Monday, May 14, 2012
A lot of the stuff mentioned on this blog has been about my positive experiences here in Bangalore. But I know when we were trying to decide whether an Indian adventure was the right choice for us, I tried to find information on all of the "deal-breakers" as well, so I wouldn't be surprised by something I just couldn't handle. So, in the spirit of full disclosure, I thought I'd try to sum up some of the not-so-exciting things we had to get used to (or at least try). Like Edgar Allan Poe's The Tell-Tale Heart, these issues seem small on the surface, but might drive you mad in the long run! I'm calling these posts "Be Sure You Can Handle" and adding a separate tag (BSYCH).

One of the major frustrations for me is the general lack of a schedule here in India. I happen to be one of those strange people who land smack-dab in the middle of the Type B (Social/Flighty) and Type C (Detail-Oriented/Serious) personality types. (Ask Jason, we are VERY hard to live with!)

Generally, my Type B takes over when I'm around others. I love to meet new people, and you can ask anyone about just how long winded I can be. It also dictates the state of my home. Most likely, unless you have excellent timing, my house is in a perpetual state of controlled chaos, with things dropped wherever I decided I didn't need them anymore (keys, clothes, toothbrush).

But when it comes to planning my time, Type C takes over. I need a schedule, people! I'm not fond of surprise trips, visitors, or anything that hasn't been vetted by me first. Want to take a meandering drive through the countryside? Let's do it. But you should tell me at least a day in advance so I can pack snacks. And if the trip has a specific purpose, or pit stops, I want to know the where, when, and how. (complete with flight numbers - yes, I mixed my modes of transportation)

Let me explain how this relates to my experience in India. I need something (repairs, ironing, dry cleaning, etc), so I call the local delivery service. They take my order, and give me a date and time my purchase will be ready. I happily take my little slip of paper and drop it in an inconvenient location. On the date my purchase is to be ready, I frantically search the house for the slip of paper, and call to ask about my things. Their answer is ALWAYS "It will be delivered in 10 minutes".

Sounds great, right? Well, they are lying. Ten minutes could be anything from 5 minutes to a week and a half. This isn't generally a huge deal, unless it happens all the time (and it does).

The Rare Example

So, that huge pile of Jason's work clothes I gathered to send to the ironing lady? I end up having to iron myself, a pair of pants a day, because the lady tells me every day she'll "be right up". So I sit in my pile of laundry all day, waiting for her to come up. I don't iron the rest of the things, because never fail, she shows up just as I've finished the last article, and I have to try and explain why I called her but don't actually have any ironing that needs done. (This is harder than you'd think - she doesn't speak English)

The Medium Example

We bought a new sofa set recently. The upholstery on our old set had started to peel and leave messes on the living room floor. We had the sofa re-upholstered but decided it was cheaper to buy something new than have the chairs done too. So we went to a cheap furniture place, picked out a sectional, and filled out the delivery papers. We were told it would be delivered in 10 days. Ten days came and went. Jason started calling. Two days after that,, he finally found someone who said it would be delivered "in about an hour". We stayed at the apartment all day (Sunday) to accept delivery. No delivery. Jason called the next morning before he left for work, and was told. "It's on its way."  I told him I would be here until it was delivered. Lunch came and went. As did afternoon nap time for the boys. Then dinner.

As Jason has his late meeting on Mondays with the US team, he wasn't home yet. I called him, and he told me that security had just called, and our sofa was on the way up.
Great, just great. And it would have been, except I work US hours. And after dinner is when I should be strapped to my computer. So I spent the next four hours running up and down the stairs while trying to work at the same time. The best part? The delivery guys damaged the furniture by shoving it in the elevator. Damaged to the point that the wooden frame was poking out of the leather. After a heated discussion in which I refused to "just have it stitched", I got their promise that they would take the damaged piece back, and I'd get a 10 days. Sigh.

The Well-Done Example

Let me preface this story. Everything we brought with us to India fit in 6 suitcases. So our wardrobe is somewhat limited.

For two days, our entire flat was on generator power. For us, this means our lights, fans, and power outlets all work, except for the "large appliance" outlets, including the refrigerator, clothes washer, and dryer. On the third day, the power came back on, and I started doing laundry like mad, because you never know when the power will go back off. Got one load washed, and stuck in in the dryer...guess what? My dryer broke.

We have an Annual Maintenance Contract on the dryer, so I called the 24 hour hotline, more than a little irritated since it hadn't even been a month since they "fixed" my dryer the first time. The man on the other end of the line said he'd send someone "within 24 hours".

No show.

I called the next day (Sunday) and was told "we'll send someone Tuesday". I told him no, I wanted someone today. He told me that was impossible, and Monday was a holiday. I told him no, I wanted someone today, and that I had been promised yesterday that I would get a visit and I didn't. His answer? "But, today is Sunday - a holiday". I explained to him that I called on Friday, and should have had a visit within 24 hours per the contract, and that Saturday was NOT a holiday.

He transferred me to his manager. I explained the entire story again, and was told "we'll have someone there within 48 hours". I told him no, I wanted someone now, and that my contract stated that they would have someone visit within 24, and that they had already missed this deadline. He told me this was impossible. I told him I wanted my contract money back immediately. He told me he'd have someone there within the hour.

Win for me, right?

Wrong. Another no show. (FYI, we've noticed that at a certain point, people will either hang up the phone mid-conversation, or promise you things they have no intention of following through on.) I called at the two hour mark, and no one answered the phone. I called using Jason's cell phone, and they answered, and I went through my complaint once again.

I won't go through all the details, but it was two more days and a lot of screaming on my part before anyone came and fixed my dryer. The actual fix, a burned out fuse, took about 10 minutes.

The Summary

I'm sure we've all had experiences similar to these above. But there's one huge difference.

In the United States, if any of these happened, we would either quietly (or not) transfer our business to another provider. Find another ironing lady who would show up when we called. Order our furniture from a company with proven delivery record. Call the washer repair service's corporate number (and maybe threaten legal action).

In India, we don't really have that option. Sure, you could find a different provider, but unless you're really lucky, their service won't be any better. This type of thing is completely normal and expected. So if you're married, and both spouses plan on working outside of the home, or for other reasons neither of you is able to sit at the apartment for days on end yelling into the telephone, expect ridiculous delays for, well, everything.


John T said...

Welp... no moving to India for John.

Sarah said...

In the US there are no ironing ladies....

Lorenda said...

:) Sarah, this is true, and that's what I tell myself when she doesn't show up here.

I think it's the whole expectation vs reality thing that gets me. Which means I should probably, since I've been here a year already, lower my expectations.

The secret to happiness.

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