Business without ethics

The writer laments the poor work ethics that are predominant in tourist towns

We live in the mountains. When we moved here from a large city, our expectation was that whilst we may not have all the creature comforts that one is used to in the city by way of an app, given the smallness of the place, we should be able to purchase whatever we needed for our daily life by simply walking to the neighborhood market. Pretty soon we realised that every single vendor was cheating us. And since, my partner, Dominique is French, and doesn’t speak chaste English either, it was a carte-blanche invitation to loot us. One day I decided to get into the act. Dominique was about to pay our regular vegetable vendor `900 for the vegetables he had just picked up when I asked him to give me prices, item-wise. His face fell. The total came to `375! When I asked him why he quoted 900 bucks, his sheepish reply in Hindi was: I’m illiterate no? I threw him out of the house and made sure all the neighbors heard about him. That was the last time he came into our lane.

So we decided to go back to good old ecommerce on the assumption that we won’t be cheated. Whilst we didn’t get robbed in terms of prices, we were short-delivered every single time! And always high value items like 5 kg cooking oil. If you called the call center complaining about an item not delivered but billed, the standard answer was that the delivery boy is saying he has delivered. Once the customer care person thought she was being very helpful when she suggested that perhaps our maid stole it!

We experienced this with practically every single ecommerce brand. Their teams entrusted with last mile service delivery are ridiculously unscrupulous. And this has taken many forms. I get messages from the delivery partner that the item could not be delivered as I was not available. And I know for a fact that the phone has always been within my reach and I have always been at the delivery address! With food delivery guys we have found that our parcels were tampered. Sometimes the app shows it has been picked up from the restaurant and is on its way but it never reached us.

Even our gas agency tried to dupe us by sending an old, used regulator. When I refused to take it, the guy said it will be a month before a new one is expected. I told him that I’d rather not cook at all till the new regulator is delivered. The new one came 3 days later. A month after that, its pin broke and gas started leaking. I went back to the agency and that’s when I discovered that the regulator against my name was not delivered at all (a fake had been given to me in its stead) and I overheard the staff saying that the guy must have sold it off at a premium!

We even experienced daylight robbery at one of the best hospitals here. We went in to the OPD to be treated for a simple infection, we ran away from the hospital when we were stuck with an estimate of 2 lakhs, told we needed surgery and may be even a skin graft, which of course would be additional!

In these eight months of living here, we have experienced the worst possible service from even the best of brands when it comes to fulfillment. I don’t know why nothing has been done to fix this because I’m pretty vocal in my feedback. I have lost more money in these eight months (and more of my hair has turned silver) than in all these years. This brings me to the most important question: why do tourist towns have such poor work ethic? The answer cannot be poor quality migrant labour because it is the same standard of migrant labour from the same states that are servicing other metros and large cities. I think in tourist towns, they assume everyone is a tourist so they don’t expect to see you again. Maybe that’s why they think they can cheat and get away with it. Or maybe it’s a matter of demographics. Retired people usually come to ‘settle’ in such mountain towns, either because it was once their ancestral home or because they want to live their empty-nester lives, far from the madding crowd. And may be these people accept poor work ethic as part of their retirement package. Because whenever I voice my angst to people who have been living here for a long time, I’m always told it is how it is in places like these!

And I kind of get that because even educated people here have shown how unscrupulous they are, especially when you’re an outsider. I’m one of those who value relationships more than money or transaction. I actually expected that people in smaller towns would value the same. But the greed and apathy are more palpable here than in larger cities, much to my chagrin.

One of the reasons why we decided to shut down our French restaurant after running it only for about 7 months is that the quality of manpower available for running it was simply abysmal. It caused so much stress to both of us that we were thoroughly disenchanted with the decision itself of moving here. So we decided to give up the ghost and focus on our passion for trekking and climbing.
Back to the age-old angsty question. Why we are Indians like this only?

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