December 24, 2011

Kolkata, Rules & Customer Service

Here is an update of our India tour. Yesterday was a day full of jinx. At one point of time we were wondering how worse can it get.

On the way to Benapole, our companion family's child got sick from food poisoning and vomited in the car. We had to stop for cleaning and then on the border it turned out the customs superintendent, who was supposed to give approval for enlisting the carnet de passage (permission to take the car across border) was not in the office. We were told that he will be coming but after half an hour it became clear that he is managing office from somewhere else and will not be coming anytime soon. It took a lot of effort including talking help of connections to make it happen without him. That contributed to further delays.

Passing through Bangladesh customs was easy, And in Indian side, because of our car they did not bother much about luggage. They did make us open the bonnet and check Engine nos etc.

And then it happened. The engine of the Landrover of our friend just died after driving through India for about half kilometer. We checked the fuses. double-checked the connections but the Engine did not start. We started panicking when we heard that there is no repair shops nearby. After a while we realized that this was not getting us anywhere and someone suggested that we tow the car to a nearby village of Bongaon (no break-down insurance available in these parts). A taxi helped us in towing which was a hard effort in dense traffic situations.

The mechanic told us that its a time-belt related trouble and he will need time to find out what happened. We, two families with three kids were stranded at that point with no food and toilet facilities. There were no decent eateries within one mile radius. After we pressed the mechanic to give us a decision, he declared he cannot fix this, mainly because parts are rare and even he finds the problem it will not be possible to get parts in the vicinity.

So we decided to leave the car there and carry on with a rented car. Finally we came to Kolkata in the night and half day was spoiled.

Today it was a busy day for us in Kolkata. My daughter kept asking whether we are in India because she found no difference with the traffic situation of Dhaka and Kolkata. The forrnar capital of British India (1858-1912) has changed much - highrises, bypasses more cars. But did it keep its glory?

Bengalis are not a rule based society traditionally. But I see that there are much efforts from government to instill rules. We were told that we cannot take luggage on the roof of a car, the driver of our rented car forced us to open all the windows in dusty conditions because he has tinted glass (which is said to be illegal). The taxis wont take extra person. You have to submit loads of documents including hotel receipts for a mobile SIM card - etc. But don't get fooled thinking these rules are being installed in the society. You can take extra person in taxi paying loads of extra.

And then there is the pathetic customer service. Here is a snippet of conversation with the person at reception desk of our accomodation.

Reception: Please right down all the 500 rupee notes in a paper and provide you name and telephone no.

Me: Thats so many, why I need to do that?

Reception: Because this is our rule.

Me: But why?

Reception: There are fake notes.

Me: Yes. But its your job to verify that and if anything needs to be written why I should be bothered. Its late and I don't wanna waste my time. Please excuse me.

Reception: Then I won't sign the gatepass. You wont be able to leave.

Me; Thats so rude. Moreover our passport details are with you. Why I should submit contacts again?

Reception: Its our rule. If you don't like it don't stay here.

Then reluctantly I wrote all the note numbers and provided my Bangladesh number to see what his his reaction. He did not say anything and that reminds me that they follow the rule blindly without thinking what are the implications.

From all these rules the human elements, the care about customers are missing. I don't know why, but Kolkata seems to be lacking these aspects.

Tomorrow we leave for Jaipur.. See you there.


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