Monday, August 19, 2013


My favorite shopping experience in India is at a store called Hypercity. It is a combination of Walmart and Safeway. The chain of stores originated in Bombay, there is one in Ahmedabad in Alpha Mall, the city's best mall.

I appreciate that Hypercity is spotlessly neat-and-clean, it has great selection of items, the store is arranged with space and planning, and is affordable. Lots of food items including organic, fresh produce, good quality household items and electronics, all at reasonable prices. But what I love most about Hypercity is that it has friendly and helpful staff. In India the concept of customer service basically doesn't exist yet. So it is a pleasant and welcome surprise to see that people at Hypercity actually want to do a good job and care about satisfying the customer.

Recently I purchased some furniture from Hypercity: two beds and two wardrobes. I had to pay by check, which I carefully wrote out and handed to the salesman. He went to bring me the bill but came back saying I had written Hypercity Ltd. as the payee, instead of Hypercity India Ltd., so the check could not be processed. Unfortunately this was my last check. The salesman acknowledged it was his mistake. That was a big step. Then he tried to figure out a solution, another big step. The store was far away, it wasn't easy for me to just come over the next day with a payment. We decided that I would go to the bank and get a new check the next day, and they would send someone to my office to pick it up. Meanwhile they would hold on to the items I ordered and not give them away. I thought this was risky, because it would be typical for something in this plan to go wrong. Either they wouldn't show up to get the check, or the items would disappear. But I had no choice.

So next day I get the check ready and sure enough a Hypercity boy comes to my office and picks it up. The next day I get a call from Hypercity saying the check didn't clear; my account had insufficient funds. It turned out that my bank had issued me new checks for the wrong bank account. This is a typical move by my bank, but the nightmare of personal banking in India is the subject of a whole other series of expose blog posts. I told Hypercity I'd have to go back to the bank and get the right checks, and they would have to send someone again. This time I apologized, and the sales guy (who was the same contact from the beginning so I wasn't stuck having to explain the situation to ten different guys) understood and said it was fine. At the end of the day he still felt bad that all of this happened because he botched the payee name for the original check.

Next day the I get the check and again the pickup happens by Hypercity. Later that day I get another call from Hypercity saying there is now another problem. Uh oh, I thought. I knew this was going to happened. No way so many steps were going to be taken without a setback that collapsed the whole house. Either my items were gone or the check had another issue or some other issue.

The salesman said problem was that the price of one of my items had changed since I was first in the store. When he said that I felt the frustration rising. There it is! Now these guys are going to use this disastrous situation which was their own doing to gouge me for more money. But what the salesman said next totally shocked me and took my breath away. The price of the item had gone down and that my new total was less than the original. He just called to ask whether I wouldn't mind taking the difference as store credit. The only catch was I'd have to go into the store to personally claim the credit.

This floored me. Never in all my years in India had such a thing happened. Hypercity was going out of their way to give me a discount! The guy didn't have to do it. How would I have ever known that the price had dropped? He could easily have pocketed the difference through some corruption in their transaction system. And after all that we went through, all the extra work and effort on both sides to finish this transaction, he may have even considered it justified.

But instead they made a customer into a loyal customer. I couldn't have been more thrilled. Later when I went to the store to spend my credit, I bought some chocolate for all of the sales team, many of whom knew me and helped make my final outcome happen. They were reluctant and humble, and very appreciative. Many of them now know me by name and I know them, and we greet each other with a smile when I'm back at the store.

There is hope for customer service to exist in India. Hypercity is a beacon of that bright future.

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