Friday, February 6, 2009

The Mall Experience

The Great Indian shopping diaspora!. We no longer are afraid to live our dream. The ever hungry consumers lap up everything that comes their way; latest gadgets, the latest jeans in town, the designer watches, name it and you have it.
Gone are the days when folks used to ask their people staying abroad to get a decent latest gadget; now its just a stone's throw away. With disposable income due to growth in service sectors; the consumers indulge in these good things and satisfy their insatiable demands.

I am one among the millions who has adapted to the mall culture quite well. After walking into a couple of malls, I forgot my old shopping grounds; and why wont I? - when I can get everything under the sun err...rather shade? Yeah, its alright for me to pay Rs 100 for a packet of popcorn and Rs 60 for a tall glass of cola which has ice cubes loaded in it; and Rs 40 for a small cup of coffee with very less of milk and more of water! Its still alright; when you can do your shopping in an air-conditioned enclosure; beautified with artificial palm trees; instead of roaming around outside on the streets; bargaining to the street vendor while wiping away your beads of sweat!
Just go into an outlet, take your pick; cram yourself in the queue; give a disgusting look at the guy who jumped the queue and he would not even notice, don't even think of the dirty word "bargain", swipe your plastic, get a cold "thanks" along with your receipt, walk to the security so that he suspiciously examines your purchase and your receipt and walk away!
How different is this compared to your personal experience when walking to the cloth store where your mom bought her Saree; dad his clothes; you went to the same store since you could start identifying things around you...started with a frock while you are an infant, then a frock when you are 5 years old, later a salwar when you are 10 years and so with the shop keeper, share a smile along with a cup of tea he ordered for you...bargain to hell; completely agree to disagree on the price; negotiate and come up with a final quote, pay and wave good-bye and he sends you off with a genuine warm smile and thank you....

Why would you want to do that when you could get various brands and offers; minus the smile and hospitality....bored with shopping? go catch a movie in a multiplex housed in the mall with a bag of popcorn...get out of the movie and your exit leads to the food court..various stalls...various cuisines...not inviting but COLD....

I recently had a not so pleasant experience. The malls were all geared up for the off season sale. I was drawn to it. I could not resist the 30% discount offer on footwear. A shoe freak I am, I bought 2 pairs of shoes and other things. It was a weekend; large crowd in the mall reveling at the discounts and picking up stuff. Unfortunately one of the computers at a counter could not handle the traffic and it crashed. I could not tolerate the inefficiency of the guys at the cash counters!! What an apathy! Dear me, how long does it take you to jot down the Bar code number, the Item code of the product, press some numbers on the calculator to prepare the bill????
Those guys took ages! Were they not preparing receipt the same manner much before the computers were introduced? Didn't the management think of any mitigation plan and train them for such worst scenarios?
Well, after being at the counter for almost 1 hour(nothing much could be done when people were jumping queues and the mis-management of the cashiers); got my bill; paid for it and left for the greener pastures. I realized that out of my 2 pairs of footwear; only one's price was calculated after the discount; but not the other; much later after reaching home. My bad about the carelessness as I was just restless to get out of the chaos environment in the mall. I decided to go the next day after work to sort this out.

After work, on a Monday; I go to the mall(in an auto rickshaw; cost me 50 bucks) along with my receipt and the 2 pairs of footwear. I am stopped at the entrance to surrender my baggage at the counter. I tell them that I need to carry these inside and give an explanation. The lady says "There is no return"(as its off-sale and I got it on discount). I say I don't want to return; I just want to get the extra money I paid for it. After consulting with a senior person; I m let go after getting a pink sticker stuck on my purchase. I go to the counter which billed me previously, explain to them; they take my bill and the footwear; come back after 5 minutes and ask me to go to the 5th floor for the consumer complaint cell. I take the escalators, jostle around, after no help from any; I find the hidden consumer cell; I explain my stand to the person in charge. He has a long conversation on the phone. I am made to wait for 30 minutes. Finally he says "Ma'am we don't have a cash return policy. I will give you a credit note; which would be valid for 30 days only". I retort saying that it was the carelessness of the cashier and I am not asking for exchange or return; all I was asking was for the extra money I paid. No use! Finally, exhaustive I was; I agreed for the credit note. I got a credit note; and I had to do a purchase to "own" my money.

How easy it was when we made a purchase at our local store and returned it when we were not satisfied. We got our money back... there was no defined Return Policy, no Credit Note, no Exchange Policy...It was all based on trust....Bargaining was the order; it had its charm;

I walked in again the following week in order to buy something with the credit note. I searched hard but whatever I chose I had to shell out considerable the minimum price for a shirt or a nominal top I picked up was not less than Rs 500.

And stupid of me to think that I could purchase something out of the credit note which was Rs 135/-


  1. Excellent. In India, most of the people want to copy USA. Why don't these shops copy the practice in USA shops?


  2. hi

    read ur post, nice read.

    I feel, both the environments have thir distinct falvours. hustle bustle of street markets and the warmness is definately missing in the mall, but then u have a clean shopping experience and a lot of choice, that comes with extra price

    something like this happened with me too at Vishal mega mart..I purchased one sweater, and was not given discount (as per their scheme) even when the bill was calulated electronically. I had to face a lot of inconvenience when I went back to claim the discount.


  3. Point Mano, But let's be honest. Would we appreciate the shopping policy? I don't think so. We are not honest enough to do that. A trivial discount program is abused and taken advantage of. what happens if we have a 90 day return policy as found in most US stores? I personally would take advantage...its our mindset...

  4. Hi AS,

    Thank you for your comments. Absolutely, as I have mentioned in this post, I am one among the many who has found comfort shopping in the mail...Yeah, we prefer the "clean shopping experience and the varieties" than the "personal shopping experience and the warmth"...:-)
    Changes are inevitable; malls displays the economic freedom of India. Lets enjoy it with a twitch in our mind

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  6. City life sucks. I hate city life...

    I miss walking to that favorite shop of ours, with the shopkeeper who likes you so much that he would sometimes gives you goodies for free. Chat for a while, bargain like crazy, and still be great friends.

    Miss those days when you would be so excited with just a small collection in the shop. A life when you know everyone you meet everyday...

    "I say I don't want to return; I just want to get the extra money I paid for it." By the way, why the hell did you go back to the shop? Are you crazy?

  7. yup! I agree Insignia, we would surely take advantage of such schemes.. indians have a different mindset. ethics in retailing are not just the resp. of the retailer but that of the customer as well.


  8. Gautam,

    I was really miffed by their inefficiency. And I had no idea that they had these hidden rules for just giving back the extra money. Else I would not have even bothered. The cost of me going to the mall apart from 100 Rs on auto fare, was frustration, stress and the apathy!

  9. You hit the nail AS.. Ethics in Retailing is a distant fantasy in India. Both from the retailer and the customer side. "Goods once sold cannot be taken back or exchanged" is unique to India


I'd love to know what you thought :-) Please shoot!