Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Reliance Net Connect(?) - The joke of the century...

When I landed at the Kolkata airport, a welcome new message greeted my eyes. Apparently, Reliance Communications company (a part of the Anil Dhirubhai Ambani business empire) came up with a modem - in both USB and PCMCIA format for laptops - that can be used to wirelessly connect to the Internet for browsing. They called it Reliance NetConnect. I was overjoyed, because I though I would not have to rely upon the tired, old dial-up connection using the phone cord from the land-line phone at our house, as I had to during my previous visits.

So at the first opportunity, I reached the nearby Reliance Communications outlet, and purchased the modem and a connection, for a total of about three thousand rupees. The deal seemed reasonable; they said that I would have to pay one month's rental, and they would refund half the cost of the modem when I return it at the end of the month prior to my departure for the US. An obliging employee from the outlet came to my house, and installed the modem, and told me to restart my computer in about 15 minutes for everything to start working.

That was the beginning of the nightmare.

It did not work right from day 1. Either it would not get a signal, or it would not connect to the net at any speed, so that not a single webpage would actually load. In the next few days, I placed at least five calls to the customer service. Who knew that Reliance Communications had such an absolutely worthless, incompetent and downright rude customer service? One agent told me I was lying, that there was no problem at all. Four other agents that actually listened to my problem kept saying (1) there is a nation-wide problem with Reliance Data Network, which will be resolved soon, (2) there is a local problem with the signal from the tower, which will be resolved soon, and (3) would I kindly give it (variously) 15 minutes/1hr/two hours/1 day for them to resolve the issue. I had no choice, and I waited. One of the last agents opened a case with a number for my complaint. This was probably the worst customer service that I had ever received from a communications (allegedly?) company - they were rude, arrogant and clueless!

Nothing happened. Desperate at this point, I started haunting the outlet. Despite having purchased the modem and the service, I was still either spending money at local cyber-cafes, or trying to make do with the very-slow dial up from home, and the Reliance people were charging me rental for every single day for a non-functional equipment. The same individuals at the outlet who were politeness personified and all smiles when I had first purchased the equipment now started showing their real colors. They would either ignore me or talk rudely to me. Eventually, they contacted their systems engineer who scheduled a visit to my house.

Upon his arrival, he tinkered with my laptop, essentially repeating the same steps as I had already tried, but it did not work. He wanted me to have the modem sent to the service center. I took the modem to the outlet. After a lot of shuffling of feet and cross-checking with the systems engineer, they told me to leave the modem with them; not sure of their intentions, I asked them to give me in writing that they received the modem on that date for the purpose of testing the hardware. Finally, about three weeks after I had initially purchased the modem, they informed me that the modem was found to be faulty at their service center. They said that my only option was to take a replacement for the modem and use it.

By this time, I was fed up to the gills with their antics. So I decided to terminate the connection and return the equipment to them, asking for a refund. That opened an entirely different can of worms! They hemmed and hawed about how difficult it is to terminate a connection, they have to send in a termination request, but the actual termination is done on Reliance Communication's end, which may take any time up to two months. I stood behind them and breathed down their neck until they put in the termination request. Not having too many choices, they eventually refunded my most of my money, after taking out six hundred and fifty rupees as activation charge and first month's rental.

I saw it as cutting my loss. I took the reduced amount. And I am going to fight with Reliance for those six hundred and fifty of my bloody hard-earned rupees. I have kept photocopies of all the documents, even the stuff that the outlet gave me handwritten on their letterhead (which I insisted upon). Let's see where that goes. Frankly, even if it sounds clichéd, it is not the money, but the principle. I object to being fleeced in this manner.

Caveat emptor!!

Update: Ever since I returned to the US, my mom started receiving phone calls from Reliance about an unpaid monthy rental bill. I gave my mom the details of the case, and she took them to the outlet. Apparently, some arrangement has been reached at; I shall know more about it by Wednesday.


Who is designing (for) Kolkata?

On a recently concluded trip to the good, old Kolkata, I could not help but notice a few things – once I managed to set aside the inevitable deluge of nostalgia. First, there is a surfeit of cars on the streets, small cars, tall cars, large cars of all description, vying for space with three-wheelers, taxis, buses and lorries (all right, ‘trucks’ for my amigos Americanos), each determined not to concede an inch without a fight, random honkings and only the choicest abuses. The scenario is nothing new, but the sheer increase in quantum boggles the mind; not unexpectedly, therefore, every time you go out on the streets, the exposed areas of your body are slathered with a thick layer of grime, dust and dirt, and you come home bearing the evidence on the shirt collar and cuffs.

Secondly, there is an increase in young couples walking around everywhere holding hands – unheard of, even un-thought of, about 8-10 years back on Kolkata streets and parks and public places. Those intrepid few that dared would often be subjected to teasing and harassment from street-hoodlums and even policemen. I was glad to find that the overall level of sensitivity about young people in love has increased. Space, and consequently, privacy, is still at a premium, despite the availability of newly-built or renovated places such as parks and gardens, but at least, the young people are able to express their feelings and even engage in romantic overtures without the fear of undue interference and harassment.

But these are not what struck me most in the past couple of weeks. I was rather taken aback by the display of amazingly bad taste in clothing and apparels amongst the young Kolkata denizens of today. Who the heck is designing for Kolkata? The designs that I saw were atrocious, to say the least. I have never been one of the fashionistas, but there is a limit to tolerance! The trousers were poorly cut, had strange boxy pockets and umpteen straps hanging at unseemly places; the kurtas, shirts and tee-shirts were strangely designed leaving aesthetics completely out of the picture. The color combinations were terrible, with no synchronization, no contrast, and certainly no sense. One foggy morning I saw a young woman wearing a two-size too tight mauve shirt with a bright turquoise cotton skirt with tassels that were creeping inside her sandals; it jarred my eyes, cutting through the pollution-induced haze. I saw cargo Khaki trousers with belled bottoms, completely nullifying the efficient and no-nonsense look that one expects from Khakis. I saw cheapo-looking jeans with a color bleaching effect right on the butt, giving an impression that the wearer had been spanked with a paddle at exactly the same place repeatedly for several days. I saw reed-thin young men wearing XL-sized androgynous collarless, button-less, short kurtas of mind-numbing colors and designs. Who will tell the young women of Kolkata that if you must wear low-riders that put your underwear on display every time you sit down somewhere or straddle a motorbike, you need to wear classy, visually-appealing underwear as well? Young people are wearing dresses with an absolute disregard for appropriate body shapes and sizes, whereby ocular pain-inducing visuals, such as muffin tops, spare tyres, chicken legs and so forth, abound. The appalling apparels were neither Eastern, nor Western; there was no rebellion, no statement, and indeed, no rationality.

Who are the addled-brain idiots that are tailoring for this crowd?

Labels: ,