Aug 12, 2007


I had to shift to a new apartment a short while back. Unable to find a decent place on my own, I decided to use the services of a broker. During and after the search, I realized just how dishonest these people are. Consider these cases:

My first broker (liar no 1) had told me any house i selected would be finished (woodwork, elec fittings etc.) within a week. However, owner-chappie was honest enough to tell me it would take 3 weeks for the house i liked, but i could move to another one (which was ready) anytime. He was also quite honest about the amount of time it would take for the swimming pool etc. to be fully functional. However, when i tried to negotiate the rent, he tried to explain the finances to me, and to prove that he would lose money at the rate i was asking for. He's liar no 2 - smart, subtle, and clever. If i hadn't been formally trained in finance, I'd never realize he was being utterly dishonest in the last negotiation.

I eventually took another house, through another broker (liar no 3). I liked the house as such, but i needed some other info, regarding availability of power backup, 24 hrs water supply, and needed some minor repairs here-and-there. This f%&^er told me all the facilities were available (when they are NOT) and made a million false promises about the repairs etc. I've moved into the house, and like it overall, but the experience was so bad, my blood boils every time i see him

So we've come across 3 different kinds of dealers, with varying degrees of scruple:
1. A guy who does not lie about anything which i can later find out. He does mislead customers, but 99% of the time, they will never find out, nor suffer in any respect. I feel we can let this pass - given that the guy is in a business to make profits

2. Another guy, who makes some promises which he knows he probably wont be able to
fulfil. He knows the customer will probably suffer later. But he could argue that he assumed the best case scenario, and told the customer what he genuinely beleived. This is questionable, but i guess we can just about let it pass, 'cause he may not survive in a higly competitive market otherwise.

3. The bas%^&* liar. He cheats his customer, giving them false information, and reneging on all promises once he receives his payment. I can not think of any possible argument is this fella's defense.

What bothers me is the omnipresence of type 3. They clearly cheat customers, and get away with it with no problems at all. And people like us accept this. Grudgingly, but without any real resistance. We've come to accept such malpractices as 'the way things work' in this country. I'm trying to understand why, and to figure out if there is some way to change this.

Let's examine the 'whys' through the process, and possible solutions:

1. Slackness and carelessness. When we are paying for a service, we should insist the conditions and deliverables be defined and documented before commiting a payment. We usually do this at our workplace, for our employers. However, we do not display the same diligence in our personal transactions.

2. Avoiding confrontation. This is a typically 'Indian' behavior. When we are being suckered, we give in with a 'Chalta hai. Chhodo.' We are satisfied if only some or most expectations are met (usually the most basic). We shouldn't be satisfied so easily, and insist on getting the full value for our hard-earned money

3. Lack of awareness. Ok, I feel suckered and angry. What can I do? No idea. The Govt and NGOs should spread awareness. The best way to do this would be sharing some success stories. It would motivate other aggrieved customers to fight. We have so many media now - with news channels having enough airtime available to cover a lot of trivial shit in mind-numbing detail (such as the Abhi-Ash wedding, Brangelina and their kids et al). Devoting some time to spreading awareness about consumer rights and possible recourses against malpractice, would do a lot of social good. A TV program called 'India's most wanted' comes to mind. That was constructive usage of airtime. There should be more.

4. Fear. I can take this guy to court. But what if he has connections with thugs, and gives me a real tough time? Well, to tackle this problem, we'd first of all need balls. But more importantly, we'd need to have a lot of faith in our police and the administration - whose job is to protect the interest of good, law-abiding citizens. This is perhaps a deeper problem than the main subject of this post. We can only hope

5. Effective grivenace redressal forums. I know there are consumer courts and all in India, and have heard of the rare success story. But I've also heard that it usually takes 1-2 years to resolve a case, and it is difficult to win unless you have documented proof. This may be OK for physical product transactions, but its definitely not suitable for service transactions - where most evidence would be circumstantial and verbal. Is it realistic to expect a cheat to provide you a properly documented record of the swindle he pulled? Nope. For this, WE need to be more stringent (as outlined in points 1 and 2 above). AND we also need laws and courts that can actually solve real-world problems, and not pose more problems of their own.

A lot of social commentary from me, but no action. Trust me - I am going to try. If anyone can guide me - where to begin and how - I'd do it.

I dont know if anyone will ever bother reading this whole post - but i do hope some do, and at least learn from some of my mistakes. Ideally, I'd like to meet more people who've had such problems, and get together with them to do something. Not likely to happen, but there's always hope...

1 comment:

  1. I hear you - it's very annoying. I wish we could use the internet or some such forum to at least let people know the names of these people... i believe there are genuine agents out there too.. atleast some sort of social rating thing should be available.. like or something.. bad brokers should be boycotted over time by everyone..