ntIn countries like India, the consumer movement is not strong. Companies often lack consumer orientation and shops, hotels, and restaurants often provide poor service, refuse to take back damaged goods or are generally indifferent to the consumer. The following is an excerpt from an article in The Hindu which has an interesting take on the psyche of the average Indian consumer. I find that it aptly describes his state of mind:

“An average Indian consumer is noted for his patience and tolerance. Perhaps because of these two traditional traits and due to the influence of the Mahabharata, the Ramayana and the Bhagavad Gita, he considers the receipt of defective goods and services as an act of fate or unfavourable planetary position in his horoscope. When a new television or refrigerator purchased by him turns out to be defective from day one, he takes it reticently, blaming it on his fate or as the consequence of the wrongs committed by him in his previous birth. Very often he is exploited, put to avoidable inconveniences and suffers financial loss. It is rather paradoxical that the customer is advertised as the “king” by the seller and service provider; but in actual practice treated as a slave or servant. Goods are purchased by him along with the label: Items once sold will not be taken back.”

products_1_1.JPGSo how can blogs help the consumer?
As blogs become more popular, more and more bloggers will talk about their personal experiences on their blogs.  Another consumer will be able to read more about other people’s grievances, even if he is a homebody. And perhaps gather enough courage to complain when he realises that there are others who have the same problem.  
If the complaint is a minor one, like say colour running off a shirt, most likely that a consumer will grin and bear it. At the most he might try to get his shirt exchanged, but it is equally likely that he will be ignored. My personal experience is that companies think: Who can this person tell? Is he going to stand outside the shop and warn customers not to enter the shop? Most people will not. However now the consumer has a weapon: He can blog. If he is a small blogger he may not get attention…but at least a handful of people will read his story. That can be a source of satisfaction. And the collective voice of bloggers can be very strong indeed.
Some experiences
I had a poor experience at an eating joint recently and complaining had no effect. I knew that no newspaper would be interested in publishing a letter about as trivial a matter as this. But I was really annoyed and so decided to blog about it.
I remember some years ago while I was living in Bangalore, a friend went for a trip down south and spent a few days at a well-known five-star hotel. She said she saw something shocking…after she and her husband had checked out she returned to the room to pick up something she had forgotten. She saw a cleaning lady wiping an used glass with a used pillowcase and putting it back inside a ‘sterilized’ plastic pouch! When she came back to Bangalore she wrote a letter to a mainline newspaper about this incident…but it was never published. Probably the newspaper thought she was making it up!
I remember a time when I bought two packets of burnt and blackened digestive biscuits from Britannia Industries. I complained, the salesman came, was sympathetic, took the two packets of biscuits away with him…and I never heard from him again. My husband admonished me for giving him the defective biscuits…he said now the company will not bother. And he was right. When I called again, the salesman never came on the line even though the company had not bothered to replace those two biscuit packets! It would have cost the company nothing…just about Rs 25/-.
These are minor incidents which few people will want to take forward to the courts. But at the same time they may wish to spread the word. Blogging is one way.
Looking forward to a thriving blogosphere
I hope that the number of bloggers, specially Indian, keep growing. This will help not just the consumer movement, but also help expose those who cheat and lie. Our system is not yet strong enough to net the cheats and liars in the government and unless these cheats and liars are exposed our country cannot move forward at the pace we want it to. And unless we get reduce the corruption, we will not get the respect from the world that we want so badly. Blogging will help expose them…shame them.
All you bloggers who fight for truth, justice and an equal society, may your tribe increase…for collectively we shall win.