Wednesday, December 8, 2010


When we go shopping, it’s not a question of “I went, I saw, I bought,” – we think not once or twice but a thousand times before we buy something. Why? Because we don’t want to be saddled with something that won’t work for us. In India consumer is not King – returns and refunds are strictly ‘no no’; exchanges are welcome. But guess what? Exchange comes with a package deal of hassles galore. Here’s how.
I drag my reluctant hubby to a ready-made store to get him a shirt for his birthday. We don’t belong to Gen Y or even Gen X but to the preceding generation, so we are not big patrons of Malls. The saccharine-dripping, sugary sweet salesman is more than obliging and worms his way into our hearts with his mesmerizing, glib talk. He doesn’t tire himself as he shows us shirt after shirt in plains, checks and stripes. After several rounds of ‘veto’ by one of us, both of us agree on one shirt. There is a little apprehension about the size. The salesman instantly asks hubby to turn around and keeps the shirt across his shoulders and tries to quell our doubt. There’s no trial room in the shop you see, so we can’t double-check. To play it safe, I tell him, “I’ll return it if there’s a problem.” He quickly corrects me, “No returns, Ma’m, only exchange. And please bring the bill.”
I fervently hope I won’t have to return to the shop but that is not to be – the shoulders are drooping and so the fit is bad. I curse the salesman and us for this unsavory situation. I present myself with the ‘to-be-exchanged shirt’ at the shop only to be curtly informed by the shopkeeper that ‘exchange time’ is between 2pm and 4 pm. Who will be crazy to commute to the shop from home / office at this odd hour? We will have to if we want to. So the next Sunday, I drag my husband to the shop, foregoing our siesta. The same counter, the same salesman but his demeanor is totally different! Very reluctantly he shows a couple of shirts. When we ask for a different shade / design, he retorts, “This is a single piece”. Suddenly there seems to be a dearth of items in the shop! Gone is the earlier attractive exuberance of the salesman – his sour face, distracted look and irritated ‘tut tuts’ are repelling – within a count of 45, we pick up another shirt – half-heartedly as we have no choice. As this one costs a couple of tenners less, I end up buying a set of handkerchiefs and pay thirty bucks more. I resolve never to patronize such ready-made garments shops not equipped with fitting rooms!
I have found a solution – I go to the US for shopping. Ha, ha, I must be sounding like Ash or Kareena! Ok, you’ll believe me if I put it this way – I go on shopping sprees when I visit my children in the US. There every big shop has fitting rooms and follows the mall culture and we are not at the mercy of salesmen. Clothes are neatly stacked / displayed according to sizes and we can browse and buy after trying them out. You may label me a snob and say we can avail these in our own Malls. BUT – yes there is a big difference there - in spite of all our apprehensions, affirmations, and reaffirmations if we still feel we are not fully satisfied with our purchase, we are welcome to return it without any explanations. The customer is put on a pedestal and treated with respect and trust. Every shop has a separate counter for ‘returns’ – all we have to do is show the bill, return the item and get the refund immediately - no cumbersome exchange involved! As simple as that! And this is true of any item we purchase. Some shops have conditions that the return should be within a very generous stipulated period which is reasonable too. All this makes shopping a rather pleasurable experience!

© Copyright 2011. Brinda Balasubramonian.

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