Monday, January 19, 2009


The mystery of the missing cash...

During my stay in Bangalore this time, I had to make a dash to the office of a well known insurance company to pay up my premium before the due date (which incidentally was the very day I went to make the payment, hence the urgency). I stepped in at 12:00 noon and looking at the rather smallish queue expected to be out in 15 minutes. I couldn't have been more wrong, as I eventually managed to get out of the place a whole hour and a half later!

The first thing that caught my eye while waiting in the queue was a rather large poster which spoke of remarkable 'New Year Prices'. I thought, well this is simply amazing, looks like they are slashing the premiums this year given the new low in consumer confidence in any financial institution whatsoever, let alone insurance. However, reading further on in the poster I realised that they were talking about a lucky dip and the amazing prizes to be won. Ouch! no luck my friend but yes you could at least win one of those amazing new year prices...err prizes.

The prizes ranged from a trip to 'Bangkak', to a brand new 'Toyata' Camry to Gold and Diamond 'Jewellary' for women. Well, I could only assume that all these were typos, unless there does exist some tourist destination called Bangkak or a brand by the name of Toyata and so on, which I safely assume that most of us are unaware of. Spellings have always been quite a handicap for me and so I had no intention of being overly critical of the poster apart from lets say finding it mildly amusing. But amusement soon turned into worry as I pondered as to why on earth the company had not replaced this poster given the fact that you didn't have to be a genius to uncover these typos. Were they in such a lousy financial situation that changing posters like this would be a huge overhead on their profits (or probably exacerbate their losses?). I took in a deep breath of air and calmed myself with the thought that heck my money is safe as I am sure that governments worldwide would step in and save the day... as always!

Ten minutes had passed by now and with just two others ahead of me in the queue, I thought I was almost there...and that's when it all started going wrong.

"How can that be? How can the amount be short by Rs 1000.", remarked the customer who was making the payment.
"Sir, I checked the amount you gave me. It is short by Rs. 1000.", the cashier responded in a matter of fact tone.
"I counted it 3 times at home. It was perfect. You are trying to dupe me", thundered the customer.
"Sir, you have not paid the full amount", the cashier in a visibly irritated voice.

Boom! The customer quite literally exploded and a shouting death match got underway. In line with our true Indian culture it was time to take sides, draw as big a set of onlookers as possible and wait till possibly a wise man or two in the crowd would deliver a verdict in true village 'Panchayat' style. All and sundry, including some folks from a office next door and a few others passing by in the corridor joined the fray as things were heating up and decibel levels were reaching new highs.
Sometimes it so happens that while receiving the change for a payment made, accidentally or fraudulently you end up with a lesser amount. However this was the first time I was witness to a case were the payment made itself was in question. As the shouting match continued I was wondering how such a situation would be handled in Europe.

A typical (read non-customer friendly) response from the cashier would be "Sorry mate! Please give me exact amount. Next Please!" . The customer making the complaint is simply ignored from that point on. Since there is no reaction from anyone else in the queue and the cashier has chosen to ignore him, the customer has existential doubts. Is he really present in this place at this point of time? Is he alive? or is it all a part of the Matrix. The customer walks home in a depression.

A rare but possible (read customer friendly) response from the cashier would be "Hang on a moment, I'll direct you to the person with whom you can lodge a complaint". The cashier dials a toll free number and connects to the company call center operator in India, to figure out astonishingly that the person who deals with such complaints is a colleague who sits just two seats away. The cashier is visibly excited that after being in the same office for 10 years now, he finally knows the job role of this colleague in question. Now that the ice is broken perhaps in an another say 10 years time, he would actually know if this colleague is married, and has kids etc. An amazing social chapter is opened thanks to the customers complaint.

Now, back to the situation at hand. With no party gaining a clear lead in the shouting row, the branch manager finally stepped in. Both the customer and cashier were clearly out energy by now, so it was up to their respective patrons to explain the problem. "Sir, the customer had checked the amount 10 times at home", exclaimed one of them. Duh? that's a radical increase over what the customer himself had claimed initially! The manager finally managed to convince the customer that he would be better off if he filed a written complaint rather than shouting needlessly. A tense ceasefire held sway as the customer was busy filing his written complaint. With the complaint done, the warring parties finally declared a cession of hostilities and the queue finally began to move. Phew!

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