No, this Moneylife article is not about money, but certainly about life! Well, I guess it is a bit about money, too, because we consumers spend the money, right?
Wherever you go to get some goods or service, you will find unwritten rules about how your needs should be met. Unfortunately, some of these rules are very annoying.
Rule 1: Never smile at the customer, let alone waste a hello or a greeting. You have a lousy job, selling stuff. What is there to smile about?
Rule 2: Look annoyed. Who is he to come and bother you when you are bored and somewhat hungry? Yes, Mahatma Gandhiji’s dictum—“The customer is the most important person….. is hanging on the wall, but that is just for show, like an election promise.
Rule 3: Sell at MRP, not a paisa less. It is bad enough that the price has been dictated to you, but if the customer wants a discount, well, he can go to Metro Cash & Carry and wait for an hour in a queue behind overflowing shopping carts.
Rule 4: Don’t offer choices. If the customer wants a brand that is not in stock, that’s his bad luck. You can’t be bothered suggesting another brand, because he may be one of those ‘brand-loyal’ fellows who will look and look and finally go to find his brand elsewhere.
Mind, I can afford to write all this because my wife buys everything online anyway, and I am now beyond the reach of these rules. But if you still go down to the local stores for supplies…well, you live in the bronze age.
Rule 1: Never arrive at the ‘agreed’ time. Yes, you did mention a time, but that meant anytime from then onwards, not that specific time. After all, (s)he needs you, so why rush? If the customer calls to ask, say you are just a few minutes away, even if you are at the other end of town or just starting another job.
Rule 2: Don’t inform if you are not going to come. ‘Battery dead’ or some such excuse is enough if you are accosted when you finally do come.
Rule 3: Be as slovenly as possible. No bath, no shave, dirty clothes, muddy feet—these are the bare minimum.
Slur your words, thus: “I am @^&*% from #[email protected]
*&%$# Limited”. If you are asked to repeat the names, make sure you are indistinct.
Rule 2: Choose odd hours to call—3pm, 9pm, 8am are good choices. What does it matter if the recipient has to drop whatever (s)he is doing, including sleeping, to rush to the phone? You are working, (s)he is just sitting at home!
Rule 3: Be persistent like Robert Bruce (inspired by a spider). If the person you called hangs up on you, call again.
Rule 1: Always be late. If your consultation timings are 6.30pm-8.30pm, it means that you will not arrive before 6.30pm but will leave at 8.30pm sharp – wife is waiting with dinner.
Rule 2: Instruct your assistant to give everyone a 6.30pm appointment, so that a patient arriving at 6.25 will find 15 others waiting, having arrived earlier. Yes, the poor fellow must wait for hours, but he is just a patient. He must live up to the name he has been given.
Rule 3: Remember, your consultation chamber is a processing centre whose goal is to process the maximum number of patients in the minimum amount of time. Efficiency and throughput speed are important—and, of course, you can diagnose with just one glance, can’t you?
Rule 4: Discourage questions. Patients are not entitled to ask inane questions about possible causes of their ailments, or the purpose of the medicines you are prescribing. You must unleash your cold stare and grim face at such ‘Google doctor’ shenanigans.
(Almost) Universal in Kolkata
I hasten to add that I am not singling out my beloved city for bad-mouthing. For all I know the same happens everywhere in India. It is just that I have lived only in Kolkata the past 10 years and, hence my experience is limited to this city.
Rule 1: Whatever you are asked to do, say 'Not possible'.
An Example: at breakfast in a lovely river-side resort south of Kolkata, we waited for coffee, without which my (American) guest could not face the world. Looking around, he spotted full pots of coffee on several coffee-makers and went to pour himself a cup. Several people rushed at him to stop him. I heard the familiar ‘not possible’ and went to intervene. I was told that the chap in charge of making coffee was not around and nobody else could touch the coffee pot, even though the coffee had already been prepared.
Rule 2: Never report delays. If you have agreed to a date/time, but a delay has occurred, never inform the customer. Just let him wait. Reporting a delay is embarrassing, but delivering late is quite normal.
Rule 3: ‘Short circuit’ (an IIT expression) the queue whenever possible, never mind the long line of waiting people. If you don’t do it, someone else will, anyway.
How does the poor consumer deal with these petty aggravations? Here is what I do.
Shopkeepers – Don’t buy from shops, go online.
Repairmen – there are three options:
- Grin and bear it.
- Pay a lot more than he expects, so that he is motivated to serve you better the next time.
- Do it yourself.
Sorry, I can’t tell you which one I have adopted.
Tele-sales Agents – simple one. As soon as you hear a name that sounds vaguely corporate, end the call and put your phone on mute if you want to be doubly sure. Warning – please don’t do this if you hear ‘bank’. Yes, it might be some other bank trying to sell insurance or investment, but it could be your bank informing you that your account has been debit frozen for lack of KYC.
Doctors – Tough one. After all, if you are sick, you need a doctor. Some suggestions:
- Arrive full 30 minutes early, and make sure that the receptionist puts your name on the top of the list.
- Avoid asking questions. Just take the prescription and leave.
- Find another doctor.
Universal – Don’t even think about it. You can’t change the world. Hell, even Modi-ji can’t!!
Ah, well, I have vented my frustration, which perhaps will find some empathy amongst other consumers.
Bottom-line – Being the consumer, you have the money to spend. If you don’t like what you are getting, vote with your money and find another provider.
(Deserting engineering after a year in a factory, Amitabha Banerjee did an MBA in the US and returned to India. Choosing work-to-live over live-to-work, he joined banking and worked for various banks in India and the Middle East. Post retirement, he returned to his hometown Kolkata and is now spending his golden years travelling the world (until Covid, that is), playing bridge, befriending Netflix & Prime Video and writing in his wife’s travel blog.)