Thursday, March 10, 2011

Confessions of a 'humble' customer

·         Chinese Restaurant turn authentic
Few of us colleagues decided to eat out, a quick business lunch. Being the only veggie, I was given the choice of restaurant and opted for one of my local fav., a Chinese rest.
As we walked in, the supervisor gave a ‘hearty welcome’
But I was shocked to find a fly floating in my veg ‘clear’ soup !
I had no choice but to return politely and quietly ( did not want to spoil the appetite of the group). He gave a replacement, assured it was fresh. I sat through more to give company to the group, than to enjoy my Chinese lunch!
May be he was trying to serve ‘authentic’ Chinese food, with insects  ? Do I blame it on my karma ? May be… But, I would never walk in to the restaurant again…
·         Sea View Vs City View
Travelled recently, on work. It is always beautiful to travel to the cities along the sea… To stand at the cornice and look at the sea, in its grandeur… to breathe… to be pushed gently by the sea breeze… so refreshing.

I opted for my fav hotel and got the agent to book a room with a sea-view  ( need to overcome these desires and addictions !!)

As I checked in at after midnight, I was allotted a city view… The hotel has conveniently missed out my specific request for sea view and as the availability ( they claimed) was a problem, the front desk almost took a stand, ‘take it or leave it’ ! ( quite professionally though… they are trained!)

I took it. I gently reminded the lapse next day, and was assured they would try to accommodate. But ‘were not successful in finding a room of my choice’ ! ( too demanding?)
Yet another case of a big brand ( one of my preferred, for a long time) not handled well by the front end….
·         The Complete Man
Before the reader concludes I am at my worst karma-level, let me confirm, ‘not at all’…      
For example the Indian store, where I do my week-end shopping for provisions, fruits & veggies ( not organic yet !), and of course ‘scrapped’ coconut for a week ! I go back to them, week after week, as they seem to know my (humble) expectations of customer service  (ego?) and also keep my copy of Gulf News with Friday mag (one of the best things about life in ME! Try it!)
Thanks to a ‘sale’ ( smartly put, ‘up to 50 %’) at Raymonds, did a small re-charge of our ( also son) wardrobe. Raymonds continue to inspire me for the quality of stuff, value for money ( perception) and also the customer service. This showroom in ME or the showroom at amchi Mumbai.. or any other. I continue to be devoted to the brand.  Thrifty that I am, I may be at the lowest rung of their loyalty program, but the brand is cool ! (Perhap a reflection of my long  journey to Be a ‘Complete Man’!)

Also, my experiences ( limited, though) with Amazon have been almost blissful,  from a customer-service perspective....

Random thoughts from Middle East – courtesy experiences shared by friends around…

Valentine… ! Deliberately posting this after the hype of the Valentine-Day! ( also Intl Women's Day)

 Husband was on-line… saw the Kipp’s poll. ‘How much would you spend on the Valentine gift?’
·         Though he wanted to click ‘NIL’, he had to go for the lowest option available, ‘AED 500’….
He just finished the poll, wife walked in.  He wanted to confirm – asked her, ‘what gift you want for Velntine?’  Pat came her reply, ‘Just be my valentine…always’!

That perhaps is the essence of an occasion such as Valentine… quite an import from the West… That integrity & sincerity in relationship is the real essence.  Couple start off knowing each other to coming together/parting ways…. All in the name of finding real love ! (People end up wasting lot of precious time in this process too !)
Spread Love, Pure & Sspiritual ( extra-S, deliberate !)

I felt like Gandhi, thrown out of train in the dead of night in a railway station

Fly Emirates is one of sponsors of the ICC World cup... what is the use if the front end can not guarantee basic service levels....!

Customer Service, lack of it @ Emirates, Dubai Airport
·          As I waited for boarding announcement on 28 Jan at 0100 hrs at Dubai’s terminal 3, I saw a report in Gulfnews: ‘Emirates to hit 50 mn customers’. Perhaps, 50mn minus 1, the solitary traveler being me! Any organization can spend millions on infrastructure, but if the guy at the front-end is not aligned with the core-values and does not manage customer, it is sheer waste of precious resources, in these tough times.
·          I remembered another news recently in Gulfnews about the quintessential Indian traveler ( was not very amused by it, as I felt I do not belong to that category, or always tried my best to be aware & manage same. Not because I am an upwardly mobile, snobbish executive, but I care for people around me…  (
·          I was put through a horrifying experience at Dubai airport’s new Terminal 3 of Emirates on 27th Jan, evening.
·          I was in Dubai on work, as invited by my business friends ( all entities being billion plus  dollar entities, including ourselves), and as such was a ‘guest’ there. Three days of hectic schedule, I was keen to get back.
·          I had a confirmed ticket to fly out of Dubai... I had reported well on time.
·          I was surprised to see a veritable serpentine queue at Emirates counter ( Gulfnews seemed to carry the photo of the same flashy counter-section in their article), but with many of the counters unmanned, it was just not enough from a customer service. When a customer raised this issue, he was rudely told ‘they will come at 5 PM’ !)
·          When my chance came, I was informed by the executive ‘there was some problem’ and ‘I should go to counter no 59 to pick up my boarding card’!
·          There was another gentleman ahead of me and another joined just behind me. Effectively, I was second/third among the unlucky passengers to face a dilemma.
·          I was told by another executive at the counter, Mr D, the flight is overbooked. He checked if I am ok to stay on and take another flight. I was politely emphatic, I had to go by the same flight. He started probing, ‘what was the emergency’. I said, ‘personal problems’, I just need to be back home. I was asked by him to wait for half an hour there, and they will try to help. I politely, moved aside.
·          Then, few more passengers reached the counter and objected vehemently when they were told the same. All refused to budge, insisting they will travel by the same flight only.
·          The lady supervisor, Ms N, who was at counter 58 was consistently impolite, bordering rudeness with all.
·          Then suddenly enters, Mr K, supervisor. His claim to excellence seemed to be his unique capability to speak Arabic and English, as indicated by himself. He explained that 16 seats booked, against 13 available. He wanted 3 volunteers.
·          Two local/arab youngsters were on the fence, along with two Europeans. Mr K persuaded the former. He just went on to check the names and faces of others and picked me as the 3rd scapegoat!! I protested. Just because others were more vociferous, he could not pick me up. He would have  none of it. He was the judge & the jury. He unilaterally decided, subject to his whims & fancies!!
·          I tried to appeal to the lady supervisor. Her response was the rudest. The way she spoke to me and enacted, was most disgraceful for a member of brand-Emirates. I continued to be polite, as that is my value-system. Requested her politely, to help me so that I could catch the flight. She just brushed aside all my requests, continued her work to allot others, packed her bags and walked away. In my 20 years of professional experience and travels across several countries, I have never, ever been treated by a lady staff.
·          I went back to counter 59, with Mr K manning his little kingdom. He was furious and indirectly threatened me to shut up!
·          I had no choice but to accept the verdict. Mr K was magnanimous to issue a free return ticket, as ‘compensation’, which I will never use! He asked his trusted lieutenants to issue hotel accommodation voucher. I requested for hotel in the terminal. He pronounced his verdict again, ‘ you will have only Le Meridian’.
·          I had no choice to go like a school kid to the hotel, come back and take the flight back at 2 AM.
·          My plan to do some shopping at the world-famous Dubai Duty Free, that too during DSF, thus denied ! ( DDF & DSF definitely lost a customer, however small!) The small list my son wanted, still remains in my ‘To Do list’, on my IPhone.
·          Dubai does not deserve K/N/D. Or, Brand emirates!! As a student of Marketing, I always loved the way Emirates managed their branding. But now I have a different perspective of the brand.
·          Everyone makes mistakes, but there is a way to handle  errors. That is the test of professionalism and individual character, apart from Corporate Culture. Is this the value brand-Emirates stands for ?
·          Lying down at Le Meridien, I was in a contemplative mood – I was wrong to experiment Emirates, when I hold frequent flyer mileage with local airlines. I was perhaps wrong to pursue an advice of Head-Training in my first job ( 20 yrs ago), ‘to take different routes home. To try different paths… to experiment & experience….’. I was foolish to stick to the schedule planned, by forgoing my right to travel first class.
I felt like Gandhi, thrown out of train in the dead of night in a railway station in South Africa. ( I know, all comparisons end there!)
PS : I had sent the above complaint, with correct names, to Emirates on 29th Jan. They sent an acknowledgement, they would look into it and revert… Then after a reminder, they replied saying they compensated as per policy by giving hotel acco & a seat in the next flight! No comments….

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

25 Small ways to a big life

Came across this article… sharing with my ‘followers’.

The headline did usurp my attention – 25 small ways to a big life change. Small ways, big change and 25 of them ! ( perfectly fits my bargaining position generally, more for less ! Same with many others, who are a lot smarter than me !)

That the gyaan was courtesy Rujuta Diwekar, was a bonus. Her approach ( ‘eat more to lose weight’ ) is more interesting than her popularity, courtesy her celebrity customer ( Kareena).
Importance of appropriate quantity of water, need for daily ‘exercise like eating & bathing’, all alcohols are harmful,  were interesting & very useful.  Brown is not cool is a revelation. Importance of seasonal, local, fresh fruits very apt ( kiwi vs mango ) and also, in line with the need to go green/local ( and may be organic !).
Over the week-end, at a friends’ place, we discussed how western families usually stick to same schedule over week-ends. Long back I had discovered the beauty of early morning tranquility of week-ends too. Don’t vegetate on Sundays is just appropriate.

While many of us are not sure what oil is least harmful, coconut oil remains an important one, apart from the other ‘healthy’ option, like sunflower oils. But what I have heard from an ayurvedic perspective, ‘Ghee, the magic potion’ confirms. Fortunately, the weighing scales was part of my shopping list, for a long time. Now out of it, permanently!

If we still have excuses for a solid hobby, we are just being unfair to ourselves. We have to find the little things we find joyous, for ourselves…. Music, reading, blogging, gardening… The author recommends coriander in pots, at home ! Why not ?

I am still enjoying the my  freedom from ‘idiot box calories’, having decided to almost abstain from it over 3 weeks ago. More so, when the family willingly aligned with the shift and the household has less TV time… very healthy, surely. Dog loves the extra attention too… This happening at the peak of World Cup fever,  I must add ! Worth it, surely.  Try it, folks…

Indeed Yoga is beyong mere weight loss technique… Lastly, God-willing my next holidays will be to test the 24th item, WISDOM OF HIMALAYAS.. And on the way, I will surely pick up the books by Rujuta Diwekar.

Just Live Sspiritually!