India – Getting Stuff Repaired

A few days ago, one of my friends passed on a post from the blog of Shekhar Kapur, the well-known film director/ producer. It was an amazing tale of how a youngster in a hole-in-the-wall store in Mumbai fixed his Blackberry. The trackball had stopped tracking. Not only did they replace the trackball, they told him what went wrong. Quoting from the blog: “You should wash your hands. Many customers have same problem. Roller ball get greasy and dirty, then no working.”

Then they advised Mr Kapur to back up his phone numbers.  “You have more than thousand phone numbers?… Must back up. I do it for you. Never open phone before backing up.”

The whole thing took six minutes and cost Rs500. That’s $10.

###

And then there’s the counterpoint… another friend told me about getting his washing machine repaired. Here (slightly edited) is his experience:

My washing machine needed repair. Could I get a mechanic by 10 a.m?
“Too early,” declared the woman on the other end of the line. “Before 10 a.m., impossible.”
“11am? Before 11am?” I said.
“11 to 12noon okay,” she replied.

At 9.15 a.m., the repairman slips a note under my door:  ‘We missed an opportunity to serve you.’ Then he calls my mobile phone. I tell him I’m right there.  Fifteen minutes later, he appears.

“Your fridge not working?” he asks.
Huh what? “Did they tell you it was a fridge?”
“No, washing machine,” he says.
“Yes,”  I say, “Washing machine.”
He inspects the appliance. “How old?”
“About eight years,” I tell him.
“Annual Maintenance Contract?”
“No.”
“Where is the trolley?”
Another “huh?” moment. “What trolley?” I ask.
He tells me placing the machine on a trolley makes it easier to move. Should he get me one?

“First attend to the fault,” I say. We’ll talk trolleys later, if at all.
“What is the fault?”
“The level sensor isn’t working. What have they told you?”
I’ve gone through this with the lady on the phone. On the company’s internet form, I’d written LEVEL SENSOR NOT WORKING.
“Inlet pipe,” he says.

He notices water leaking from the drum. “Something is leaking,” he says.
Sure. The tube from drum to sensor has come out; the drum nozzle is leaking; the tube is dangling at the side. He removes the sensor and the tube from other end as well.

“The sensor is not working,” he says. His assistant is dispatched to fetch a replacement sensor from their scooter-van, parked outside the building gates. He attaches the electronics signal wires to this replacement sensor. Nothing happens. He takes out an impressive digital multimeter and fiddles with the probes and connector. The readout shows 040 — 050 — 003… “No voltage, will have to replace Panel,” he says.

“How much will it cost?”
“The panel may not be available, very old, may have to replace complete electronics.”
“But if the panel is available? How much?”

It’s  Rs2,000 for panel, Rs500 for sensor and Rs 350 for the visit. I don’t intend to spend more than Rs500 on this old machine. “How about testing the old sensor?”

He connects the tube at both ends, but it’s not holding. “Chop off a little at the end,” I suggest.

He says the tube’s  too short. Bad design. He returns that evening with an oversize tube. I tell him it will not be pressure-tight. He fixes it anyway. It slips on too easily at both ends.  “Will not work,”  I say.

He insists it will. He lavishly applies Feviglue. It works the first time.

But only the first time. Not the second, nor the third.  He wins. I sign, pay Rs 350 for service, Rs 20 for tube. “Should I get you the trolley?” he asks as he leaves.

I ring up the repair firm again. The lady at the other end puts me into a conference call with the mechanic, who tells us the correct diameter tube isn’t available.

“It is,” I tell them. I’ve bought one, a spare for a different brand of washing machine.

Size does matter.

The next day, another mechanic arrives. All I need is for him to fix the tube I’ve purchased.

“Annual Maintenance Contract?” he asks.
No, I tell him. Thankfully he does not mention the fridge or a trolley. Instead, he tries to push a maintenance contract.

“First attend to the fault,” I tell him…

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About webmaster

I'm an international Business Consultant; author of a book called India Business Checklists, and working on a book on doing business in Burma.
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