Monday, June 11, 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).

When we first moved to our apartment complex, we found out that our intercom system - the method of communication between our flat and the security gate - was not working properly. We contacted Airtel, the company responsible for the service. They sent a technician to our flat and he looked at our system.

The entire time he was in our flat, his cell phone was ringing, and he was answering calls. From what little I could understand (I speak no Hindi, Tamil, Telugu, or Kannada) he was apparently behind with his visits. About twenty minutes after he'd first arrived, he informed me that the intercom was working, and left. Since I was busy working, I took his word for it.

Bad idea. The intercom was in fact NOT working. So, about a week later, we called them back. Only this time it was because we were having issues with our internet lines. Yes, lines. We have three of them, because at any time, they have been known to stop working.

Anyway, a different technician shows up this time, stays for a while, then tells me everything is "fixed". This time, I'm not busy with work, so I ask him to show me how to use the intercom. He tells me that he can't, because my phone handset is broken. Me, being stupid, believe him.

We buy a new handset. No change to the broken intercom. No change to the failing internet lines. We make a third call.

A different technician shows up, gives us the same runaround, but this time, I've wised up. I give him both of our handsets and tell him that they are both working properly, and show him by dialing a number. He piddles around with the phone jack for a bit longer, then tells me he needs to check the wires in the complex basement.

Me, understanding conceptually that phones need lines to work, agree.

An hour later, I realize he's not coming back. Now Jason and I have an inside joke: anytime we need an excuse to leave an uncomfortable situation, we say "I gotta go check the wires in the basement".

Fourth call is made (fifth? I've lost count). A different tech shows up - we've yet to get the same guy twice. He gives me the usual runaround, tells me he's checking the wires in the basement. I tell him that's fine, but I'd like him to leave his motorcycle helmet in my apartment until he's finished. Suddenly, the wires in the basement are fine.

Long story shorter than it would be, we still don't have an intercom system, even though we had an electrician replace all of our phone cords in the apartment. But we learned a very important lesson. People have no issue lying to you here, and unlike in the US, it doesn't seem to bother them overly much if they are caught. I'm not saying the US doesn't have a lot of people willing to tell you a story, but it seems to me that there's more of a social stigma attached to being caught in a lie than here in India.

It's especially surprising to me that businesses are run here that allow (or at least do not discourage) lying to customers. In the US, we were much more apt to threaten a lawsuit, or at the very least post our poor review to the public.

Here? Not so much. I told my neighbor and maid this story, and their reactions were remarkably similar. "Yeah, that happens."

For us, it's a little annoying. It's not as if we miss slinging lawsuit threats around, but it does make getting anything done very difficult, when you're never sure whether someone is telling you what really needs to be done to fix a problem, or if this is another version of "checking the wires in the basement"


tracy said...

ugh! i think that would drive me insane. i am envious of how calm you manage to be in these situations!

Lorenda said...

LOL. Oh trust me, you can ask Jason, I am NOT calm about this stuff. We joke about it only because otherwise we'd go insane.

I'm sure a sociology professor could explain how the relatively small percentage of the population subscribe to Christianity, and its moral code causes a society to be formed where lying isn't frown upon.

But, I'm not a sociology professor. :) I just live here.

Rohan said...

Rapidly growing corporations - like all of India's telecommunications giants - pay more attention at attracting new customers than bothering about older ones - which is why the after sales department gets little attention. And another thing they pay attention to is making sure existing customers do not defect.

Instead of lawsuits we have a very effective consumer court system - but even better is that if you give Airtel a hint that you want to cancel your connection and go for a rival competitor. Chances are you'll get a call from someone at a corporate level and extremely prompt service after that.

Me, I was so fed up with the bad internet on my Vodafone cellphone, that i just called up Airtel customer care and listened to the tariff rates on their IVRs.... and barely an hour later I get a call from a worried Vodafone guy who asks me if everything was OK and if there was a reason why I called Airtel's number.

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