April 27, 2006

Purchase pains

We are currently trying to get a new notebook computer for me since my current one is showing signs of age and we don’t want it to suddenly go on strike and leave me without a machine. Since this is Sri Lanka, it is not as simple as walking into the computer store, picking the model you want, paying for it and walking out. Oh, no :p

Here, most of the display models are low-end machines :) If you want a high-end machine, you have to pick the model you want, talk to the store, let them know what you want, wait for them to get the pricing from Singapore or somewhere, place the order and then wait a week or two (or three) till the computer actually arrives. Yes, a lot of work to get a new machine :p All this extra waiting is compounded by the fact that my fellow Sri Lankans seem to have no grasp of delivery dates or customer service. As somebody (who is himself a Sri Lankan) put it, when they say tomorrow, you have got to ask them "which tomorrow"? For most of them, tomorrow is simply a an indefinite day in the future which is "not today" :)

Well, we picked the model I wanted and we placed the order last Monday (the 17th) and that brought up the another little Sri Lankan business practice – the advance :p You have to pay an advance on an order (it might be as little as a few hundred – or thousand – rupees or it might be half the value of the order) as a sign of good faith. It is also insurance against the customer saying that they don’t want the ordered item after they’ve got it down from Singapore or wherever :) So, these guys wanted an advance but we couldn’t get there immediately since I had work. I said that I’d come by Saturday and pay the advance but for them to go ahead with the order since I wanted the computer fast. They said OK and that I’d have the notebook by Monday (the 24th).

We go there on Saturday (the 22nd) to give them the advance and I get the distinct feeling that while the order has indeed been placed, that I won’t get the computer by Monday. So I tell the guy that if I don’t get the computer by Monday, I’m going to cancel the order. He calls his boss and the boss says that I’ll get the computer by Wednesday "for sure".

Wednesday was yesterday. I call the salesman in the morning and he says that he can’t reach his boss. To give him 10 minutes and he’ll call back. Half an hour goes, nothing from him. I call him back and he says his boss still hasn’t called back. I give him an hour. I call back after an hour and a half. He says, still nothing from his boss and that he’ll call me back in 10 minutes. 10 minutes goes by. Nothing. I call him back and say that if I don’t hear from him by 2:30 (which was about 20 minutes away) that they can cancel the order. I call him at 2:30 and he says he’s got his boss on the other line and a few minutes later says that they’ll have the computer by 6:00pm for sure. I say "OK but if it doesn’t arrive today, I’m cancelling the order" and hang up.

About an hour or two later, I get another phone call – this time from the boss. He says that he’s very sorry but that he got delayed due to a meeting and couldn’t get all the necessary documents to the clearing agent to clear the computer from customs – could I give him till tomorrow evening to get me the computer? I tell him that I was fine with that but for every day he delays, I’m going to deduct Rs. 500 from the price. He seems to be fine with that and says that he’ll even throw in a USB thumb-drive to make up for the delay. That is where we are now :)

For the longest time, Sri Lankan businesses have not had any sense of customer service. I personally believe that this is because in the old days, you had one shop to an area and you had to deal with them or do without. So, the whole attitude of "it’s my shop and you can buy from me at my terms or walk out" was born and it has become so inculcated into society that people are finding it difficult to wean themselves away from that mentality. However, things are changing, albeit a bit slowly, here in Sri Lanka. I am not, overall, displeased with my dealings with the computer vendor so far – they do seem to have managed to get the notebook into the country within 10 days of the order being placed and are trying to make amends for the delay. That is a major improvement for Sri Lanka :) The only thing I have a problem is that I have to keep at them to get them to actually deliver on time :p

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Tags: Real Life, Reflections, Society
Posted by Fahim at 6:26 am   Comments (1)