Sundeep Bhutoria

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ess bee

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Sunday, September 11, 2011

Are the international brands short shrifting Indian customers?

Top notch international luxury brands have a halo effect that inspire awe and envy among Indians. The thrifty Indians' lust for luxe has drawn scores of big names to set shop here and reap the dividends of their shopping safaris.
But all is not well. Let me share my not-so-pleasant recent experience with three reputed multinational brands in India that have forced me to question their god-like appeal. Do these brands treat Indian customers at par with those in the West or are they giving Indian customers the short shrift?
L'Occitane En Provence: The first incident took place early June this year in Delhi when I picked up a beauty products major L'Occitane En Provence soap. When I opened the packet I found the soap was totally dry. I thought the dry Indian weather was the culprit.
On my second visit to the shop, I asked the person in L'Occitane uniform if they were selling old products. He said, no way they could do so. I emptied a basket full of soaps in front of him and checked out the expiry dates. About half of the soap bars had expired about a month or two back but were still on sale. The shopkeeper feigned surprise and gave me the usual blarney that this was the first time this had happened.
On my return to Kolkata, I wrote a mail about my experience to the London head office of Customer Service, MELVITA UK, L'Occitane Ltd., Beauty Products. I did not get any reply. After two weeks, I forwarded the same message to them.
This time, within 15 minutes, I received a call from the Indian agent who once again threw up a flurry of excuses - how he had tried to get in touch with me in vain during the past two weeks and so on. I did not argue with him. I was cocksure he hadn't acted on the first email and was calling me for the first time. He offered me a box of soap bars for free. He said could courier it to me or I could collect it from the South City showroom in Delhi. I refused.
Dunhill: Last month I was at the Dunhill UV City Mall in Bangalore. I saw a leather bag and out of sheer curiosity asked for the price. A week before, I had picked up the same bag at a 50 per cent discount from the Dunhill Emporium Mall in Delhi. On being told the price, I inquired if there was any discount. The sales staff said, “Dunhill never offers any discount in any of its showrooms.” I did not stretch the conversation further because I already had a somewhat odd experience when I bought the bag in Delhi.
The lady at the Delhi showroom had showed me a pair of sunglasses saying there were only 250 pieces of this make in the world and this one was the only in India. But when I checked out, the same sunglasses were available in another Dunhill showroom in India. When I reported this incident to the head in Mumbai, he apologized on behalf of both the store managers.
Bose: The last incident took place just last week. I sent my music system of famous Bose brand to the company's service centre at Shantiniketan Building in Kolkata for servicing. My man told me that the company staff had said it would take 10 days to check out if the system was OK. I was little surprised and called up the service centre. A lady told me, “Sir, please bear with us, for the past three-and-half months we do not have any engineers.”
A reputed global brand like Bose doesn't have an engineer for over three months. Is it so just because it is Kolkata and India and one can get away with anything. Can a company like Bose afford to have a similar situation in Paris, London, New York or any other leading cities in the West?
Surely not, it would blow craters to their reputation.
Such service from renowned global brands like L’Occitane, Dunhill and Bose selling three different categories of products in three different cities cities of India makes me suspect of double standards. Wonder if these brands are being let down by their local partners or is it some kind of consumer apartheid when it comes to servicing Indian clients.
It is high time Indian customers strip these brands of their halo and start asking questions if there is deficiency in service.
ess bee

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