Democracy In India – Part 2

The world is abuzz with the gross human rights violations in Zimbabwe. Free & fair elections are well neigh impossible. Morgan Tsvangirai, the opposition leader, is incarcerated whenever Robert Mugabe feels paranoid. The media is in shackles. Many people are homeless because of the mass evictions by the government. The police beat up anyone committing treason – as in, anyone not wearing “Mugabe” T-shirts or scarves. Zimbabwe is a shattered country. Its ruler is determined to cling on to power – if that means unleashing violence on his people, so be it.

Yet, when he was young, Mugabe was a kind, benevolent, decent man who sincerely wanted to liberate the black people in Rhodesia. And this same man became a Mad Dog & a Monster – who plunged the once serene, beautiful, relatively-affluent Zimbabwe into chaos. What happened is simple: Power Corrupts. And Absolute Power Corrupts Absolutely. While we can’t blame Mugabe for all the ills of Zimbabwe, he did play a lead role in its descent. And the Zimbabweans are largely responsible – for not questioning him. For not voicing their concerns vociferously, when he was still a human being.

The glass is half full and half empty. It is preposterous – and naive – to assume that people are innately good & all wickedness seeps in later thru mysterious channels. Good behavior – or at least, an absence of bad behavior – should be reinforced thru checks & balances. Assuming that a nation’s Law & Order machinery is well-oiled & can govern itself – is galactic stupidity. In a democracy – by that I mean any form of government founded on Liberty, Equality & Fraternity – the onus of providing feedback to the leaders rests with the people.

Look around us. Sycophants have erected banners deifying various political leaders wherever you turn. “I Lay Myself at Thine Lotus Feet”. “My Lord – You Are India’s Answer to Kennedy!”. “First Buddha! Next, Jesus! Then Gandhi! Now, You!!”. “You Rise Amidst Failures Like a Phoenix! Oh, Indestructible One!”. Posters of leaders garbed as Mother Mary & Lord Shiva are immensely popular. All this is enough to turn anybody’s head. Surrounded by fawning butt-kissers, they over-estimate their power & achievements.Β  Very soon, they are cut off from the very people they wanted to serve. No leader – even well-meaning ones – will know their limits unless we dig our heels in & say “NO!”.

While India can’t be compared with the abyss that is now Zimbabwe, to a lesser degree, “The Quiet Indian” is responsible for its plight. I believe we can convert ourselves to “Argumentative Indians” by speaking up on less threatening situations. Enter the Free Market.

I recently stopped at “Vivek & Co” – a leading Household Appliances store in Chennai – to buy a blender. I selected a piece – before presenting me with a bill, the sales assistant said – “Inspect the piece now, Madam. No returns for any reason”. What the F*@#? I told her – “Do you realize you are breaking the law? As a consumer, I have every right to return a piece that is defective”. She looked taken aback – and recited her tag-line, “But that’s our company policy, Madam”. I was now mildly curious about her thought process – “You firmly believe that – in the hallowed grounds of your shop, your company policy supersedes this nation’s laws. Lady, I can sue you for that”. She looked hurt & miserable and said – “Shoddy products are the responsibility of the manufacturer”. I threw the blender at her – “Then, I’ll take my business to a store that’s responsible. Respect the laws of this land first”.

Not giving my business to Vivek & Co will not reduce them to penury. But, I can choose to have a pleasant shopping experience. I can assert my rights as a consumer. For which, Indians must know – make it “learn by heart” – their rights first. We have the right to return goods. No shop can charge us above the MRP price listed in the carton. Goods should function as advertised: Quality is an entitlement, not a privilege.

Few months back, I unwrapped a cake of “Lux” soap – and found a few hairs sticking on the surface. This was an unbearable breach of basic hygiene. l wrote a stinker to “Hindustan Unilever Limited” (HUL): “Is HUL in the habit of selling used soaps? Kindly send your team to inspect these hairs. Assuage my curiosity. Are they armpit or pubic hairs?”. I got a response within a few days – They were terribly sorry & would I consider meeting their PR Manager? After swapping more emails & phone calls to ascertain what happened, a PR Manager turned up – laden with “Lux” soaps as gifts. He was profusely apologetic & thanked me for bringing this problem to their attention – and giving them an opportunity to analyze & correct their assembly line. I remain a loyal customer of HUL to this day.

Mistakes are inevitable. It is a company’s reaction to them that separates the also-rans from the truly great. Not all companies will react to complaints favorably. But, I’m glad to say that most companies & businesses respond positively. A vast majority of them resolve the complaint to the customer’s satisfaction. The trick is knowing how to voice the protest & where. If all else fails, one can at least spread their sob-story about the company. Even if you influence & convert 1% of your audience to savvy consumers, you’ve done your bit for Capitalism.

My uncle clicked his tongue deprecatingly. “What will you do about the misdeeds of politicians? Whenever a VIP with Zee category security whizzes by, all traffic is stopped for 15 minutes. You can’t stop corruption in the government offices, can you?”. People always imagine the worst possible circumstance to make their inaction credible. Our inability to handle problems larger than ourselves – doesn’t absolve us from solving smaller ones. What is the probability of us running afoul of a kinky MP or an acquisitive thug? How often do we deal with corrupt bureaucrats?

Now, picture this. People break the queue before you in super markets – All the time. New apartment complexes spring up in our neighborhoods & the builders flout the laws on Noise Pollution – All the time. The school in your zone parks its buses & vans on both sides of the road, blocking traffic – All the time. The hospital you go to prescribes needless tests to jack up the bill – All the time. Can’t we at least try to solve these? If we think every single problem is beyond our control, we are less than human, a blight on humanity.

In a high PDI culture like India, people are afraid of voicing their opinion. I believe that such small but fair protests will inculcate the habit of asserting onself. Small successes as a consumer in the Free Market will embolden them. In due course of time, people will become more confident – confident people are seldom subservient. Sooner or later, their rulers will get the message.

My neighbor wistfully tells me that every city needs 10 activists. 10?? Every single one of us should uphold our rights! Many Indians speak longingly of the need for a “Benevolent Dictator”. That’s an oxymoron. “We need to impose Martial Law” they say. Or, “Japan should take over & beat us to shape”. Ain’t gonna happen! Is there any frigging use of hoping that others will solve our mess? So, let’s stop moaning & start asserting ourselves. Yes, many things are broken. And no, you can’t change the world. Let’s acknowledge our limits and choose our battles wisely – battles that can be won. Believe me, it will make a cumulative difference.


  1. Quote
    Balaji said June 27, 2008, 5:19 am:

    Great post Priya. Thought provoking.
    //Let’s acknowledge our limits and choose our battles wisely – battles that can be won. Believe me, it will make a cumulative difference.
    You have summed it up perfectly.

    And this is my favorite post because I understood almost every word of it. πŸ˜‰ i don’t know whether my vocabulary is improved or you have written this post few notches below par.. but loved this post. πŸ˜€

  2. Quote

    Balaji – Thanks for your comment.

    I think its all in the subject matter. Probably, I automatically use high-falutin words when my post drips with sarcasm – which is mostly the case πŸ˜‰ But when I try to understand why things are the way they are & convey my views – perhaps simpler words suffice. Just my guess.

  3. Quote

    Great post priya! Totally loved the way you have framed it…
    More importantly , its the kind of post that leaves an impact. Thought provoking πŸ™‚
    Next time around something simliar happens, this post will definitely strike me and determine my level of inaction πŸ˜‰

  4. Quote

    Nice post, I liked the idea of you thinking that a bigger change can be achieved by summing up all the smaller changes.
    As for consumer awareness, I believe things are definitely improving . At least I could spot some change with branded goods, branded showrooms and generally for goods that are worth a good deal of money. Or as in the case of HUL, something that is backed by a strong process & practices oriented company. I guess that is where Vivek’s failed you.

    But often, the one big dissapointment that we end up facing is with the dispute resolution mechanisms. There is not much awareness about fast & simple redressal systems in place like consumer courts/MRTPC and I seriously doubt if even they have a ‘consumer-friendly’ approach. Often the first knock has to be done with the police which has a high probability of turning out into an unpleasant experience. And then judicial procedures follow which can take up a lot of your time.

    And I guess this very reason prompts a big number of we Indians to look the other way when we see such small problems in our daily life. But yes, I totally agree with you that we all should at least raise a flag and cry foul aloud, even if that doesn’t translate into absolute victory.

  5. Quote

    Jass – Thanks for your comment & kind words.

  6. Quote

    Ranjit – Thanks for your comment.

    Yes, most brand-name companies behave well. Eureka Forbes is an exception – I can write a compendium about their incompetence πŸ˜‰ The good news is, even small stores behave very decently. I once bought a dust-bin with a lid from a mom & pop store. I had to return it the same day because the lid wouldn’t close properly. The store took it back – no questions asked. And I didn’t even have a bill.

    You are right – we don’t have a decent redressal mechanism. There are some Consumer Action Groups, but most of them are so dysfunctional that they don’t even check their emails! Our only hope is to resolve disputes amicably with the company.

    I don’t think Indians look the other way because there are no redressal systems. I think its the other way round. Its mainly because we avoid conflicts of any kind, because we find them distasteful, that there are no working systems for resolving complaints. As my aunt told me – “I generally don’t confront companies or businesses with problems. What if they think I’m a bitch?”.

    In most cases, getting concerns addressed is pretty easy – if only people give the companies or other individuals a chance to resolve them. But, we don’t speak out, brood over the problem, let our wounds fester & conclude that inaction is the only coping mechanism.

  7. Quote

    Excellent post Priya. India can change but only if we all take part in making the change. Maybe the root cause is our conflict avoidance trait as you point out above. It could also be our “don’t ask questions. this is the way we do things here” syndrome that we are brought up with. As you say, if each of one of us tried to ask for changes in our immediate sphere of influence, we can bring about massive change. Let us hope this serves as a wake up call for everyone of us.

  8. Quote

    Sukumar – Thanks for your comment.

    You are right. “Don’t Ask Questions..” stems from our high PDI culture. Plus our culture being “Collective” instead of “Individualist”. We place more importance on people belonging to groups & being loyal to them. Being a rebel & asserting oneself as individuals is detrimental to that, so that’s frowned upon. Aggression is a no-no too – so people avoid confrontation. That’s really not the right combo of traits to challenge status quo.

  9. Quote

    Hi Priya,

    Great post. It is surely a lesson for people like me. I never ask questions nor assert myself when required. You have given me lots of “food for thought”.

  10. Quote

    Saraswathi – Thanks for your comment.

    I’m really glad to hear this. Many people are not comfortable in being assertive, since they worry if they have to be aggressive too. But, that’s not necessary. One can be very polite & still be firm and make themselves heard.

  11. Quote

    One of the important factor is that people dont know how to assert their rights.. in this, i should say the communists are king ..

    You were focussing on commercial business.. but medical profession is one major field that’s beyond everyone’s question.. no one can ask question there.. (I doubt even priya can do that πŸ™‚ LOL)..

    For the past three years, i was virtually exhuasted in seeing various doctors, and most of tests.. later i started asking them to give their conclusion in writing.. but none of them are ready.. where can i make them accountable.. (if further pressed, they will say “patient is not co-operating”).. still now, i am clueless, where should i approach to redress my grievences in this medical field..

    once i was referred to a psychiatrist (i was told its different from psychology ) .. within 10 mins, they started explaining me something and used a term called “hypochondriasis” .. i told them.. whatever you have told, please give in writing.. immediately he was taken back and started telling “i can start treatment only if you believe me” .. when i further insisted, he started playing politics.. “If you want me to give in writing, you have to undergo all the tests i have to refer”.. unrelenting, i again told him “Give this also in writing.” ..

    He called my father and pleaded to him to take me back πŸ™‚ .. later my father told “i was taking you to this psychiatrist for consulting.. but at the last, i have to give him counselling ” .. πŸ™‚ .. still he could not control the laughter when referring that incident..

    Now i was very tired of rebelling or questioning.. Priya has a wonderful husband, and good fortune, and lot of spare time, to continue the fight on.. what about the normal layman, who daily struggles for his survival.. πŸ™

  12. Quote

    The incident of viveks & co, is a good example.. i agree with you 200% πŸ™‚

    People in india are focussed only on earning money rather than strengthening operational processes. i was often telling, it was a very bad thing in long term.. Unless we are process oriented (in our own terms, and not emulating western model), we could not survive ..

  13. Quote

    On the issue of questioning, i doubt, whether individualism can help our country..

    In my observation, the rural people are more vocal, straight forward, and bold in questioning the politicians.. those who are in town, dont even care who the MLA is.. this is because, the rural people are communal and know each other.. so if one person starts questioning, everyone supports him.. but, in towns and cities, people become individualistic, selfish, and voluntarily & conveniently ignorant & uncaring.. because, they dont come out, even if there is some theft happening nearby..

    “Death of Anonymity” is one important criteria, which could make people responsible.. in one of the recent program in Times Now, Trichy Police Inspector emphasized this concept.. they approach each and every locality and ask people to know who is coming there and going out.. this has reduced crime rates, and helped them easily spot criminals with the help of people..

  14. Quote

    Senthil – Thanks for your comment.

    Why only the communists? I think in asserting their rights, right-wing parties are equally good. Any party or any individual who has a strong sense of right & wrong (we may or may not agree with their ideals, but that’s a different thing) will be vocal (or vociferous) in being heard.

    In many nations, people can sue the doctors for malpractice. You were right in asking your doctors to give you their diagnosis in writing. It is very sickening to hear that they called you a hypochondriac. Shame on them. Many years ago, doctors told me the same thing – till some doctors in Chennai found out that I have very frequent severe Migraine attacks. Which mimics most symptoms of brain tumors. Medical science has still room to grow & not all illnesses have remedies.

    As I stated – Just because you can’t solve a problem with your doctor, it doesn’t mean you can’t fight smaller issues. Which is the very essence of my post.

    Good husband, good fortune, “lots of” spare time – You think that’s why I’m assertive? These are the typical excuses given by people, who are too small-minded to admit & give credit to someone else’s good work/abilities. I expect more from people who read my posts.

    “Oh, I didn’t get the State First rank because I didn’t bribe anyone”. “She got the job because she knows the MD”. Its never “I didn’t get good marks because I didn’t study harder” or “I didn’t get the job because I didn’t conduct myself well”.

    I’m trying very hard to kick-off my start-up business, volunteer at a local school, constructing a house, manage investments & write regularly. If I can find time, why can’t your “lay-man”? You seem to be assertive yourself – Is that because you have lots of “spare time”?

    As you yourself point out, people who struggle for their daily bread – the lower strata – fight! Its the middle class & above – who keep mum. How much time does it take to shout at someone that’s trying to break a queue? Excuses, excuses.

  15. Quote

    Senthil – Yes, I agree that urban India is worse. And even in the cities, its the lower strata of society who question boldly.

    The upper classes are mostly interested in living as well as possible within their means. And talk, talk, talk about how everyone should do their bit for the country. And if I ask them to use the dust-bin to throw chocolate wrappers – instead of throwing it in the stairs – they are grief-stricken.

    This is because, people in the cities don’t get the feeling that they live in a community – Which means, they are not “accountable” to anyone. Civic sense is not something that is taught to us.

    There’s nothing wrong with individuality. As India gets more & more drawn to the west, such change is inevitable. We just have to figure out how to teach people civic sense.

    We used to have a period in school called “Moral Science” everyday. We learnt various values like charity, compassion etc – and useful things like how to clean a room, how to mend your own clothes – from the teacher & from other students in that class. I was also in the “Guides” – where we had to help at least 1 person every week (without their asking us for assistance) – simple things like helping a visually challenged person cross a street, help the elderly with their groceries, water a neighbor’s garden etc.

    I wish all schools will have such a class. Parents don’t seem to be doing a good job of teaching their children the importance of being good citizens.

  16. Quote

    First thanks for a thought provoking article.

    Even in developed countries consumer rights are very poor. For example in US Wireless Sector, nothing improved much in spite of serious consumer activism. All national carriers Verizon, T-Mobile, ATT and Sprint are sub par.

    Coming to the POTS phone I used to have Verizon. They charged me 5$ per month for NOT using the long distance. Can you believe it? Charging a customer for not using a service!!! I hate their guts. It is a shame on US Telecom industry for being so customer unfriendly.

    Next is domestic airlines – I do not understand one thing. Air fuel is high. Pass on the charge to consumer and give proper service. Except Jet Blue (and of course Virgin American) I had bad experience with all airlines. I am impressed with Jet Blue though. Wonderful service that comes from heart. May be Happy Employees == Happy Customers is working here.

    Next utilities – All major corporate services from TIVO, ADT Security, Satellite Dish to Credit Cards and house mortgages is plagued with ‘cheat-with-small-print’ syndrome. If you dont read small print, you will be ripped of on the road.

    With powerful consumer groups and activism in the United States, if the consumer is so helpless, I could imagine, the situation in New India (I experienced it first hand Saravana Stores, Sony Showroom, many restaurants like Saravana Bhavan etc). Speaking of Saravana Bhavan Chennai – I like their sambar second serving. Almost every single visit to that joint, the guy who served me gave a face as if he is including me in his Will. Why so stingy for a cup of sambar. Idiots. Karpagambal Mess in Mylapore serves better than Saravana Bhavan any day…until 2003.

  17. Quote

    Vamsi – Thanks for your comment.

    Phone companies are a pain everywhere. Charging someone for not using long distance is atrocious to say the least. Airtel in India has worse customer service than the govt-run BSNL. Can you believe it? I get night-mares about Airtel. I switched to Vodafone & they are distinctly better. Though, they spam me a lot.

    South West isn’t good anymore? I’ve heard good things about Jet Blue from others too. Would be eager to check them out when I visit the US.

    The more sophisticated the consumers, the slicker the companies. I sometimes wonder who heads these companies. Hardened criminals from skid row? Don’t they know that they should be trust-worthy to survive in the long term as a company? Otherwise, people will abandon them the minute a decent alternative is available.

    I’m surprised to hear your experience in Saravana Bhavan. We generally get excellent service there. Food may not be that great, though.

    Yes, I’m always amazed by how big companies get away with ripping people off – that too in the US. Health Insurance is a huge scam. I used to think that sub-Saharan Africans had the least access to Healthcare in the world. My mistake. I should add a large chunk of Americans to that list.

    This in spite of Americans voicing their discontent so vociferously. The Pharma-Healthcare-Insurance lobbies are in a deadly embrace with the US govt. Wonder if Obama will be able to change that. Perhaps not.

  18. Quote said July 1, 2008, 4:50 am:

    The problem with most of us is that we have go used to mediocrity in life that small deviations really dont seem to affect us….Just like hardened Criminals…we have become hardened suffers…who feel they dont have to be assertive ..I mean we blame the govt offices for corruption ..but how many of us revolt…U have given us a serious food for thgt Priya….

  19. Quote

    Karthik – Thanks for your comment.

    That’s a brilliant observation. Wow – Hardened sufferers who are used to mediocrity. I think you’ve condensed the reason very well.

    How many Indians follow even the simplest rules – like one-way traffic, littering, stopping at a red light or not encroach on public property? At times I feel, Indians don’t even need to assert themselves – its enough if they follow some basic rules, laws & regulations governing civic life.

    It seems to me that people are not just hardened sufferers. They are also hardened petty criminals.

  20. Quote

    Good discussion. I think this “hardened sufferers” bit is very insightful Karthik.

  21. Quote
    Ganesh said July 1, 2008, 10:22 pm:


    Another thought provoking with some solutions proposed rather than simply bitch. Yes – let us start winning the small batlles and hopefullythis will lead to us winning the war against corruption and apathy.


  22. Quote

    Ganesh – Thanks for your comment.

    Many years back, Sukumar told me that intelligent people are tired of ranting & raving. From then on, I’ve tried to also focus on why things go wrong & how we could possibly fix them. As McCabe said – “Any clod can have the facts. But to have an opinion is an art”.

    I also think that if people start feeling strongly about small issues – like littering on the streets – they’ll introspect & understand that they are aggressors too. This will lead to better discipline & cleaner roads, for e.g. Whereas if people feel peeved that politicians are corrupt, they’ll never look inside themselves first.

    I believe that fixing smaller problems will clean our people inside out.

  23. Quote
    Ananth said July 1, 2008, 11:36 pm:

    Very nice post and comments. It seems as if it is easy to get by without complaining rather than raising voice and fighting. This is the main reason it happens. When we are dealt with unjustice, we are used to accepting it rather than seeing its end because it is much easier. Ya, the theme of the post to fight small battles where we can win is really worth following. Hope I remember this at the right time. πŸ™‚ Keep writing such posts.

  24. Quote

    Ananth – Thanks for your comment & kind words.

    Yes, you are right. People are queasy about fighting, so they let things slide. Fighting may be tough in the short-term, but the cost of not fighting is huge.

    I’m very particular about queues: No one can break my queue. If someone politely asks me to let them go first – and they have a valid reason – I let them in with a smile.

    Sometimes – Seeing my stickler-for-discipline behavior, complete strangers have the nerve (& the stupidity) to tell me to “Relax, keep cool”. I immediately pounce on these morons & shred them to pieces. What’s wrong with discipline? And what’s wonderful about “relaxing” when rules are broken?

    Righteous Anger is a great tool. We need to get angrier as a country.

  25. Quote

    Sukumar – Yes, the comments section is indeed pretty good – solid ideas are getting generated.

  26. Quote
    Sairaj said July 2, 2008, 3:30 am:

    Wonderful Post Priya.

    I empathize with every word you’ve written. We see the issues everyday. We experience it everyday. The frustration is our inability as individuals to bring an end to it. We can hit back at everything we see that is wrong. But, it just keeps coming. There seems no end.

    What can we do to hit the root of the problem?

    — Curruption: Make the Government pass strict laws and punishment on curruption
    — Public Apathy: Change the collective consciousness of the people?
    — Inferior Products : Make companies accountable for the goods sold and take back defective products without question.

    To me, it all seems to come down to Governance. If we have a responsible government, all these can be achieved. But as voters we seem to be caught between the devil and the deep blue sea. One is as dangerous as the other.

    I am so angry when I buy artificially colored peas. I can refuse to buy them, but do I solve the problem. I am so angry when I know that more than 80% of public funds is lost in bribery and curruption down the governance hierarchy. I’m so angry that 60% of medicines sold is fake.

    What is the solution?

  27. Quote

    Sairaj – Thanks for your comment.

    There are already strict laws against corruption. But, they are very difficult to enforce – especially when it is endemic & pervasive. Its not easy to make our government do anything – mainly because it is so bloated. I’ve been trying to get an email response from the “Grievance Committee for the Disabled” – for the past 18 months! If a grievance committee is so unresponsive, how can we get new laws passed? Ain’t gonna happen easily.

    Poor governance? Maybe. But, we as individuals don’t have much control over that. Most positive things that have happened in India over the past 25 years – have happened because of private enterprise & individual initiative. There have been some good leaders like Praful Patel, P.V.Narasimha Rao, Chandrababu Naidu or Vasundara Raje Scindia – I agree. But, most others have been inept & corrupt.

    My whole point is, we should try to change what we can. Anger is a good stimulus, provided we do something on our own – however small – about it. The most important thing is to not get bogged down by the enormity of the problem. No one can solve all of them. But each of us can solve a few of them. Together, we can solve a lot of them.

    So, don’t buy the colored peas. Write about it. Spread awareness about it. Talk to the company that sells the peas about it. If you deal with decent-sized private companies, you’ll be surprised at the response you get, when you voice your concerns to them. Talk to like-minded people. There are some activists in India’s central ministries & in the judiciary – and you may be able to get in touch with them to enact some changes.

  28. Quote
    Raj (subscribed) said July 6, 2008, 11:41 pm:

    Priya, Last week I bought a packet of Tiger Biscuits and one of the biscuits had hair inside! Called the 1-800 number to complain to Brittania and they sent a representative to pick up the packet. I realize that I should have had them give me a complaint number and let me know the results of their findings!

    As you rightly said, each one of us should uphold our rights, till then things won’t change!


  29. Quote

    Raj – Thanks for your comment.

    I’m very glad that you called Brittania. I’m happier still that they responded to your complaint in a professional manner. I wish more people will assert their rights as a consumer, as you have done.

    My grandma used to say – “What your eyes see, Your hands should set right”. Meaning, we should help ourselves without waiting for assistance from others. I fervently wish we’ll internalize that & help our country change.

  30. Quote
    Sridhar N.K said July 9, 2008, 3:45 pm:


    Very insightful post. I am catching up after 2 weeks and your post is excellent.

    As a society, we don’t look too kindly on ‘voicing opinions’. We have been taught that way from early childhood – repeat what the teacher says, do what I tell you to do and don’t ask questions etc. May be, that has made us not realize that we can voice our opinions. I feel that we don’t know in many instances that we can.

    I had few such instances on this trip to India – My mom wanted some documents regarding an apartment that she owns. She was asking the apartment secretary for it. The secretary (whom she knows very well) was sounding as though he was doing her a personal favor by giving her copies of the document. My mom was feeling elated after my wife and I got her the copies and she was all praise for the secretary for giving it. I had to explain to her that it’s her right to ask for those documents and it’s the secretary’s responsibility (and not a favor) to give it to her.

    Another instance – We were staying in a hotel in Thanjavur – The hotel starts prepping the room only after the customer gets there, but the 24 hour clock starts as soon as the customer gets there. It means you are paying them from your reserved time to get the room ready. We put our foot down and said that’s stupid, to stay the least and they let us stay the full 24 hours. Others are happily accepting this policy from the hotel.

    At the airport on the way back, the BA counter doesn’t have a credit card scanning machine for paying for excess baggage. It’s in another building apparently (how intelligent?). According to the CSR, most people pay by cash. I asked them to get the credit card machine from the other building and refused to give the card to an orderly (secure transport!).

    Could we be having very little information or awareness about what’s our right and what’s not? Is that why we are having trouble voicing opinions?

  31. Quote

    NK – Thanks for your comment.

    Interesting – we once stayed in “The Residency”, Coimbatore. It took them 20-30 minutes to get our room ready, too – and this is a star hotel! But, they were understanding when we needed a little extra time to check out. What really irks me are the clueless morons who take their sweet time to get the room ready, but insist on you checking out exactly on the dot.

    In a “Collective” culture such as ours (as opposed to high “Individualist” cultures like the US), rights are not important. Harmony is what is prized. So, yes – on one hand, people don’t know what their rights are. And people don’t care.

    This starts a self-reinforcing loop that has led us to precisely this spot. When we don’t know & don’t care what is right for us, how will we know what is right for others? In other words, how will we ever be good in customer service or process adherence?

    Increasing awareness on rights will certainly help. Competition helps too – if a hotel/bank is no good, customers can always try other alternatives. Because of globalization, multi-nationals are here – to stay. So local businesses better shape up or go bust.

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