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