Back after the holiday break and don’t feel like getting back to work? Is that why you are blog surfing? Don’t worry, it’s an all too-familiar feeling albeit until a few years ago; I don’t wake upto alarm clocks anymore.
So while you’re here, I might as well narrate an incident that happened two days back at the parlour. And I promise that would be not as boring as the title of this post is. Parlour - yes, the same place where newly married husbands don’t mind driving their wives to while they catch a movie in the multiplex and still have enough time before the beautified wife emerges out; with time, the chauffeuring comes down as the husband prefers lounging on the couch on Saturdays to catch a Formula 1 race or basketball game than you know what! My trips were always far and few in a year and never lasted more than 15 minutes. After all, how long does it take to pluck a few hairs off one’s eyebrows, right? I’m glad LG’s entry has not affected that part of my life yet and I still sneak in a quarterly trip for 15 minutes. The much-needed haircuts are an annual affair, perfectly timed so that mom doesn’t see the tresses cut too short and the husband doesn’t find it too long.
One of the days this week, yours truly paid the monthly visit (frequency increases as child grows) to the same parlor of which she has been a regular customer. Choosing one requires strategic thinking in many ways - one that is no more than 1 Km far from home so that you can dash back, one that is affordable, clean and finally, one where I witness no attitude. This newly opened place was close to home and very near to where I shop for groceries, so it worked fine for me until this week’s visit. For starters, the lady at the reception was rude from the moment I entered. And then what perhaps irked me the most was guys dashing in and out of the room for no reason. Hey, this is a woman’s parlor, if you plan to have guys inside then you’re going to lose people like me. There were guys who were chatting up the girls while they were at work - threading, waxing etc. And they had no good reason to be there. Conservative you may say, but I found it odd for a well-kept and much-advertised place such as this one. Initially, I had planned a haircut but canceled on grounds of an uncomfortable environment. The lady at the reception had stepped away for a chit-chat with another dude inside a cabin while I waited to pay and leave. She merely raised her eyebrows when I told her the reason for canceling my haircut as if I was some alien conservative from a nearby village. Whatever! She randomly chose to increase the price by 10% and refused to give a bill or an explanation. Merely, said they had started collecting taxes. Fair enough, I was aware of it as they did the last time too. Instead of Rs.20 it was Rs.22. This time around, she wanted Rs.28 without a bill. Rs. 6 is not a big deal to have an argument but anything unethical even if it is 1 Re. does warrant an explanation. She just shrugged, went in, and sent the change through a helper after 5 minutes when I lost my patience. Those 10 seconds of non-spoken conversation and actions were enough to lose a loyal customer.
For an upcoming place like this, it is not the price of service you are offering to a customer that matters, it is the amount of good name you garner. Heard of word-of-mouth marketing, anyone? This place spends a substantial of money on marketing through paper ads regularly. And this happens all the time even at the biggest retail stores that spends thousands of rupees on advertising and marketing. So now I’m on an hunt for another parlor and that’s giving me sleepless nights. Seriously, no kidding
If you reached this far, I admire your patience. Now, get back to work.
I’m getting a new laptop. Or so I thought until last Sunday. The status has changed to undecided now. There was a special offer going on for Gudi Padwa last week at all the electronic shops in the city. We shortlisted a few shops in our vicinity such as the House of Laptops, Laptech to compare the offers. Saturday morning after touring House of Laptop, we decided on buying the Acer 4520- AMD 64 Athlon TK-53/TK-55 -1.701.80 GHz, 2x 256 KB L2 cache, 1GB RAM, 160 GB hard disk drive. It was priced at Rs.26,499 and some other goodies were part of it such as a 4 GB pen drive, optical mouse and headphones. They said it would take 3-4 days to deliver and that paying by debit/credit card would mean 1.5% more. Our request for installing Win XP was also turned down. It came with Linux. I wasn’t impressed with their customer service - we were made to wait a good 15 minutes while the sales person Abhishek went over to his manager to educate himself on the pricing by looking at the ad that had appeared in the newspaper that morning. Didn’t someone tell them to do their homework or the ABCs of customer service? I may not be a high end customer for them who orders a Sony Vaio CR 35 or one of those fancy Rs.99,999 laptops but that doesn’t make me any less as a customer. If you can’t respect what you get, then no amount of aspiring what you want will get you that.
We returned home having made up our mind to buy the Acer 4520. Next day, our call to inquire if they would be able to deliver the same day (Sunday being a weekend) was at first not entertained and later answered rudely. We learned from a friend who was in the shop at the time that there were riots to get in. Anyways, so I later checked out Laptech and their proprietor Parmesh offered the same at Rs.28,000 with a 2GB RAM and some other goodies. I didn’t have to negotiate. My requirements were simple - a place that had good customer service, was near by and a basic configuration such as this one that I can lug around the house to browse and trade. that fit the bill of under Rs.35,000. That’s it - no movies, no games, no heavy duty programming. Another friend who was interested to went to Laptech and booked a Acer 5920 for himself and a Acer 4520 for us. This guy had agreed to installing XP too. So it worked fine and we were asked to pick it up at 7:00 p.m. the same day.
We called up two times - once at 5:00 p.m. and once more before leaving at 6:30 p.m. and both the time we were assured it was ready. The reality was shocking - literally 50 people in a small 20*15 showroom all promised the same and had been waiting for over 2 hours. We left telling him we’ll get it the following day. Monday was even worse. Eventually we canceled the order.
This is characteristic of every customer service and business in India. Time is just a random figure that shoots out of one’s mouth. One cannot hold anyone against it. There is no fear of commitment. 15 minutes can stretch anywhere from 2 hours at the minimum to days and sometimes never. If you want something done, the onus is upon you to keep following up until
you feel you really don’t need the damn thing. In yet another incident that will be familiar to most of you, a gentleman from whom we hire taxi for long distance travels regularly assured me to get back on an inquiry by that evening. It took 3 days. Sometimes I just fail to understand what the problem is in just letting the other person know you don’t have an answer yet and when you do you’ll call them without setting a time that has no value. You don’t always need to have a “yes” or “no” to something. This is one thing that puts off Indians abroad to come back. No wonder IST is often joked to be Indian Stretchable Time.
There goes a saying “Never ask a man his salary and a woman her age”. With increasing number of women in the workforce today, the saying may not be applicable. But politeness demands we follow this.
Time for some reality check:
- Do you know the salary of your college friend who joined along with you as a fresher at the same level?
- 5 years later when you switched organizations, do you know the salary of your colleague sitting next to you?
- Do you know how much your boss makes?
- Any idea how much the CEO makes?
While the response to the first question could be an overwhelming “Yes”, I believe the number will come down gradually to almost nil for the subsequent questions. It is fair to assume that people guesstimate the packages of people at different levels of the organization ladder that fit an experience-skill set bracket or “band” of job titles.
This school of thought –“Why secret salaries are a baaaaaad idea” on The Chief Happiness Officer blog - prompted me to write this post.
Alexander argues the case against secret salaries as –
- It frustrates employees because any unfairness (real or perceived) can’t be addressed directly.
- They’re not secret anyway. People talk, you know.
- It perpetuates unfair salaries which is bad for people and for the organization
He argues the case for open salaries as –
Making salaries public (inside the company of course) has some major advantages:
- Salaries will become more fair. The system gets a chance to adjust itself.
- It will be easier to retain the best employees because they’re more likely to feel they’re getting a fair salary.
- The pressure is on the people with the high salaries to earn their keep. Everybody has to pull their weight - the higher the salary, the larger the weight.
I believe in the policy that salaries should be kept confidential because —
- Avoid chaos: In an organization like mine that employs over 30,000 people, you would like the HR to perform other functions effectively rather than resolving conflicts that arise because of salaries known to everyone. You don’t have a choice to ignore because it is official. Cases such as “They’re not secret anyway. People talk, you know”, employees wouldn’t have substantial proof to question because it is hearsay! There are many instances where people inflate and announce their salaries to boost their egos.
- Respect Privacy: Just as the date of birth of a person is confidential known only to the HR folks, compensation and benefits is something that you have earned (by hook or crook) and should be respected. By allowing someone to question, you are basically allowing the person to question the decision making capabilities of all involved in the recruitment process – the interviewer, the HR manager, the candidate for his proficiencies and negotiation skills.
- Fairness does not mean openness: Fairness does not necessarily imply openness. Organizations make policies and stick to them if they have to run efficiently and smoothly in the long run. Salaries cannot generally be prejudiced or subjective drastically. They don’t give a person $10,000 more in his/her package because he/she looked hot or was well behaved. Sure, that would have had an influence but the scope of variation would be a small percentage. To allow for this is why salary brackets are created. This takes care of human judgement errors if any. Fairness does exist to an extent as employees in many organization do know what the salary bracket for the various designations.
- Are appraisals and salaries the same? While most people would agree with me that performance appraisals should be made public within a company, I don’t think the same can be extended to salaries. Just as your client contacts or list of customers is confidential information, so are salaries.
Would you like an openness that leads to more distrust and an environment where the camaraderie between employees is lost? Would you like to be in a workplace where you are constantly judged by yoru subordinates and peers if you justify your salary? Is this productive?
E-mail me your opinion on this –should a open book policy be followed or should it kept secret?