Online Shopping Is On The Rise; When Will Customer Care Catch Up?

When Ashish Saraf, a freelance writer, ordered a piece of furniture off Paytm, he was in for a surprise.

Upon purchasing a storage cabinet, worth Rs 5,410, from a Paytm merchant named Housefull, Saraf was assured a cashback amount of Rs 1,600 (approx). However, things began to go downhill after Saraf failed to receive his cashback amount, 24 hours after the item was shipped on 27 February.

‘Please Hold The Line’

When he contacted Paytm, they directed him to the customer care executives at Housefull. Saraf alleges that the Housefull executives appeared to be unaware of the issue, and did nothing to resolve it.

Several phonecalls and frustrated tweets later, his money was credited on 3 March.

Also Read: Your Paytm Wallet Money Is Not Safe

Saraf’s problems didn’t end there. The product had been delivered but it came without the “free installation” that was promised.

Also Read: Shopping Online: Tech-Savvy Millennials Prefer to Pay Via PayPal

The inconsistencies in the product description were still on the site when this story was filed. (Photo Courtesy: Paytm.com)

The brief description of the product rules out a free installation. However, a closer look at the detailed description of the cabinet throws up a contradictory claim:

The inconsistencies in the product description were still on the site when this story was filed. (Photo Courtesy: Paytm.com)

Housefull Responds

Saraf alleged when he took up this issue with the merchant, Akshay Chaturvedi, the CEO of Housefull, told him off by saying: “Don’t give me this s#%t just because you are a customer”.

In a phone conversation with The Quint, Chaturvedi admitted to making the comment. However, he added that he had been “provoked and threatened” by Saraf.

Instructions got mixed up and there was a mismatch of information (on the website). There is a problem from my end but he (Ashish Saraf) should have validated it.

He said that an additional 10 percent (about Rs 250) of the cost of the product would be refunded to Saraf to make up for the confusion over its assembly. Chaturvedi added that the refund was initiated immediately after he was intimated about the issue.

When Flipkart Delivered Mangoes Instead of a Phone

Ashish Saraf’s story is a familiar one. This is not the first time that an online shopper has accused an e-commerce platform of failing sub-standard service. In 2014, a social media user alleged that Snapdeal delivered a bar of soap instead of a Samsung phone. (Source: Firstpost)

Flipkart was slapped with a Rs 10,000 fine in 2015 for delivering a gaming chip instead of a console (Source: Hindustan Times). The platform also drew flak after it allegedly delivered mangoes instead of an Asus phone, and rocks instead of laptops (Source: Deccan Chronicle).

Social Media To The Rescue

Platforms like Complaint Board and Consumer Complaints allow consumers to share their dissatisfaction with their online shopping experience. Social media has proved to be yet another such avenue, as it enables consumers to directly contact company officials.

In Ashish Saraf’s case, both Akshay Chaturvedi and Vijay Shekar Sharma, the CEOs of Housefull and Paytm, respectively, responded to him on Twitter.

Who Is To Blame For Shoddy Service?

Despite the number of e-retail horror stories, India has seen a rise in online shoppers. The third Annual Global Cross-Border Consumer Research 2016 report estimates that cross-border online spending by Indian shoppers will grow by 85 percent in 2017.

Indian online shoppers spent an estimated total of Rs. 58,370 crore on cross-border shopping in 2016... Total online spends, inclusive of domestic and cross-border shopping, is projected to reach Rs 8,75,600 crore in 2018.

Online retail is on a rise, but the glaring gaps in grievance redressal remain. The numerous stories of unsatisfactory service are proof. Is this a sign of the unwillingness on the part of e-retailers to provide the quality service they promise? Or does this indicate a complacency on the part of the Indian customer to settle for less?