I’ve written time again about how safe Bangalore is with respect to petty crime compared to my former home in Spain. In Barcelona, all women adopt a certain way of holding their handbag to ensure no pickpocket attacks or from thieves who cut bag straps and run off with the whole bag. We always lock the door to our car and flat because if not chances are high that we would probably be robbed. Period. It’s pretty bad, actually, and only getting worse as time goes on.
Since moving to Bangalore, I’ve really had such wonderful luck and have honestly been so impressed with how safe the city is…at least in my little microcosm. I love that I never worry about my belongings. I can go to a restaurant with Eduardo (that’s the name of my laptop when we are alone on a dinner date together) and leave him and my handbag at the table if I need to go to the restroom. At hotels and restaurants, I leave my handbag and mobile phone at the table when I go to ‘plate up’ at Sunday brunch. And I can leave my things out in the open in the car as I run into a shop or to pick up take-out food. In Barcelona, however, none of those things would be possible.
But the bubble I have been living in has popped a bit. Now I see that it’s not pickpockets or burglars that I have to keep an eye out for but the cashiers at shops and establishments where I’m actually a regular customer. In the past one month I have been prey for two different cashiers trying to score a bit of extra pocket-money at my expense. Well, not really trying because one of them actually scored my cash sadly. And now I’m cheesed off!
Cashier #1: My favourite food store in Frazer Town
So, I’m not actually going to name the store because it is the only place in town that employs a guy who knows how to filet my fish the way I like it (in two long filet steaks instead of sliced as it is preferred here) so I don’t want to make it uncomfortable for myself there. I also appreciated the way that management handled me and my complaint.
I’ve been going to this shop for about 11 months now so you can imagine that I’ve stood in queue and paid for groceries dozens upon dozens of times. I’ve seen what happens when the barcode does and doesn’t work on a product. I’m not an idiot and not a first-time visitor to the store. But apparently the girl who attended to me either had never seen me before or I had some big red bullseye painted on my dumb blonde forehead and she had me in her scopes. I was her prey.
My daughter and I had an over-flowing basket and were in queue to pay. When our turn came I heaved the basket up to the cashier’s counter, pulled out my eco-friendly carrier bag and said hello. The girl started ringing up everything from noodles to green beans and when her hand grabbed a shampoo bottle she attempted to scan it but it didn’t register. She sat the bottle aside and told me that we would have to pay for the shampoo separately in cash after everything else was rang up and paid for because the barcode wasn’t working. I told her No, that I wasn’t going to do that, and to please type in the barcode into the software. She said, “no madam, it won’t work, you must pay in cash after.”
At that point I realised what she was doing because I’ve seen what the cashiers do when the barcode doesn’t register in the system so many times. Hell, I probably could have gone back there and done it myself for her. So I asked to see her manager immediately. And that fixed the problem. She miraculously remembered how to manually enter product information. Hooray!
Later that day I decided not to let it go so I called the store and spoke to the manager who appreciated my call. He was quite concerned and apologised and diligently requested the information from my receipt.
Cashier #2: Au Bon Pain in downtown Bangalore
UPDATE 30-April: I was contacted by the Au Bon Pain Marketing Manager, first by mail and then she called. She showed concern for the EVENT that transpired, not the fact that I wrote a blog post about it, which I respect beyond words. Here is their message: Dear Angela, We deeply regret this incident and would like to thank you for bringing this to our notice. We would like to know more about this incident (location, date of visit) and would really appreciate an opportunity to discuss this with you. Request you to please share your contact number with us. This is a very serious incident and we would really want to look into this. Sincerely, C. S., Marketing Manager, Au Bon Pain India
I struggled with whether to name the exact location because I am not happy with how management handled me or the situation but at the end of the day this particular event is also my fault so I have decided not to.
Since September 2011, I stop at this particular Au Bon Pain on average of 2-4 times per week for lunch because it is just around the corner from work. The staff there knows me and are always very friendly.
This week I stopped in for “the usual” which is a Hawaiian chicken salad, chocolate muffin and a bottle of water. I paid for my order, placed the change immediately back in my wallet, packed my goodies into my eco-friendly Au Bon Pain reusable bag and headed back to work. It wasn’t until I went to buy dinner on my way home that I realized that I had only been given change for Rs. 500, even though I gave them Rs. 1,000. I know this because I had just been to the bank and only had Rs. 1,000 notes on me, my wallet was empty before that. The change was half folded with the receipt around it still, so after I paid for dinner I immediately rang the store and spoke to the manager, who knew who I was immediately and even described the colour of our vehicle to confirm.
The receipt itself showed that I had paid with a Rs. 1,000 but I explained that they will have an extra Rs. 500 in the till later because I didn’t have it. He said to come in the next day and they would give me back the Rs. 500 if they discovered it.
When I went in the next day the same girl who had attended to me as cashier was mopping up the floor and when she saw me walk in she had a strange look on her face. The manager walked up to me and started to explain that they didn’t have any money left over in the till last night. I asked what the employee had to say about it and he said that he hasn’t spoken to her yet but will ask later. OMG! Was he joking? I couldn’t believe he hadn’t cared enough about the seriousness of my complaint to approach his employee. So I asked him to step outside so other customers didn’t hear us. He assured me he would speak to her but that there was nothing else he could do. I asked if he expected her to say she had pocketed the money because my gut feeling says she will lie to protect her job. He didn’t say anything. And didn’t apologise, either, which is when I told him that I was very unhappy about how this was handled. I fully admit it is my fault because I never count my change but I expected a bit more from Au Bon Pain given that I’m a regular.
As I was leaving I explained that I’m a blogger and that I’m definitely going to write something about this, which will possibly make it into the Bangalore edition of DNA newspaper. And that changed everything. What a pity, too. He offered to return the Rs. 500 to me and apologised. Asked me to please not blog about the incident and tried to insist I take the money in exchange for not writing about it but I said no.
It’s a shame that management at Au Bon Pain wouldn’t offer me “Angela their regular customer” an apology and perhaps my next salad, muffin and water free in lieu of cash as a sign of good faith. Only at the sign of bad publicity did they step up and do the RIGHT THING, which should be their standard customer service protocol to begin with in my opinion.
I laughed off event #1 and didn’t think much about it but after event #2 I did start to wonder…does this happen to Indians as frequently as it happens to us foreigners? Do our big smiles, ignorance to how things work at times and constant state of wonder make for better prey for cashiers than our Indian counterparts? Well, when I asked around to my Indian friends, they all said YES to the Cashier #1 scenario and mostly yes to #2. In all fairness, there are so many benefits to being a foreigner here in India, it is only fair that there be some negatives on the list too.
© 2012 Angela Carson