Saturday, December 06, 2008

Change is Sweet

As any Bangalorean who has traveled by auto-rickshaw will tell you, we have been bothered about CHANGE long before Obama came on the scene. Like Obama said, we need to be (carrying) the change we seek. The Bangalore auto drivers have a rounding-off algorithm where Rs.62 = Rs.70 and Rs.68 = Rs.70 as well. During peak hours and after 8PM and before 7AM, this gets rounded off to the nearest 100. The only way to get change is to KNOW exactly how much a route costs and CARRY lots of Rs.2, Rs.5 and Rs.10 currency.

Now the change is creeping into other Bangalore businesses. Last evening, I rushed to the Cafe Coffee Day in the arrival hall of BIAL (the dud new aiport) for a bottle of water to support me through the two hour ride into the city (it took me less than 90 minutes to fly in). They have a "specially packed" bottle of 500ml for Rs.15. I gave the guy two ten buck notes and expected Rs.5 change.

He handed me the receipt and a candy. No change. Just the CANDY, ostensibly worth Rs.5. To say I was shocked is an understatement.

Indians learn to expect the neighborhood grocer to hand us a candy in lieu of 50 paise change. The amount here was also small, compared to the thousands I had just spent flying and eating. But it just didn’t FEEL right. Unless, CCD reciprocates by accepting raddi newspaper and old bottles adding up to Rs.15 as payment.

We talk of India Rising and “Enough is enough”. To see CCD, India’s earliest successes in F&B franchising, behave worse than a corner chaiwala evoked the same emotions. The airport is used by low-income fliers as well, who need facilities and F&B even if they cannot pay for them in dollar equivalent prices. We have often noticed the “we will over-charge you because we can” attitude permeate throughout the airport. For example, what justifies BIAL shops selling only "premium" water at Rs.30 for a litre, when the standard Kinley bottles sell for Rs.12 everywhere else? Just because there's all the chrome and glass and dollars?

It is more important that people who “have” protest on principle, because the “have nots” will not be heard. Singapore’s lovely Changi airport is much cheaper than BIAL, even after conversion. And their facilities are within reach of even the common laborer, who is coming back to meet his family in a Tamil Nadu village. It’s just an airport, after all. Why pretend to be a Las Vegas casino?

Update 08/12/08: CCD Area manager Mr.Sainath found this blog and called to reassure me that lots of change will be available at the counter next time I pass through the airport. I am glad to see the customer-service aura of CCD shine through with his prompt action. Good luck, Sai, in giving us back the CCD we love!


Angel's Flight said...

That better have been a candy filled with truffles!!!

Love the last sentence....yeah its an airport...not Las Vegas...even Vegas is expensive only on the casino floor...or unless one is too lazy an ass to leave the room and depends on room service!

Swati said...

I agree ...its really really costly..nicely written post!

Toonfactory said...

Bhai jo gussa post padh kar bhadak raha tha woh aapki edit padhne ke baad utar gaya..Jaisa ki Mard film mein Joginder sahab ne gaya hai aur kya khoob gaya hai- Jaako Raakhe Saaiyaan Maar Sakey Na Koi...So Mr.Sainath will bring in the change so that we all can live happily ever after.
PS. Talking of rounding off Algorithm, Pune is Blore ka kumbh ke mele mein bichhda huaa bhai...Rick guys are real villains yahaan bhi

Mama - Mia said...

you should really wear a tee that says "Beware: Blogger"! hehe!

but yes, its good to see power of written word getting back in fashion. if previously a press card would make sure you get good service, today a blogger is no less.

with more and more companies trying to find public opinion online, i guess we should all use this tool for "greater good" apart from personal benefit ofcos! ;)

plus this whole selling water was so much extra money is so mad and maddening!

great post like always!



Vidooshak said...

There's an urban legend that says AT&T once decided to make more money on its telephone bills by using the following logic: the billing error must be lower than the cost of redressing a billing error.

There are two ways of doing this:
1. Have an excruciating long wait and multiple DUH helpdesks. The opportunity cost (even on toll-free lines) of complaining would make users live with the error

2. Have such a negligible error (say $1 on a bill of $100) that user sees no point in raking it up. At only 200000 subscribers, that's annual $2.4 million potential free money.

I think some smart MBA has figured out the same logic for use in India. Anyway, Indians are known for their acceptance of toxic service levels.

Monika said...

wow!!! i am impressed by the power of blogging :)

Asha said...

great post! and I just loved the after-effect :D

Power of blogging ki jay!!

Mampi said...

My first time here M,
Came after Abhs gave me the link on my post

But I liked yours better.
Right from heading to the content.

Vidooshak said...

@Mampi - Thanks for the kind words. After reading your post, what caught my eye was the lax security at Amritsar airport. After today's incident at Chandigarh airport, I am sure it comes as good news to terrorists hounded by increased security in metros that some cities still offer them a condusive business environment.

I pray that governments stop talking of war and spend anti-terror efforts where they can really help-- like stepping up security in ALL airports, not just top 5.