Sunday, August 25, 2013

Flipkart and the Cancelled Order

Update: Aug 31, 2013:
There are times when one has to change their opinion - reverse it or perhaps revise it. This is one such case.

On Tuesday (Aug 27), I got an email from Flipkart informing me that my "Order with [OD****3]" had been successfully placed. This order was for the "The lost city of Dvaraka" -  for Rs 1152. This did not seem right - not least of all because I had not placed an order for the book at that price (see my original post for an explanation), so I went to the Flipkart site and logged into my account.There I saw that Flipkart had placed this order on my behalf, and while the the order subtotal was indeed Rs 1152, the total price payable was Rs 255. So this meant that Flipkart was going to deliver the book at the price they had originally offered at - Rs 255, even though the book was currently selling at the much higher price of Rs 1152. Which was a very, very pleasant surprise indeed. More so because of the little fracas that had ensued the previous week (which is what the original post, below, is all about).
The order status changed to "dispatched" the same day, and the book, shipped from Bilaspur, was delivered to my house the next day!
I tweeted my thanks,
and another one in response to @FlipkartSupport's tweet:
Since I do not know anyone working at Flipkart, and nor am I influential enough on social media to believe that my tweets make that much of a difference, I am inclined to think that someone read my blog post or my tweet, and someone senior enough (or empowered enough) at Flipkart recognized that something was not quite right here, and decided to make things right.

In conclusion, my faith in Flipkart has been restored, I thank them for this wonderful book that got delivered on the joyous day of कृष्ण जन्माष्टमी, and hope that the company can keep working to maintain a high standard of customer service consistently - customer loyalty and profits will surely follow.

Original Post Follows:
This is not a rant against Flipkart. It may read like one. It is, in my opinion, closer to an elegy to Flipkart. Perhaps a dirge. A lament? A सियापा if you prefer. No a sonnet. No a serenade. It is my fault if it sounds like one versus the other. This post is more the story of trying to order a book at the price indicated by Flipkart, only to be told that was an error.

I have had this book on my wishlist for some time now - The lost city of Dvaraka - Buy The lost city of Dvaraka by Rao, SR It's not a cheap book; it's list price is Rs 1800, so unsurprisingly it stayed on my wishlist.

One day however I noticed the book was selling for Rs 205, and even with the fifty rupee shipping charge, was available for Rs 255. A bargain if ever there was any. So, without much ado I placed the order for the book on the 9th of August, 2013.

Flipkart has a fancy timeline graphic on its order status page that allows you to track where in the chain your order is. So, I watched this page. And watched this page. And watched it not budge from the first stage of "Order Placed."

In the meantime, the price of the book had jumped back from Rs 205 to Rs 1152. Not a good sign. So, I tweeted on Aug 13.
Amazon India had some incredible book bargains on offer and I had placed two orders, and later a third, for more than twenty books, all of which were dispatched in less than twenty four after my placing the order. My Flipkart order had not budged for several days now.

Flipkart Support tweeted in reply the next day. It's good that they were able to associate my Twitter handle with my order - smart.
The email went thus:
"We regret to inform you that there was an error in the listed price of the product on our website. The MRP of this title is Rs. 1800/- and the current discounted price is Rs. 1152/-.
We request you to confirm if you are willing to proceed with the order at the updated price by getting in touch with us either by replying to this e-mail or calling our toll free number within 24 hours from the receipt of this e-mail.
If we do not hear from you within this time period, the above mentioned order will be cancelled."

So, to get this straight - they had offered this book at a particular price, and in stock. I placed an order. Now the book was no longer available at that price. But I could buy it at more than five times their earlier advertised price if I so wanted. Because of an error. On their part.

My response on the same day:
"Thank you for getting back to me.
I placed an order for this book at the price Flipkart had listed on its web site. If after that you say it was a mistake, and expect me to pay more than five times the book's price, I believe that is not a good business practice.

Please cancel my order if you cannot fulfill it at the price you had displayed on your web site. "

Their final response on the 21st, one week later:
"We regret to inform you that your order OD**** for the item(s) mentioned below has been cancelled by the seller WS Retail citing its unavailability.
We have provided strong feedback to WS Retail with regards to their service quality; we will also continue monitoring them for efficiency.
We sincerely apologize for any inconvenience and disappointment this might have caused."

Customer loyalty is an incredibly difficult attribute for any vendor to acquire. And just as easy to lose. Vendors can choose to compete on customer service. Or they can choose not to. The worst sin a company can do is to treat customer service as a marketing slogan because it looks good in an advertising campaign. It is easy to spot a company that doesn't quite believe in its own advertising. When push comes to shove, when the rubber hits the road, when the time comes to put up or shut up, when it's time to separate the boys from the men, it always comes down to a decision - a choice that is made, a line that is crossed. Words cannot blur the line. Words can only heighten the stark difference between words and deeds.

Flipkart has made that choice.

© 2013, Abhinav Agarwal. All rights reserved.