Thursday, February 21, 2008

sometimes CRM is just a piece of cake

A week-long course on Customer Relationship Management(CRM) and the class was all jazzed up with the fundas. Discussions on "what kind of customer are you?" would spill over into the chai-break. While K admitted that he was the "show me the price tag baby.." kind of buyer, S asked for some sensitivity on part of the seller (read that as: never EVER say "maa'm that size won't fit you"). I was too tipsy on the whole 'Customer is the king' concept to do some "constructive contribution" to the discussion, till the chai-boy sobered me down with a big fat drop of chai on my bag.

Three not-so-glorious weeks later, my friend and I walk into the Imagine store. My friend wanted to enquire about the Apple Protection Plan..and I...well I was just visiting. Before you assume that I am an Apple fanatic who goes visiting an Imagine store a good 10 kms away just to ogle at those works of art..lemme clarify. The day was Valentine's day and the store owner had casually mentioned to my friend the previous day that there would be cake in the shop....a good enough reason to go visiting :)
So lets get down to the dirty details...
Entry: My friend and I.
The normally minimalist and antiseptic store is oozing oodles of the Valentine spirit with red and white "dil-shape" balloons fluttering on the floor (remember Dil to Pagal hai?). And if you look at the heavens in exasperation...gotcha...they are smugly hanging from the ceiling too...
The pink iPod nano is being touted as the ultimate valentine gift on posters all around. The men in the store can't take their eyes off the price tag while their girlfriends are drooling all over the floor (yeah...dil shape balloons et al). I say my customary hellos to the owner and the staff while trying to rip my gaze off the two cakes kept on the centertable. Just one small piece had been cut off...just the way the Apple is bitten.
My hands start itching. I pick up a balloon from the floor and fiddle around with it. The owner tells me to put it down. With a Ohkay fiiiinee....I let it join its dil-shaped brothers on the floor. I hover around the cake area looking at the products, reading the description tags and waiting for them to offer me the cake. In my mind, I am rehearsing how to say "Oh no I am full really" and still accept the third piece of cake. But no cake is offered. My friend is taking a lot of time and I have browsed and re-browsed annnndd re-re-browsed thru the products n number of times.My feet are beginning to ache. I target a plump lil balloon and make him the object of my frustration. A kick here...a kick there...a stare from the owner.....peace..I walk away.
Finally I decide to take matters into my hands. "So I thought there was a cake and all..." breezy.very very breezy.
"Oh...its only for couples"
I think the owner is joking.
"But why? Valentines day is not just for couples. I wish my parents happy valentines"
"thats okay...but the day is basically for lovers and couples"
Still joking right?
I half smile "Oh save me those cake saving tricks"
We always have this buyer-seller banter going on. Nothing new.
The owner walks away. Casually..unobtrusively.....which I think is to cut me a slice off the cake. And DOESN'T COME BACK.

Here I we are (my friend was interested in the cake too), Apple loyalists, brand campaigners, emotionally attached consumers and whatever jargon there is to it...with our mouths wide open, wondering what we have done to deserve such treatment. I thought buying a macbook, getting an extended warranty plan, getting a couple of repairs done, spending hours in the store and recommending the store and the brand to any and everybody in sight is good enough to warrant some cake. But looks like the store owner's Valentine spirit was just limited to those sickly ugly balloons.

So I still love Apple but the Imagine store has just got itself ticked out of my favorites list.
With due respect to my CRM faculty, I think customer relationship management is just a piece of cake. And my dear Imagine store owner, if you are reading this....hurry to the bakery, you have my address.

Sunday, February 10, 2008


Reflections on one of the most telling scenes of human pain and anguish that I have seen

His belly was full of anger; resentment that had been passed down to him as though a family heirloom. With every word that he sang, the thick bile of anger rose from his guts and shook his body with a vengeance. "Who decides what merit is....isn't sowing seeds in a straight line in the black cotton fields merit?"..the words formed on their own. He could not stop them, He didn't want to stop them. He could hear his voice ringing in his own ears. A voice full of pain and anguish. A cry of despair. A scream of a wounded animal. He beat the drum faster to drown out the voice. More venom spewed out of his singing mouth. He could feel the droplets of his own spit settling themselves on his bare arms. Impure spit....impure arms. "Why isn't the air polluted by my breath? We share the same sun"..he asked the vast expanse of barrenness before him. He knew there were no answers. He knew there would never be any. The drums were beating faster now. Possessed, captivated, maddened. He knew every being was full of anguish. So much of pain....that if every human were to give a voice to that pain, it would be a loud scream that would reverberate throughout the entire universe. "Why? Why?" He gave one final flight to his anger, his pain and put down the drums. He felt empty. He felt immense solitude. He felt something somewhere move in his own universe.