Pratik Basu is a prolific and published author who has worn several caps; cook, housekeeper, animal lover, cigar afficionado and most recently, CEO Buena Vista
Television and FTV
Happy to Help!
Unlike a David who with just a slingshot, cleverly disguised audaciousness and the element of surprise brought an oversized, overconfident and, possibly, out-of-match-practice Goliath to his knees, I always tend to come away second-best – defeated, diddled and devastated – when I have to deal with the faceless behemoths – Goliaths in their own right – that pass for customer service centres in this modern but certainly less than Utopian world.
To start with, the helpline number blazoned across my cash memo is usually not the one that is active, if the definition of ‘active’ is to be greeted by a robotic voice trying – and failing miserably – to be warm and hospitable and to be put on a perennial hold during which I am informed, with metronomic regularity and in-between repeated snatches of a remarkably tuneless jingle, that my call is important to them, whoever they might be, and I should hang on till a customer service representative gets to me even if that means my giving up whatever else I was planning to do for the rest of the day, like meet my editor’s deadline for this article, which I’ve missed twice already.
After an opening salvo that might have deterred a lesser opponent, which I am not, the robot changes tack and asks me to touch 1 for English, 2 for Hindi, 3 for Bengali, 4 for Tamil, 5 for Telegu and so on till it’s 9 to hear the menu all over again, which it inevitably is since, by then, I’ve forgotten the sequence of language options, although I needn’t have bothered to remember. Irrespective of the number I touch, the language is always Hindi, which I have no problem with except why was so much effort and time wasted to make me believe I actually had a choice when I really didn’t have any?
The first couple of times this happened, when my choice of English was ignored and I was recognised by a mispronounced and almost unrecognizable version of my name in a guttural Hindi that no doubt emanated from some faraway office in Noida, Uttar Pradesh, where real estate is significantly cheaper than it is in Delhi, I demanded that I be spoken to in the language I had opted for. I soon realized that was a mistake because it only tended to prolong my agony, the English on offer, when it was at all recognized, requiring constant interpretation and frequent translation into Hindi, which meant that I was wasting twice the time I would have if I had pressed 2 in the first place (or any number for that matter because, as I was soon to discover, all roads lead to the same destination).
Having reached someone who by the sound of it, although there’s no empirical evidence to confirm it beyond all reasonable doubt, is not a robot, and overcoming my initial discomfort at the way he pronounces my name and the time he takes to list my address because Bengali street names and Kolkata’s geography are as alien to him as would be Norwegian ones to me, I finally get to report the problem I am facing. Even before I have quite finished, he regrets the inconvenience I have been caused and puts me back on hold while he retrieves my case, as if I were some repeat offender, which in his book I might well have been for having deigned to complain at all.
Patience frayed at the edges, teeth on edge, brain riddled with sales messages and tuneless jingles, I am nearing the end of my tether when he returns to inform me, with grating ebullience, that my problem requires a site visit that he would organize if I reconfirmed my address and cared to wait a while longer and was there anything else he could assist me with because he was so happy to help?
“Have a good day!”