Thursday, March 23, 2006

Air-Tale : A Story About The Monarch And I

Boy, do people know how to piss me off. And as is obvious for readers of my blog, it typically gives me something to vent right here. This is a tale of woes that was initiated without me having the faintest of hints when I left for StrangeLand. Sachin and Shah Rukh might promote Airtel, but I'm sure they never had to face up to the so-called Customer Support system. Let's Rant...


Airtel has always been my first and preferred service provider when it comes to cellular service. But, that was definitely before I switched from pre-paid to post-paid. I had to, cos I was one of those users with heavy outgoing traffic. My monthly bills went through the roof - on average more than what my colleagues spent overall on their living expenses. Of course, that still doesn't buy you any privileges as a well-paying customer. I've had tiffs about them not raising my credit limit, even though I've been paying always on time and they had a copy of my salary certificate to prove I can afford to pay them. This always meant, they forced me to come pay event other week.

Before I was to fly off to StrangeLand, I had a suspicion that my stay would be atleast 3 months long, if not more. The friendly Airtel customer care guy at Monarch Technologies in Aundh, Pune, said all I need to do to ensure my number is safe and not disconnected, is to pay 100 bucks a month toward holding it in 'safe custody'. When I informed him how long I expected to stay away, he simply said, even if its 6 months, all I need to do is ask a friend to show up and pay the 100 bucks every month on my behalf. I paid all my remaining dues plus the 300 Rs for 3 months of safe custody and happily strode away.

3 Months Later

My room-mate informs me of bills that are still arriving back home for unpaid dues, and they seem to be rising every month. I tell him that my stay could last upto 3 more months and request him to pay 300 Rs. further toward the 'safe custody' extension. The friend at Monarch tells my room-mate the bills could be a mistake and accepts the 300 bucks. Smile back on my beloved number lives on.

Return of the Harrassee

On day 1 of my return, I turn up at Monarch to explain my situation and ask them to restart my number. '24 hours' is the friendly reply. After 48, I march back in, still calm and collected. 'It's been off for a long time, sir. Give me 48 more.' I give her 96. My earlier friend, the one who put my number in safe custody, is nowhere to be seen.

After a 3rd trip and another failed promise, I finally ring up the Airtel Customer Care number, only for him to ask for 2 more days. 4 days later, I ring them up again, only to be told, my number has been permanently disconnected. Its been 15 days now, and this is how long it takes for me to realise this. Im advised to take up the issue with Monarch again.

This time, I walk to the manager cos the minions obviously have no idea what they are doing. He patiently listens to my story and breaks another surprise to me - '6 months? But the safe custody can only be used to hold numbers for 2 months'. Duh??! Why the hell did my friend say that to me then? Was he the Court Jester for Monarch? After he makes a couple of phone calls, the manager promises to get my number started by dusk. I tell him I expect it to be broken.

Voila. 48 hours and still nothing. On the 3rd day, I march in with a huff. There's a new friend, who seems to know how it's done, better than the rest. 'Your number is permanently disconnected. I will waive off the rent that's accrued on your bills, cos you weren't here. And the amount that you paid toward safe custody actually went toward repaying dues. So, your number was never in safe custody'. One shock follows another. After 21 days, there's no respite with the news flashes. Finally, I regain my senses, and I ask him a single straightforward question calmly - 'Tell me what you want me to do'. All I hear is - 'Goto this other place, check if you can still get your number back, pay this due, blah blah blah!'. Dude! All of you incompetent morons have screwed me up big time, and now you want me running around even more? After you have finally understood all the injustice that was dished out? WTF~! Screw Airtel. "And I'm sorry to have wasted your time. Cos you never felt sorry for wasting mine".

Silver Lining

Now that I've switched service providers, I get a legal notice from Airtel. More like a threat. Asking me to cough up more dough. For the rent they added on my account for the time I thought it was in safe-custody. This period of course also includes the time it was disconnected by them for non-payment. Plus, my safe-custody payment went toward part-payment of that rent itself! So, technically, they didnt put it in safe custody, charged me rent, used my safe custody payment to pay off that rent for a couple of months, then disconnected my number and kept piling up the bills.

And what am I gonna do? Nothing, but pay up and pen my frustrations in a blog. Cos I can't afford a lawyer or spare time to run around. I'd rather think of the 400 bucks as charity toward the impoverished Bharti Tele-Enterprises. I'm giving something to the needy here, of course.

Makes you wonder..We give such excellent world-class service to the rest of the world. Everyone marvels at the Indian service industry and its talents. But, when it comes to serving its own citizens, there's complete apathy. Customer is not king, its the Monarch and his court jesters who are kings. As RATM would never say - 'FU, I WILL do what you tell me.'