Monday, July 30, 2007

Of auto wallahs and shop keepers

After a long gap of almost three months, here is my new post, something about the place I am now in. Well, Hyd is not exactly the place I like, may be because of the Ramaiah effect. My first spell in this place was marred by many troubles and painful events, one of which was Ramaiah. I wrote about it in my previous posts and will write more of it in the ones to come, but let me now confine myself to the current topic: auto wallahs and shopkeepers of Hyd.

Before I first came to Hyd, I spent most of my life in Ponnur, a relatively small town in coastal Andhra. It was only school, home and play ground, and as the distances involved were very small, I never had a need to hire an auto or take a bus. Rickshaws were the main means of transport, and the rickshaw wallahs were always obliging and never picked up a quarrel. If they wanted a higher price, they would try to convince you in a polite manner.

If you have had an experience with the auto-wallahs of Hyd, you would understand how enlightening the experience can be. Leave aside the six year old memories, even when I came here recently to join the office, the fist auto wallah that agreed to take me home from the bus stand picked up a quarrel demanding more money. Such was the welcome I got. He could have refused to take me had he found the bargain unsuitable. Instead, he chose to try and extract money from me by trying to sound rude. I remember one particular incident during my Ramaiah days that’s worth mentioning. When waiting at the bus stop, auto drivers used to come and try to pick up a passenger or two. They would rudely drive on to the people at the bus stop, make them jump from their places and stare at them asking if they wanted an auto. This happened to me most of the times and I got used to jumping this way and that to avoid being hit by an auto. One day, a fellow came dashing onto me, and shouted “punjagutta, punjagutta.” I chose to ignore him, for I felt it was no use talking. He shouted a few more times and asked me “Are you deaf?” Now, that stung me like anything and I replied “Go and mind your business, you fool.” That he was piqued was evident as he got down and tried to scare me, but a timely interruption by an old man standing beside me made him refrain. All the passengers at the bus stop spoke for me, and criticized the auto wallah for his rude behavior and he left, staring threateningly at me. Now that I am in my twenties, no one dares to do that to me again.

Next in line are the shop keepers. I still don’t understand whether they don’t know what a customer means to them or they don’t care to lose a customer, but I found a few shopping experiences in Hyd really troubling. Back at home, almost everything we needed was brought from some one or the other we knew for years. Right from groceries and provisions to getting dresses stitched, we had a man for it. We even had one court – cobbler (like the courtiers of a king) to whom we went to gets our shoes mended. If he wasn’t there, I would just come back rather than going to another once. All of them knew me and when ever I had to buy a book or get something needed at home, I would just go to the shop, pick it up and credit it our account which my dad paid as soon as he received is salary. So, I had no idea of the costs involved, and I never asked for them of course. It was when I came to Hyd that I had to do a lot of things myself, deal with unknown people and pay directly. The costs of even small things seemed to be very high and I hesitated before I bought something. Now I am aware of the general price levels demanded here, and if it’s a service that’s being offered, the cost is at least thrice the one I pay back at home. For those wanting numbers, haircut at a decent shop in Hyd costs you around 60 bucks, while you can get the same done for Rs15. But this is not the issue I am bothered about. It has more to do with the behavioral science.

When I go to some shops, typically the traditionally run stores etc, the way they respond or treat me really irritates. All that I have read in marketing management, that customer is supreme and that he had to be satisfied at all costs seemed to mean nothing to these men. They would shout back rudely or try sarcasm. Just today, I went to a small shoe shop, and asked if I can get my shoe mended. They guy asked me back “What does this look like? Do they mend shoes in a show room?” What crap I thought, so much for a small shop that doesn’t even measure a thousand sq ft. At that moment, the thought of those big brands and those large showrooms came to my mind. If they too chose to behave the same way, shopping would be a night mare. Thank God they are educated in dealing with a customer.

But that’s not all. I made an observation recently that I have failed to make during my initial stay at Hyd. For each one of the guy that pains, there is some one else, who is good and makes you feel comfortable. For the shopkeeper who was thinking too much of himself and his showroom, I found a road side cobbler who mended my shoe despite the rain. For the Airtel guy that pained me by barring my services and giving unclear assurances, I found a Hutch fellow who helped me recharge my old mobile number and put me back on the grid, while I was leaving to Chennai. More about the SIM card story later, my hands are already giving me clear hints that typing on the lap top is painful.


Musings of a wanderer said...

Life is a bargain at any place. In Life is not costly and is not worth due to over population. So people just dont care. There is nothing called common good at this place. It is either self-interest or no interest. When one gets out of house in the morning for work, one takes an RTC bus which is bulging with crowd like that of refugee ones. One tries to get out of the bus and walks on the road and if there are no bombs hidden in plastic covers one will reach office and while coming back if his fate is good he shall reach home as a warrior from a battlefield or else he may be victim of an over enthusiastic fly over.

Vallabha nice blog. Sorry for writing so much as a comment but I could not avoid.

Anonymous said...

I lived in Hyd all my life, and surprisingly, I had a very good experience with the auto-walas and the shop keepers. The bad ones were all in Chennai. I am sure you would agree that Hyd auto-walas are nothing compared to the Chennai ones.

But, in Toronto,(proably because the number os people, hence customers are so less), people are extremely polite. So much that you ask yourself(when will be the day when I talk so politely with others)