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.'


Nandan said...

A tell-tale experience. :) Let me recount my experiences in US with cellular service providers. I am waiting for my flight to India for a month-long vacation, and I suddenly realize that I can save few bucks if I temporarily suspend my cell-phone service. I make a call from my phone and it is taken care of. No fees charged, no questions asked or no visits to customer care place required. After coming back, I call the 1-800 number from airport public phone and my service is back within an hour.

Another one. I come to know about the havoc caused in Mumbai in July last year due to torrential rains. I call up almost all my relatives and friends. Everyone has a story to tell, and in the end my talk-time for the month crosses the limit of allotted 400 day-time minutes. My bill arrives with 40 dollars of extra charge. Hoping against hope, I call up the customer service to see if any reduction is possible. Since I went over my limit for the first time, the extra charge is waived. Also, I am presented with an offer of increasing my talk-time to 1000 any-time minutes per month for no extra charge, if I am willing to extend my contract with them by couple of months. Of course, I agree.

Almost too good to be true. Oh, and did I mention that the lady who offered all this wonderful help to me, was most certainly an Indian?(Talk about irony). Apart from the unmistakable Indian-trained-to-sound-like-an-American accent, the first alphabet of my last name was pronounced as 'hech' in stead of H. :-)

Addicted To Chaos said...

Awesome examples my friend of how customer service should be. Also illustrating the point I made at the very end. And damn, you are still an Indian citizen enjoying American privileges!

Sudhu said...

Airtel asks you to Express yourself so never contain your true emotions in front of them. The only emotion they missed out in their advt campaign was of "Screaming".
The major problem with these pvt companies is that no one is willing to take responsibility for a fault. They keep passing the buck and it is we who are caught in the loop. Let me assure you, Hutch is as bad (I've experienced it and have wrote on it on the other blog) and I hear so are Reliance and Tata Indicom.

If you compare the no. of subscribers in BSNL/MTNL and the ratio of complaints you'll start appreciating why those Govt methods were much more effective. I hope this episode has ended peacefully.

manoj said...

Main to bach gaya, apna to prepaid hain. He he he he he he

Nandan said...

Long time no post. Hope you will get time soon to write one.

Zârck. said...

Interesant blog.
Visit my Garden.
Thanks from Spain.

Anonymous said...

hi, i am charan, i've been associated with monarch technilogies since 2003, i am an airtel premium dealer and i totally agree with the bloggers cpmments, i was working as a sub dealer with them and they have duped me in the range of rs 1,00,000/- now the since april 2005 the owners of that franchise have changed. I had similar experience with airtel, they had a target achivement award of a trip to bankok which i have qualified in Jan 2004, They have still not given me. I am too busy to do the follow up and have just left the issue.

Anonymous said...

I intend to deal with your question in a different way inorder to bring out the root cause for such problems.

I have gone through the anwers posted by our members. I dont want to comment upon them since they are each correct in their own way, in the backdrop of their own experiences.

In India Tort liability is negligeble and no body seems to bother about the negetive impact this trend/situation is creating and we, the citizens are to be blamed for this scenario.

We dont bother if there are pits on the road, we dont seem to bother if our telephone stops functioning for a day or two, if our postage/parcel is lost in the transit, if our home appliances malfunction within the warranty period, and we dont bother or care to take action for numerous other things. And we merrily say that the thing is too small to complain. These may seem petty/tiny but if we dont stop them they inevitably turn big.

If an individual looses one paise to a company through some defect, deception or mischief or fraud, that individual's perception would be that he is only loosing one paise and he would refrain from taking any kind of action. But we are not aware of the magnitute of profits amassed by such companies by looting the massess all through the day, all through the month and all through the year. The secret of the trade is to deceive people in small amounts but in large numbers. The volume matters. It is but natural that if the company cheats you of even 10 rupees you wont be interested in suing that company since you dont have the time and you dont have the money and pursuing interest.

But look at what we are loosing. Dont we care for our society, the brotherhood. We are not realising the problem in its true perspective. Its a menace/decease which is turning the society hollow.

The perfect illustrative example is BATA's. Members might remember that Bata sold every of its product for 1.99 or 99.99 or 999.99 or 1500.99. On every transaction it retained one paise. The consumer never bothered to ask for the change. The consumer couldn't ask for change since there were no one paise coins. The amount (one paise) went unaccounted for. It conveniently robbed (a) its consumer, (b)both the State Government and the Central Government (by skipping taxes) and as well as (c) the society. Look at the amount of wealth it amassed by such a clever trick. Imagine in how many transactions Bata gained crores and crores of rupees. Fortunately this has stopped only due to the efforts of some public spirited person who ventured to take this company to task.

My dear members sorry for writing so much. I know it is boring to read this long an answer but dont you feel that it is high time we realise our responsibility and act in a fashion so as to further the betterment of the society.

Look at our neighboring nations where every segment of the society is organised and well disciplined. There the companies dont dare do such acts because they very well know that they would be losing much more than what they would earn by committing such frauds or mischief. The citizens of that country work/act on behalf of the entire community/society. I dont intend to say that theirs is a crime free and tort free society. This is a never ending continuos process and we need to keep on working on the betterment.

I am aware that we in India are also reacting to such situations and initiating actions on behalf of the society. But the numbers should rise and they should rise to such an extent that we gain a tort free society.

I for myself work on various issues in my own humble way. But it pinches me more if a person is robbed of his money in such a way. I visualise the entire picture where I see the company laughing merrily at its fraudulent gain.

Many of us dont even know that we are being robbed/looted or deceived even as on today. You are aware that the petrol or diesel rates are not even. The prices end in uneven amounts such as 48.31 for 1 litre petrol, 39.85 for 1 litre diesel. If I pay them 50 I'll get back 11 in the first case and if I pay 40 I wont get anything in the second case. Now how do we ask for the remaining change. We cannot. And we cannot force the dealers too because of lack of exact change. Due to this reason the dealers retain the change with them and this they continuosly do day after day. Imagine the volume of trade and the scale of loss. This has been going on for decades now. Look at what we are loosing. Leave alone what an individual is loosing. See what the Government is loosing. Crores and crores of rupees. And we keep complaining that the Oil pool deficit is on the rise.

I have initiated legal proceedings seeking to curb such a practise. I have corressponded to the concerned Departments, Ministries and the Central Government to introduce uniform pricing all over the region whereever the rates are similar. I have spent a considerable amount towards the expenses and my valuable time. I am not complaining nor am I trying to boast. I am sharing this with you all, for you to assess the damage petty things can make.

Therefore its not always what an individual is loosing or gaining. Think about the society. I am only trying to inculcate individual responsibility among the society.

In my opinion the companies/people or anyone doing such acts should be stripped of their entire wealth and dumped in some remote prisons.

i agree with him said...

you are right mate. I'm with you.