Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Net benefits

Whenever we have to complain about a service or product here in Mumbai, the gut feeling one first experiences, is that "nothing is going to happen". Words are creatively interpreted, issues are sidestepped, you feel like a fool for not reading the finest print. You often try and find out if anyone knows someone at the company, who would attend to your complaint. This has given rise to a set of "entrepreneurs", who provide these links, organize the ignoring of certain things, and attention to some others etc. You quote some rule, and they enunciate the loophole.

We must have , what I call, a loophole supremacy.

Which, I suppose, is now set to change.

Companies who populate the Net with their comprehensive details , may not know what they are doing.
But no one here is complaining.

My late mother, then 82, returned from a trip to her children in the US, very angry with this particular airline, based in SE Asia. She was a veteran flyer, was not smitten and tongue tied with the glamour , and she declared that she wouldn't be flying with them again.
Travel fares in rupees are often more than several months salaries in India for middle class folks, and I was upset over the fact that with all these costs, and the advertising they do, my mother had this experience.

I surfed the Net for their homepage. By the time I reached their "contact" page, I was livid with the claims of hospitality, and I fired off an email to someone at their SE Asian headquarters, telling them off. Imagine my surprise, when the Mumbai manager for the airline, had his secretary get in touch with me, to get the exact details. I poured out my disgust over delays in wheelchairs, side stepping of responsibilities with meals, and misleading advertisements.
I have no idea who all attended to this, but a year later, when my mother, flew, on what was to be her last trip to attend a graduation of an eldest grandchild, I got in touch with them again, and the airport experience at Mumbai was amazing. There was one lady with high-heels-and-walkie-talkie who created a wheelchair almost out of thin air , so to speak, and then another who kept by my mother's side till she boarded. She would constantly check and ask if my mother wanted anything, till my mother, patted her on her back, and told her not to worry, she would ask.....

There were
massive comments listed against my Mother's name on the list that the girl carried. :-) . They checked-in my mother's baggage in Business class although she was flying Economy. With the result, that she was disembarked and embarked as priority during connecting flights, and my brothers in California were amazed to see her luggage and her emerge before anyone else. Of course, I was very happy about things, and wrote to the airline to complement their staff, by name (which I noted at the airport). I got personal replies from their Mumbai manager, and the head office, and the 24 hr travel was exemplary for a tired 83 year old grandmother, who insisted on being there for her grandson's graduation.

To this day, I cannot picturize who I dealt with, why they listened seriously to what I said, in particular the person in Singapore , who initially received an angry email from me.

The next time was when the Canon digital camera suddenly started making me look long and slim through the viewfinder.
That couldn't be. And so it was taken to their service centre, where a scientific type looking person, explained the malfunctioning of some part to me, and then gave me the good news that Canon folks had decided that to recall and replace all these cameras. Lengthy paperwork preceded the handing over of my camera. For two weeks nothing happened. Every time I called, they would say they were waiting to hear from the New Delhi office.

I rushed to Google. Canon had a regional office in Singapore. They even had a set of names mentioned, and a contact form. I wrote in a very angry and upset email, wondering how a Universal company like this could go haywire over its inventory of cameras when they knew they had used bad judgement and faulty parts earlier. About this "waiting to hear from New Delhi", out of sheer desperation, I mentioned, that by now someone could have
walked over from Delhi and said what they had to say.....

One thing that always works ,is if you say, that you don't expect a great company like Canon to deal this way with its customers. I, of course, mentioned the reference numbers etc associated with my complaint.

The next day I get a call from the camera place, saying my replacement had come, could I come pick it up, or should they send a man over with the paperwork ? Of course I went to the place. Wouldnt want to miss the fun. The receptionist was trying to figure out what pull, a middle class, dull looking, but angry female could have with the head office, The scientific type also came out to wish me, and show me the intricacies of the camera. I
am not used to all this. I actually started suspecting those guys, took my camera, and vamoosed.

The final straw was when a Sony Ericsson phone in the family suddenly went blank. It was on warranty, and what I consider, expensive. (To some, it is oh-so-cheap; but numeric abilities vary.) Service centres were approached, massive paperwork done, and when we called 7 days later, nothing had been done, and they couldn't say when it would be ready. It was a case of we'll call you, do not bother us.

Well, the fingers itched to Google in the name of Sony Ericsson. Bedazzled by pictures of elegant models (phone, not human), I slowly surfed, to finally land up on the
contact page. Shut my eyes at the snail mail address. Brushed aside the 1-800 toll free number. And got set to write an email, to whoever , wherever, which expressed my amazement and disgust that a company like Sony could behave like this, over a small matter of my phone. Inability to diagnose my phone over 7 days, had me casting grave doubts over Sony's Indian set up.

This happened on a Saturday. Monday morning at noon, I got a call from the service centre that the phone was ready, and should they send it over ?

I have even tried this when our building lift was stuck, and was being subject to patchwork repairs, when the need was for some basic replacements. The only email address I got was that of Manager, Corporate Communications. I wont bore you with what I wrote and how they rushed, but I get the feeling that if you can learn to needle a company in a subtle manner, your work is done.

The question is, should I start an alternate career as a Problem Fixer, and Emailer to Companies ? I seem to be spending an inordinate amount of time composing very corporate, hi-fi-sounding emails to folks all over Asia. Or should I wait before I get World Wide expertise ?

The Internet is a great equalizer. Not only does it give you the ability to communicate with someone you have never seen or met before, but it gives one the freedom to play with words, so that the person you are communicating with, gets a totally different impression of you, all basically based on your language style.

You could be on email to a big-shot-sitting-in-an-air-conditioned-office-bigger-than-your-house, as you type away, in your pajamas, on your desktop, in a room you share with 2 siblings, the sewing machine and and your grandfathers book collection. And your way with words could fool the guy into thinking that you move in rarefied circles at the top.

Or you could be a high society star who gets stressed out over what to wear, where, while the way you structure and phrase your electronic missives might indicate that you've just logged into GMail after doing the dishes.

I know there are moves afoot to make email visual, in the sense that people could see you in the email.

But I don't think its such a great idea. :-)

Takes all the fun out of cribbing to solve problems. And seeing the amazement and disgust on someone's face, when they realize that the person who they think has great corporate connections, who gets quick action everywhere, is actually an ordinary middle class female senior citizen-to-be, typing away on her desktop, between cooking , throwing the trash, hanging up the washed clothes, and worrying about the rising price this year for Alphonso mangoes in the summer .....


  1. Oh yes. What a great equaliser ! Not only the e-mails but also blogs ! I would have thought the readership for my blog would not cross ten people including the family pet !

    But, i am glad that you are getting the results by writing to these corporates. I havent tried. And i think the trick is in trying. And there must be a nuance to that, that one can pick up as one goes along.

    I wonder how Indian companies react to such mails. I know of Amul which did a great job at that..!

    And until then, enjoy the mangoes. the price rise is a constant feature !



    Reliance is selling Alphonso Mangoes, Ratnagiri... on net... 990 for 24 pieces... !! home delivery anywhere in India in 4 days !!!


    yes... our reach sure has increased... and next time i have an issue with some customer service... I now know who is the specialist to draft the letters for complaints !!

  3. hee hee mastach ga. Majhya pan cell phone chya cameryat ek thipaka distoy..Hasu nakoch kharach aga. Ithlya dealership la vicharla tyanchya company la phone kela neet kai karava kalat nahiye. Badalun deoo asa pan mhanat nahiyet. Ata ek emailach lihavi mhante me.


  4. Ok, WHY were you upset that a camera was making you taller and slimmer that you are?!!

    Can you send me the template of your emails? Would you consider selling them $5 a piece (results guaranteed)?!!

  5. I think I need you to draft my letters of complaint. My Canon Rebel Xti malfunctioned while on a trip. (If you read my sad tale of woe about this incident you will know how upset I was.) I wrote Canon complaining about having to pay $12 to send it to the factory and thought, at least, they should reimburse me as it was still under warranty. 7 months later I am still waiting for a reply from Canon. I think they are waiting for me to die and then they won't have to do anything.

  6. Hi Suranga
    It's hard enough to find the 'contact' link on a compny web site. Yes, I think you could become a hugely successful businesswoman ...
    June in Oz

  7. I, too, write to some of these people if I have something go wrong with one of their products or services. I think you are a better writer than me from what I have read today. It is so funny because I was reading your post in my pajamas and had just put the trash out. I thought you were writing about me!

  8. Kavi I notice that Indian companies listen better when my email to them gets fwded to them by their US headoffice. Sad , but true.

    Hitch Writer Rs 990 for 24 mangoes, which I cannot smell, pick and choose ? No thank you.

    Vinita Email kharmareet lihaila wisroo nakos..:-)

    Roshni So long and slim that your face is two dimensional ? And i wish I had a template. Most of the time its an angry email on their web email set up that goes directly. I'd let you have a template free if I had one.

    Darlene lets hope the angry letter works...

    June Saville I think "finding the link" is actually my basic expertise. Anyone can write angry letters ....:-)

    Judy The world is indeed a small place...I've been tangling with the Otis elevator folks today after climbing 6 floors up and down daily for 2 days, and their NY headquarters emailed me back(after an angry email from me), before I could find their Mumbai office numbers and call....I just realized that you can take advantage of the fact that we are 12 hours ahead of you...

  9. Suranga,

    Let's then give you the honorary title of THE ANGRY FEMALE WITH THE E-MAIL POWER.

    BTW, if I had a camera that would make me look slim and tall, I wouldn't exchange it ever, not even for all the Alphonso mangoes in the world.

  10. Sucharita Er, a slight transposition maybe....ANGRY EMAIL with the FEMALE POWER .... (would you believe it if I told you that I have been tangling with the Otis elevator folks via their NY headoffice regarding our nonworking lift, and a moment ago, have just returned from facing, at my door, 5 Otis staff of various levels (suitwallahs, tiewallahs, supervisors,mechanics etc) who have come and told me they are dtermined to complete the repairs by 5 pm today. ...Yea !!!)

  11. You have such a way with words.
    I am always learning from you.
    Love reading your entries.

  12. I think you have a definite career. You are so clever with the language and I am pleased you are out there fighting the fight. Most people dont bother which is a shame. Yes the camera is a common problem. Seriously why dont you set yourself up a little business and facilitate solving others' problems, well some of their purchasing problems. Great post!!

  13. Help Help!! I need your help to get my microwave back from the service agents!!!
    Truly you can freelance as an expert troubleshooter!!!!

  14. No wonder you’ve got success – you are a master wordsmith :)

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  16. Great thoughts you got there, believe I may possibly try just some of it throughout my daily life.

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