Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Caveat Emptor: Mrs. Sen!

Disclaimer: Any resemblance to any person, institution or situation is completely intended. This is not a work of fiction. Names have been changed because Mrs. Sen believes in cursing with dignity.

Of late Mrs. Sen has been quite forgetful and as she would put it “slow on the uptake”; partly courtesy the blood pressure and cholesterol control medicines that she has been forced to take regularly for years now, and of course the inevitable getting on in age. This has been affecting her efficiency at office with disastrous consequences. For instance she would attend meetings but later be unable to recall the context in which a particular point might have been articulated. And if by chance she manages to misplace the notepad in which she jotted down her points, the scenario would be as bad as her not having attended the meeting at all.

SO, after a lot of deliberation she decided to turn tech-savvy: her daily newspaper had advertised about a particular “Spy-pen” with an inbuilt video-camera and voice –recorder with a memory of 4GB to16 GB, which she decided to order. The next problem was the mode of payment: the-not-so-tech-savvy and absolutely-tech-untrusting Mrs. Sen never paid through her credit or debit card online, AS A RULE! Thankfully, she had opened an account with a section of this daily paper to buy a lot of bestsellers, which NOW enabled her to pay through cash or cheque payment.

The newspaper website gave the following details for the chosen product:

·Normal pen yet packed with high quality features.

·This Micro Cam recorder records Hi-Resolution real time 15fps video via its internal pin hole camera at the touch of a button. Recordings are stored on the 16 GB built in USB memory.

· It is perfect for recording interviews, meetings, personal notes, grocery lists, to do lists, or a personal diary....whatever you want!!! You can even transport computer files with this Pen!

·The Digital Voice Recorder Pen is ideal for Doctors, Executives, Lawyers, Professors, and Students. This pen is a great addition to your briefcase. Use it to record meetings or take notes. You don't have to sift through hundreds of notes any longer, just playback. Use the pen to record directions while on your cell phone or to help memorize client names and important dates.

·You connect and charge the pen through the USB Port on your computer

·USB 16 GB Digital Video Recorder

·Color Spy Pen Pinhole Camera

·16 GB memory

·Works as a USB drive

· Built-in rechargeable Battery type: Lithium-ion
Kit Contents:

·16 GB Pen Camera

·USB Cable

Mrs. Sen trusted her newspaper implicitly, having bought books from them earlier. So she booked the Spy-pen online and paid through cheque. Poor Mrs. Sen’s travails began soon afterwards:

The ‘manual’ was a two page leaflet in very bad and improperly punctuated English. What it said should have rung an alarm bell immediately:

Compatibility: This product is a direct to use computer Device, there is no Driver needed to use this. Although it works with all the computers But Please note this product might have some USB connectivity issues with Pentium-3, Windows Vista, Mac laptop/Computers. So please check compatibility before using it.”

Next, in the FAQ:

“Q: It is not detecting in PC.

A -: First Check if the product is compatible or not ( see Page 1) In accordance with differences in computer or system configuration ,The time to identify removable disk will be slightly differ. please be patient, this period is best not to press the button operation, so as to avoid the impact of computer hardware identification. If over the time if still unable to identify the hardware, try to re-insert.

make sure that your operating system, driver, USB interface cable are all normal; or try on another PC, it is best in accordance with the normal operating procedures in order to prevent the pen on the computer or camera damage.”

Therefore, trying the device at home was ruled out as an option immediately since Mrs. Sen has Windows Vista. She tried it the next day at office on her computer which had Windows Xp, the spy-pen kept as silent as the rules of espionage demand and could not be detected at all. The spy was tried at different courts with the same result: it refused to speak or even acknowledge its own presence. Dear Mr. Sen’s Pentium 3 failed to make the spy speak up. Mrs. Sen’s first venture into the haloed land of “uppity technology” met with a premature death. Foaming at the mouth, she sent a stinker of an E mail to the ‘supplier’ M/s L.S. at Mumbai as mentioned in the invoice, accusing them of selling a fraud product which might arguably work only in unbranded assembled computers in grey market, threatening him to refund her money or else!! The reply came swiftly:

“Dear Ms Sen,

Please note, if we were selling a fraud product, we would have been wiped off from the market. And i do not understand what it meant by branded computers, to mention we have sold thousands of these product in last one year and atleast 50% of the customer's computer were Branded only i.e. HP,COMPAQ,VAIO,ZENITH,HCL etc.

PLease note as it mentioned in the manual too, i shall repeat MAC is not supported Thus making it not compatible with Apple (MAC) branded computers/Laptops , and once it is connected to MAC , it gets technically not detectable on all the other PCs as well. Even all the other branded,non branded computers. (Can anything be more ridiculous a statement than this?)

Anyways further to your issue, it seems that the product you recieved is not detected by your PC or Laptop , if you had used it on MAC for the very first use.

So I always request customers that they please read the manual, and if they have MAC , it is not compatible.

Anyways , As per our moneyback policy only, we will approve the total refund once you return our product back to our address. So i hope you shall not have any issue with our credibility, product and services.

For returning and refund procedure please contacts the newpaper’s customer care.

With Regards"

Mrs. Sen retorted by asking them why they did not put up the compatibility issue on the website and threatening to pull them to the consumer forum on grounds of violating consumer rights. The reply was swifter this time:

“Dear and Respected Mrs. Rishita Sen,

First of all it seems that if you had used on normal Intel-windows PCs (whether branded or no branded) and your product was not detected then it might be defective.

And in the electronic products there might be some cases where the product is having any defect. But for that we provide customers one month’s time for testing and using and if defective they can get free replacement.

About your question that ad should carry this and that then Madam,

First of all the electronics products support the current trend of Hardware configurations and OS in specific region or section. So using it on some lesser used OS/Config might have issues.

most important, whatever the issues, pros , cons, technical informations, technical limitations product have ,are already provided to call center , if any customer asks any question about it they are answered for any such issue over there only. There is no intransparency in the process even before and after the order is punched.

And secondly, YOU should not claim our statement as Bizzare , It is our business honesty, that we are clear and honest in our dealing, we did not keep any customer in dark about the product and its issues. Had you find any other dealer who states such accurate and honest statement.

And finally even if the product was "Fraud", Ad was incomplete, where a customer is getting any hit of losses. We simply offer the customer one month warranty or 21 days money back policy. Our deal is not done after sale , we are there responsible and answerable for the product and its functionabilty. And WE are attending , answering and replying your each and every question.

if any customer is not happy with product where we are not keeping him hostage, we are simply providing him/her the best services/resolutions until the customer is fully satisfied.

I hope you should find us a honest and clear merchant.”

The courier person engaged by her trusted newspaper who came home a few days later to pick up the product to be returned told her off-the-record that this has become a very regular job for them, most products like electronic gadgets and jewellery sold through the portal apparently are being returned. Also he informed that the same group of electronic gadget sellers through ‘Company X’ and ‘Company Y’ has opened multiple offices in different names to avoid litigation. Sure enough, today when she checked the website for the institution which had sent her the E mails they were NOT there at all. The same product was now being offered by other companies!!!

Well, after her cancelling the order and returning the product, one fine evening she got a letter through the Courier. Mrs. Sen opened the couriered packet, it contained an envelop on which M/s L. S. was printed. Out came a shabby torn piece of paper in which a few lines were scribbled in a very bad hand in Hindi and it was unsigned. She was aghast to find that there was a ten rupee currency note and a one rupee coin inside the envelope. The sum and substance of the letter was that “She had sent them a one rupee coin”, which they were returning. If she wanted a replacement of the (defective) spy pen, she should contact on the cell numbers given!! It was so bizarre... probably the sellers were trying to persuade the apparently indomitable (though perfectly malleable) Mrs. Sen to take a replacement instead of refund; this Rs 11 was an oblique goodwill/shagun !!!

Thankfully, after Mrs. Sen sent this letter to her trusted daily, they assured her against the hoax and returned her money within the promised “14 working days”. However, Mrs. Sen had made a faux pas, that of venting all her woes and worries over this failed venture on her blog. The day she received the hoax letter and the one rupee coin she switched on her computer to find ANOTHER mail from those people in her mailbox:

“Dear And Respected Madam,

It is very disappointing that even when the order is cancelled and refunded to you, you are putting our matter in public and making a joke out of it.

We did the best possible to serve you, Yet you showed such action. Very disappointing.

Anyways. Please note for your kind information, we have several merchant names online. So rather claiming that L.S. is not on the net, Please note this firm name was never on any Internet site.

There are several merchant/store names are there of ourselves.

It was more surprising that rather than appreciating our commitment to serve upto your satisfaction, you made it displayed with "Ha Ha".

With regards”

Mrs. Sen never replied to the mail: it seemed an apt conclusion to the short discourse of expression, capitalism, and espionage that had filled her life such a short while ago (an amicable one at that!). Besides, she was finding it difficult to write back in their lingo: rudimentary and “chutneyfied” as it happened to be.

Mrs. Sen is still forgetful: her days are brimming with never-ending to-do lists: the evils of modernity I tell you. There is only one thing however which she now does not forget: the valuable lesson of “caveat emptor”.