I am among those early users of online shopping. My first
online merchandise purchase was made way back in 2002 at baazi.com which later went
onto become eBay.in. During this intervening eleven years, I had shopped with
various portals across the globe. With a smart phone in every other hand, ever
improving internet connectivity, coupled with vigorous advertising push, the online
shopping phenomenon had taken India by storm between end of 2013 and 2014.
I had procured a wide range of products online. From microwave
(2002), Digital camera (2003), handycam (2004), Books, Watches, camera
accessories, mobiles, kitchen accessories, bags, voltage stabilizers, etc. The
list goes on. Internationally I had used services of amazon.com, alibris.com,
aliexpress.com, etc. ordering items from
US, China and Hongkong. Fortunately all of them got delivered without any fuss
at Delhi. On domestic front, I had availed the services of bazee.com, ebay.in, tradus.in,
flipkart, snapdeal, amazon, infibeam, firstandsecond, myntra, yepme, jobong, printavenue,
zoomin, and few other standalone single vendor sites which I do not recall now.
Thus I had availed services across a wide gamut of e-commerce platform, from
the one selling a single specialised product to those selling almost everything.
Needless to say that I had come across an equally wide range of experiences to
share. This article is the first of two articles I had penned to share my
I was never worried about buying something online, until
recently. An incident that had changed my opinion about online shopping. I
would be wrong if I say there were no issues during the 2003-2010 period when I
had mostly traded through bazee and eBay. In fact, online shopping was looked
upon suspiciously by most because of cheap imitations sold online during those
days. However, both bazee and, later eBay, had a very strict customer
protection policy. At some point, a seller in ebay would automatically get
banned for 3 negative customer feedback. The system had changed somehow, yet
you see those pleading lines from seller requesting you to contact them directly
before leaving a negative feedback. As a customer I was always allowed
protection and all issues were resolved with prompt refund. I still vouch for eBay’s
time bound issue resolution policy. On two occasions in last 6 months eBay had
offered me refund with 150% of price I had paid within two days of lodging
complaint– once for defective product and once for part of the order missing. In these ten years, I also had come across
fraud site like booksorbit.com. They have a perfectly working website even
today with secured payment facility. However once you place an order, they
neither delivers, not respond to your mails and more importantly not reachable
over the phone mentioned in their website. Our laws are so lax that the site is
still online and God knows how many have fallen victims. I was rescued by my
credit card company from the booksorbit scam.
December 2013 saw something beyond the regular 10-20%
discount online, offered often on selected items only. For 3 days, the most
stupendous online sale ever happened in India, promoted by all major credit
cards. The discount was on final cart value, not on specific items. I remember
buying even wildcraft items on this sale at 20-30% discount. None of the sales
that followed offered even 10% discount of wildcraft goods. Before this sale,
Jobong used to deliver in less than 24hrs in Delhi. I kept receiving apologies
for delivery delay for items purchased during the sale and it took 7-10 days
for delivery of all items. Success of this event led to several such hyped
sales like GOSF, Black Friday sales, etc. in the last 12 months. It also
include the botched sale by Flipkart leading to issuing an official apology.
But nothing had matched that sale of Dec 2013.
If awareness creation was the objective, then these hyped sales
had achieved it. Diaspora now believes that things are available cheaper
online. Everyone now seems to be doing online shopping. The delivery boys
lugging a huge bag on back riding zipzap through city traffic are ubiquitous
these days. Scammers saw this as opportunity to make some quick bucks. They
setup shops on sites that do not have any customer protection policy. You can
be held responsible for not dispatching an item, but it will be tough on
customer to prove if a similar imitation is sent, or even a blank box.
Despite occasional smaller issues, my brush with online
purchases had generally good. My first real issue came with snapdeal in 2014. I
had ordered a camera lens – Tamron 90mm macro VC. The item has a MRP of 39K and
was available at snapdeal for about 32K, which is close to its street price.
For me the reason to buy online was payment by credit card with emi option. The
item was delivered 7 days after I had ordered. To my horror the item sent was
‘similar’ but not the exact item I had ordered. The product delivered was
Tamron 90mm macro non VC. Tamron has two different version of the leans – non
VC and VC where VC stands for Vibration Correction, similar to IS – Image
Stabilisation. These lenses have distinct product code and MRP of also
differs. The non VC version is priced
about 10K lower at 29K. SO I was delivered a product which costs about 24K in
market as against my payment of 32K. This is too big a ‘mistake’ someone
dealing with photo goods to make. It was a well-planned fraud. Fortunately the
bill. Which invariably was for the VC lens, also had serial no of product
mentioned for warranty. The product label on cartoon where this serial no is
printed clearly indicated the item code and item description as non VC version.
Even the MRP sticker substantiated the ‘mistake’. Without bothering to break the seal, I called up snapdeal
helpline. The lady on other side keep reiterating that I should not worry as
the purchase is covered under ‘protection’ and promptly sent me a mail asking
for photographs of items, bills, etc. Little did they realise that it was a
high value item of 30K plus value at that time. Without wasting time I sent
back images within couple of hours of receiving the mail. But that was it. I
had received a system generated acknowledgement. I had gone through such
experience once for a smaller value product. So I had kept proof of everything
– my communication, their mail, system generated acknowledgment, snapdeal
policy of dispute resolution, etc. There had been no response back from
sanpdeal even after couple of days. I kept calling them at helpline and I kept
getting information like your issue is being addressed, we have written to the
seller who is to respond back, etc. Finally I lost my patience on 7th
day and called my credit card company to lodge a complaint of fraud. They asked
for evidences to be submitted with dispute lodging form. As I had everything
ready with me, I did it promptly. But before submitting I wrote to snapdeal
once again informing them about the action I am initiating with my bank and
gave them 2 more days’ time to respond. Still snapdeal did not reply. Thus on the
10th day, I lodged a formal dispute with bank submitting all proof of
communication. Bank was satisfied with my proof and reversed the charges on my
card. I could breathe easy now. I got my money back.
2 days after that snapdeal awoke from its slumber. It was the
12th day since deliver and my reporting of incident. Some idiot from
their Okhla office called me up and said that they had asked the seller about
the dispute and he had confirmed that he sent the correct item. I lost my cool
and gave him a piece of my mind. It was quite evident that they did not bother
to look at the evidence submitted by in form of bill and images of packet, its
item code, etc. Customer bought an
orange, the seller sends him a lemon; customer lodges complaint with evidence
of lemon being delivered, they ask the seller again; he says he had sent an
orange, and you as customer care relay it back to the customer! Then I told him
that I had already got my money back. This is your item lying with me which you
can get picked at your leisure. 3 days after that it was picked up as a 'reverse
pick up'. The pickup slip said ‘defective item'. My ordeal had come to an end.
Few days after this incident I came across another
photographer friend from Mumbai who had exactly the same issue, and with the same
product. I asked him if he bought on snapdeal? He said yes. So we both were
victims of a well-planned con, on the same portal and apparently by the same
seller. Unfortunately, snapdeal never bothered to apologise to us, forget about
taking some action against the seller. Little do they understand that these
sellers are ruining their reputation.
This problem is unique to snapdeal. Few weeks later, one of
my friends shared a youtube video in facebook. He had ordered a pendirve from
Flipkart. When he opened the box, there was nothing inside. When he called up,
Flipkart did not agree to his version. But as he wanted the item and it being a
low value product, he ordered again. Ditto same time. Empty inside. Flipkart
disagreed again. So he setup a trap. He ordered it a third time. This time on
COD. When the delivery boy came, he paid the money as you have to do for COD
orders, and recorded a video of opening the box in front of the delivery boy. Your
guess is right. It was empty again. And this time he had proof. I had no follow-up
of how Flipkart finally settled it. Another image I saw on a social networking
site is someone receiving a bar of soap instead of a mobile. But that was a
still image, hence veracity cannot be established.
But the bottom line is that fraud is happening across
several platform which allow independent sellers to set up online shops. This
has seriously dented customer confidence. I have stayed away from snapdeal
since the incident. There had been sporadic incidences of local traders in
second tier cities holding protests over proliferation of online commerce. Such
protest with vested interest is not going to rollback e-commerce. Whether you
like it or not, e-commerce is going to stay here for the convenience, choice
and savings it offers. It is like the supermarkets that has become part of our
life because they sells almost everything below MRP. What is going to hold back
e-commerce’s further progress is the failure to stem the rot within. Once
bitten twice shy. And with social
network fuelling, a duped customer will spread his message to thousand others. I
do not agree with the point of view of banishing online commerce so that customer’s
continue to buy items on bloated MRP at a local shop, that is part of a longer
than required supply chain, that add to the cost to the customer. However, the
idea of a legislation is welcomed. Besides regulating the business, this should
seek also protect customers from these frauds. Not only that customer gets back
his money instantly, but also the portal should get penalised. In turn they
will pass on the penalty to the seller which will eventually discourage them.
Right now, the fraud sellers are having a free run without any fear of crackdown.
Most sites do not require a seller to register with a PAN or TAN no, which will
establish their identities with a verifiable address. Are they carrying out
checks on sellers? Did they forget the incidence where eBay India chief landed
in jail for someone selling porn though his portal?
If any of these e-commerce portal comes up with such a
system where they can claim that all their sellers are verified, and they offer
a time bound dispute resolution process, and also provide feedback to the buyer
in case of a proven fraud, then everyone will be happy to pay a premium for
their services. As such a utopic situation is unlikely and a legislation is a
distant shoot, a customer should trade cautiously as you do not know when you
will slip and found yourself staring at an abyss. You will cry for help,
expecting succour from the portal to pull you out of the mess, but it may never
come. Till that time, safe online shopping in India is likely to remain limited
to only cloths and shoes, and may be books. Till that time, think twice before
ordering anything above couple of thousands rupees.
Labels: Internet, online shopping
posted by Rupankar Mahanta at 10:11 PM
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I have been using NH2 via Faridabad to Mathura for going to
Bharatpur over the years. NH2 is too overcowded now and is a painful experience to travel by this route. Now that a second option of Yamuna Expressway had
come up, I decided to explore this route on this year’s first trip to Bharatpur.
Therefore I am sharing this route guide from Delhi to Bharatpur via the Taj /
The first toll gate on expressway is at Jawar. You can pay toll upto Mathura at this gate itself. Total toll upto Mathura as on Feb, 2015 was Rs.230/-.
Shortly after crossing the Mathura toll booth, you will get the exit for
Vrindavan. Do not exit by this. About a couple of km ahead is the Exit no. 8
for Mathura. Exit here and you will be on SH33. One end goes to Hathras and the
other to Mathura. Turn left for Mathura. Road sign exists. Follow the road.
After some time you will get a railway line on your right along the road. Keep
moving straight till you reach a crowded junction with a police point
/barricade. This is a market. Do not turn left. Left goes to Gokul. Keep moving
straight till you cross the Yamuna via a narrow bridge. Barricade was
apparently for preventing heavy vehicles from getting onto the narrow bridge.
|Sarus crane pair is mating display at Bharatpur|
After crossing the bridge, you will reach a T point. Turn
left. You will drive through a narrow road in a market. En-route you will get a
near 90 degree bend. Follow the road till you reach another T junction. Turn
left here. This is Agra road. Drive till Yodha circle. I found a good overhead
road sign just before the circle. There is a big bust of a soldier at the
centre of the rounabout. This is Mathura cantt area. Take the near U turn around
the circle. After about five hundred meters, when the cantonment campus ends,
turn left at the first lane. You will get to see a school as you turn on right
hand side. There exists only a small sign here. Straight goes into Mathura
Now follow the road and keep moving straight. Avoid a road
named as Yodha Marg en-route that veers off the main road towards left. Stick
to the main road. You will get another narrow market area of about half km.
Continue through the market. You will get a railway crossing. This road is a
single road with decent traffic. It will finally connect the NH2. At the very
point it connects NH2 there is an opening to cross over to the other side.
Cross the NH2 and drive towards Delhi by going onto the flyover. The road to
Bharatpur (SH33) starts exactly at the middle of the flyover on this side. If
you come from Delhi via NH-2, then also you need to cross this flyover and take
a U turn at this point.
From there on Bharatpur is 34km. This is a single carriage
way road and is in fair condition. You will have to manoeuvre many terrible
spread breakers on this road. Therefore do not dive very fast. Closer to
Bharatpur, when you enter Rajasthan, the road it is in good condition. Almost
on reaching Bharatpur, you will find a road sign telling you to go straight to
Bharatpur and turn right to Jaipur. Avoid going straight as the road is
temporarily closed due to construction of a flyover near railway station. Hence
turn right. After about a KM or so you will get a junction with an indicator to
turn left for Bharatpur. Avoid this left turn as this again goes to the closed
road at station. Instead go straight till you reach a T point and you see Vijay
Hospital on other side of T point. Turn left at this point onto the flyover.
After crossing the flyover, you will cross the railway line through an
underpass. About 50mtr from the underpass, there is a left turn for entering
city. Take this left turn to get into the city. As you come out of the
underpass, there is road sign indicating to go straight for Bharatpur and
Keoladeo Ghana. But all locals whom we had asked for direction advised us to
turn left as the road ahead is not in good shape.
After turning left, continue straight till you reach a T
point. Turn right. If you have been to Bharatpur earlier, then you will be
familiar from this point onwards. Else, check my old post for a road map
through Bharatpur to the Bird Sanctuary. You need to find your way to Bijli
Ghar circle. Turn left there to reach Saras Chowk on the Agra-Jaipur Highway.
Park is about 500 mtr from this point. All the hotels and guest houses are
For staying RTDC Saras is a decent option @1200 for non-AC
room. Rooms are OK, but service and food is very poor. However they have a huge
parking lot and we found that gates were locked after 10:30pm. Birder’s Inn is
the costliest @4200 with BF and Dinner. But it is the best property at
Bharatpur. Sunbird in next campus is also decent, but prices were at par with
Birder’s Inn. Therefore given choice to splurge, I would choose Birder’s Inn.
There are couple of Guest Houses on the road where RTDC Saras is located. One
can look to explore them as well. If you are there on weekdays, you should
bargain hard for good discount. Tariff of RTDC Saras is a guide for bargaining.
As a photographer, my favourite den is Iora Guset House. But this place always
stays booked. This is photographer’s den from all over India. Staying here you
not only get to interact with fellow photographers. But also get to know what
is happening in the park and where it is happening.
Labels: Bharatpur, delhi to bharatpur, Travel
posted by Rupankar Mahanta at 1:06 PM
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