best.
    I normally prefer walking out of shop, where boys try and sell some thing to me instead helping me shop.

    Sunny, shopping was never my favourite activity and now it’s become a pain! – Nita.

  40. December 18, 2008 9:43 am

    I had a seething argument with a customer rep at USPS today (United States Postal Service). In fact, I wrote about it on my tumblelog.

    I was so mad when I was blogging about it that I left half of the rude things she told me! I think I made the biggest mistake by inquiring about my parcel. Never had such an experience before with USPS. This was my first time and I just felt really annoyed. It’s spoilt my entire evening!

    I have to make another call to AT&T over the weekend to fix my cell phone bill. They are charging me for minutes that are supposed to be free 😦 I’ve called them twice already and I’m not going to pay this bill until they credit my money (and free minutes) back.

    Really , if these condescending people were taught some manners, their business would drastically improve.

    Ruhi, I hope you follow it up and make sure that the person who was rude is disciplined. – Nita.

  41. December 18, 2008 9:57 am

    I too have experienced this, and heard of others who have had horrible experience shopping.

    I should add the disclaimer that very often i have also come across some great shopkeepers/sales people who really make you feel happy you worked with them.

    I can think of the following reasons for the apathy you talk about:

    1. I am paid too low at this job so why should i care?
    2. If you dont come back to this shop, there’s a million others who will, so why bother!
    3. You are paid so much, you are a rich person, i’d rather not care about you. The class divide due to the rising economic disparity.
    4. I just have no idea that sales people need to be nice.
    5. I dont know much about my job or the product i am selling, so rudeness is my substitute for lack of knowledge.

    Nice analysis into the mind of the sales person! Suddenly, they don’t seem all that irritating! – Nita.

  42. December 18, 2008 10:33 am

    “Consumer is KING ” that is only a saying and there is nothing like that existing in the minds of the sellers….

    Doctors don’t even qualify in the seller category…. neither are patients consumers are they ….

    Such is life, too many patients, too few doctors….

    Etiquette is a difficult spelling you know !!

    Well, I guess docs are not exactly in the seller category but in a way they are. They are selling a service and we are paying through our nose for it. In fact I feel more angry with the docs than I do with the ordinary sales people. – Nita.

  43. December 18, 2008 10:59 am

    I was so much happy to see service industry to be so perfect in US. With Ruhi and amreekandesi exp. i am worried. On my really short stay in States i was really very happy with way i was treated. here is one experience:
    1. I ordered a Caramel frappacinno at Star Bucks.
    2. In a jumble i got Blue berry frappacinno.
    3. Raised a caution, I got it replaced for no cost.
    4. Blue berry frappacinno was offered to be taken or to be thrown off.
    I was amazed, when i had to just say the right thing, and was taken care off.

    That is a nice experience. Here too you can have it replaced but you will have to first argue! 🙂 – Nita.

  44. December 18, 2008 11:23 am

    We have a long way to go before realizing true customer service. Also, demand-supply is skewed, giving undue importance to shopkeepers. Finally, politeness (even if its fake) is not our highlight.

    politeness not our highlight! That is surely true! 🙂 – Nita.

  45. December 18, 2008 11:48 am

    Nita, I can imagine your frustration with the doctor. Once I had experienced the same situation, my husband was with me, he walked off and registered his protest. I heard the doctor call up his secretary to enquire about the number of patients waiting for him. He came only after a few patients had arrived, appointments didn’t matter.
    With shopkeepers my experience is totally different. You ask for one thing and they would try and sell a thousand more things. In fact if you tell them you are not carrying enough cash they are ready to deliver at home.

    I guess it’s also more irritating to be treated callously by people who should know better, and usually do know better. I think that some docs simply have no regard for the patient’s time and will loiter around just to ensure that there is a good “waiting” line. Shame on them. However I want to tell you that I have a superb dentist who will not waste a minute of my time. He has a good system in place. – Nita.

  46. December 18, 2008 11:48 am

    I see shops displaying slogans like customers are God ..
    but hardly anyone follows it ..
    They get irritated when we ask them questions or if we ask them to show sme other varieties .
    especially in garments shwrooms …
    At least they should be polite while speaking

    They don’t know how I guess. So I think we should pity them. – Nita.

  47. December 18, 2008 3:18 pm

    😀 😀 You were on your shopping spree?? 😛 😛

    Unfortunately shopping is not my favourite activity. 😦 Even if it is for clothes. I guess I am not typical in that sense. In fact I was known for wearing just a pair of jeans and a few t-shirts throughout college because I was too lazy to shop! I had to change my attitude once I started working. For me it’s always been a bit of a chore. However hard I try, I can’t browse. I decide what to buy, head straight for a shop which sells it and want to buy it and get out. My friends always roll my eyes but I can assure you that it makes my husband very happy! 🙂 – Nita.

  48. Kumar permalink
    December 18, 2008 3:45 pm

    Moreover the problem lies with the buyers also ..i found most of the Indian shoppers feel like they are on top of the world while shopping,Shoppers don’t care about the staff they speak very rudely.

    Another aspect if you observe in the High end brands and boutiques where ultra rich & elite show there again we wont find any rudeness in the salesman…

    Only the middle class person in india suffers all this.There is a class divide which we can’t ignore.

    Kumar, you are right. I have seen customers being rude too. And yes, it’s the middle class which suffers because we want to avoid the fancy shops. Overall though I think sales people should be trained to be rude only to those who are rude to them! 🙂 – Nita.

  49. December 18, 2008 4:22 pm

    well..ya i remembered something…before all these malls came up in hyd, there used to be a big chain of shops throughout city called Chermas [even now its there but lost its charm amidst many of such kind!]…..when i went there, the sales girls were so rude since we were buying for something in 400rs or less… mom was trying to bargain but i left the shop and it never appealed to me ever again in 10yrs….i just dont understand why it matters if we r middle class or high class….
    this is yet another thing I did not experience in UK! I think they are not bothered/pressurised by management about the number of sales done in a period of time unlike indian sales people! Management takes responsibility if sales get reduced! also, management takes care instructions are well communicated among the sales people….something thats missing here….something thats called true proffessionalism i think!

    Sahaja, I have heard that sales people are often (wrongly) trained to treat customers differently. I read this in an article once. I think it is true. If anyone wears shabby clothes and enters a high class shop the treatment is poor. It is stupid to judge by superficial appearances. In the long run these shops will go down, and many are going down! – Nita.

  50. December 18, 2008 6:25 pm

    I don’t know if I’m just being nostalgic now or it’s because I’m obviously a foreigner (or most probably due to location as some others have said), but I’ve never had rude shopkeepers/sales people that I can remember. People were usually friendly, but yes extremely pushy trying to make you buy something. Once you get over the feeling of guilt that is created by someone taking out everything in the whole shop when all you wanted was to browse, you learn to say no and walk away without getting broke in the process…

    However what I do remember very well is in cases the customers were more rude than the shopkeepers. While shopping in a busy area, you always end up getting shoved out of the way by some fat aunty storming straight towards her destination without any formalities or niceties. Just elbows for the bystander! That has made me explode plenty of times and I don’t care if the person in question thought I was the one being rude! I cannot help it. First thing that passes my lips is a snarly: “WELL EXCUSE ME FOR BEING ALIVE!” – somehow there is always some girl my age around who quickly responds “You don’t talk to my mother that way!” .. Argh. It’s getting me angry just thinking about it…

    hedonist666, I have been stamped upon by rude customers! 🙂 Not once but several times, particularly at a sale. People are so desperate to buy stuff its nauseating. Makes me angry too, but in this case we are helpless as there is no one to complain to! – Nita.

  51. December 18, 2008 6:50 pm

    all these cases were totally different but all failed to recognize the fact ” consumer is king ” 😛 😀
    i would say all the reasons given by you apply to all these different cases !
    but nita, i feel this mall culture is now actually making shopping as a daily chore and they actually lack the warmth and the personal attention one used to get in those individual , petite shops which always left one satisfied with quality, price and yes attention as well.
    and thinking of “W” i thought it was meant for all types of tastes and preferences among the women
    but it seems the company as well as the employees are to be held responsible for the bad name it is bringing to the brand.

    Arpit, yes, “W” is a woman’s shop but I think they actually think they are helping, but they aren’t! I agree that an impersonal attitude has crept in now because the owners are rarely around in the shops. But overall I do not mind the lack of warmth as I am the kind of person who wants to buy and get out! 🙂 For me shopping is not a pleasurable experience. I prefer to quickly shop, with minimum interaction with the shop people and then hang out with my friends! 🙂 – Nita.

  52. December 18, 2008 9:38 pm

    Buying a matching dupatta is always very difficult. This is why men don’t wear dupatta. I mean imagine how difficult it will be to find a matching dupatta for our T-shirts or shirts!
    Customer satisfaction in India needs to go a long way. People are too egoistic and they take everything personally. They have to first be ready to accept their mistakes, but guess what if they don’t, consumers will make their decision and move on to another shop. No one cares! They have to understand that at the end of the day, their business is in the hands of the consumers. without demand they are nothing but space dirt.

    Dineshbabu, 🙂 Men have little patience buying accessories I think. But nowadays I find that men/boys are changing their attitude and going in for fancy stuff too! The sexes are slowly become indistinguishable but I do hope that men’s scarves never turn into duppattas! 🙂 – Nita.

  53. Vivek S. Khadpekar permalink
    December 18, 2008 9:44 pm

    @ Dinesh Babu:

    //This is why men don’t wear dupatta. I mean imagine how difficult it will be to find a matching dupatta for our T-shirts or shirts!//

    Maybe it lies outside the ambit of your experience, but let me assure you that being male is not exactly a cakewalk when it comes to matters of apparel. Try finding kurta material to “match” the exquisite border of the tanter dhuti (handloom dhoti) someone so lovingly brought for you from Kolkata!

  54. December 18, 2008 9:47 pm

    “yellow duppata” one happened to me, although not duppata. At many shops they just get away by saying that the particular color we are looking for is not available. they are just too lazy to look.

    At westside/shopper stop they would say ‘sir size medium is not available for that color’ and when I search that out and show it to him he would just smile !!!!

    xylene, best not to talk to the sales people. That is what I do nowadays. I tell them with a smile, I am just looking and after that they leave you alone! – Nita.

  55. December 18, 2008 10:35 pm

    Oh – reading this made me soo angry ! Especially the ENT episode – I hope you gave your piece of mind there!!

    I’ve faced this and more all the time I went shopping in India. Its almost like they’re doing a favor on us!

    It once so happened that we were out buying veggies. A roadside vendor (a woman) had some tomatoes on her cart and we were looking at them. Not satisfied, we told her that we will give it a pass. That woman got so agitated at that. She said something which meant “you’re not the only one, there are many that will come” !! Such utter disrespect to the consumer who is, apparently, helping you earn your daily wages!

    And I have seen this kind of treatment from Indian shopkeepers here too sometimes. So it is an Asian thing I guess!

    snippetsnscribbles, Asian shop-keepers there are ruder than the average american shop-keeper? Not that I am surprised. As for roadside vendors, one has to be exceedingly careful with them. I find them extremely aggressive in selling, forcing you to buy more than you need. That is why I prefer to shop at malls and pick out my own quantity. I hate arguing needless, because either you have to be rude or tell them your whole story as to why you don’t want one kilo of peas. – Nita

  56. sangeeta permalink
    December 19, 2008 12:00 am

    In the US,the customer is treated like king.Most shops have a very liberal return policy to the extent that people really misuse it(by returning used,damaged items ).The personal touch is slightly lacking though maybe due to huge size of the malls although you do get help when needed.
    I personally prefer to shop at small shops in India,where one gets personal attention and not at the big malls,as,as Nita pointed out most of the staff is pretty ill informed there!!

    Sangeeta, a liberal return policy is a dream to aspire to in India! – Nita.

  57. Padmini permalink
    December 19, 2008 8:26 am

    Nita, it almost felt like a war was being waged between the customer and the salesperson, with cold vibes floating around. My personal take on this is that the shop keepers become dull over time, doing the same old stuff e.g. folding clothes which customers open at random, putting things back in their shelves etc. If you look at things from their point of view, the customer is perceived as fickle-minded, making the sales people remove and display everything, then commenting negatively on several things and finally, the ultimate insult, not buying anything and walking away with a big sniff. It happens all the time! And will continue as long as the small shops continue to exist. Some things never change.

    Padmini, it’s a long time since you left India so I guess you have a more understanding attitude. 🙂 But yeah I know what you mean, the sales people too have a point of view. Frankly I feel more sympathy for them than I do for highly paid professionals like doctors who waste people’s time. – Nita.

  58. December 19, 2008 6:22 pm

    What horrible experiences. I saw the change in the behavior of the sales staff almost overnight with the advent of ‘Malls’ in the city I lived in before moving to France. I find it highly irritating when sales people tell me that this is the best quality instead of admitting that they don’t have what I am asking for.

    I also notice that they treat you very superciliously to make you feel that if you are worth something, you will buy a lot or the costliest stuff. If you are interested in just one thing, not about to spend a lot at their store, they quickly lose interest in you.

    And about the hospital, I know how it is, even in private set-ups where you pay so much, as I have both been at the receiving end (with my family members as patients) and the inflicting end also, when I worked at various hospitals, where I saw blatant disregard for patients’ time and comfort among the nursing staff and the doctors. Actually, the non-medico staff is more sympathetic with patients at times, but things are not in their hands.

    But apology is an unknown concept to most people in India. No one apologizes for anything.

  59. December 19, 2008 7:24 pm

    Hi Nita

    Excellent post as usual 🙂

    Just wondering if there are any service industry professionals who read your blogs? and what they have to say about the prevailing customer service standards in India? or is there anyone trying to improve service standards in his/her capacity say as a Service manager/manageress, steward/stewardess etc. ..OR…whether the people who have commented above have ever found themselves in a position where they or their siblings have had the opportunity to work in the service/retail industry and serve or cater to “Indian” customers??

    I mean except Chirag no one else seems to be associated with the “Indian”service/retail industry in any professional capacity??

    Nita, I don’t really expect to see an Indian saree shop salesman’s views/comments on your post but isn’t there anyone else who would like to give us an account of what life is like on the other side, what challenges are they facing and how are they able to make a difference?? No Ron Kaufmans around??

  60. ahumanbean permalink
    December 19, 2008 7:32 pm

    I think we commentators need to see the relevance of the unspoken *class* and social strata lines that divide the shopper from the store employee. It’s a India social line and not necessarily a employee / shopper thing.

    We ape the West and teach the staff to Talk the Talk. Not how to Walk the Walk. It’s our collective responsibility – as well as the management who often couldn’t care less as long as they have their social status underlined by their cabins and rarified position-on-the-social-strata name.tags!

    Apologies are an alien concept in India. They don’t mean anything. I never waste my time asking for one…

  61. December 20, 2008 11:04 pm

    Somehow I never faced such problems while shopping. Believe me, the staff, especially in the malls is very polite and ready to help.
    On the other hand, I totally identify with the last incidence. Saying sorry and Thank you is something of an ego problem in India. We have such huge egos that its really hard to accept our mistakes.

  62. December 24, 2008 12:00 am

    I cant handle my temper well, when I have an experience like something you had.. I make sure they apologies..even if it is not heartfelt.

    There is no point in being polite to them, they just take u for a ride..

  63. December 24, 2008 5:07 pm

    I was trying out this hairstylist at Butterfly Pond at Colaba, Mumbai. The first time I landed up with an appointment for the head stylist and she wasn’t there, I let it pass. The second time as well. The third time, she picked up the phone herself and gave me an appointment for six ‘sharp’ that evening. No prizes for guessing that I landed up on time and she has ‘just left for the day’! I haven’t been back since.

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