So, there was this shipment which weighed around 50 KGs. Had to ship a relatively large number of copies of a particular book to Kolkata for personal use by the author. Don’t get baffled by the 50 KG figure. The paper, and hence books, are pretty heavy. (Don’t you remember your heavy school bags?)
Now, normal courier would be rather costly for this. Even speed post. Gati, which I had used in past, seemed like a good option. Their rates are much cheaper compared to courier folks, closer to the rate of the road transport guys, but you don’t have to wait forever for their trucks to get full. They ship things everyday and you can track your shipment like any other courier. What more, if you have packed the stuff, they pick it up from your doorsteps.
So, I go to their website and give a call to their call centre number. They tell me the rates, which I quote to the customer. Everyone is happy. Books are produced and packed. I give a call to Gati again to book the shipment and then….
Is this a commercial shipment or a personal one?
Being the novice that I am, I am not sure what is the definition of commercial. So, I tell him, we are a business, but the books are not for further sales. They are for the personal use of recipient.
You need to fill up the form 505 for outgoing from Karnataka and form 50 for incoming from West Bengal for VAT/Sales Tax purposes.
Ahem! What are those? There are no taxes on books meant for reading. We’ll give you the invoice and also a declaration that the books are not for resale.
No – pick-up won’t be done unless you give us those forms.
So, we look for those forms anyway to see if it is something very simple. Turns out that form 50 in West Bengal is supposed to filled up by the receiver, who should be a registered dealer in West Bengal. If he does not have a TIN, he has to go to the Sales Tax office to get an evaluation done and then send us the form 50, which we need to provide along with the shipment…
Hfff… Just how ridiculous can it get. You mean to say that as a customer, whenever I buy something online, I will have to go the Sales Tax office, get an evaluation done and then….
We send books everyday, for God’s sake. I called up my accountant and confirmed that the invoice copies and declaration will be enough. All other couriers do this. This time I was stuck with Gati because I have quoted the rate to the customer. Not realizing that I am going to be talking to some blockheads. I even asked for the escalation of the call, but the answer was the same. The guy pretended that he had spoken to his superior, although I highly doubt it. He did not transfer my call. Probably I should have told him that I am very impressed by your loyalty to the company policies and I want to drop in a word of praise to your superior. Will you please connect me?
Anyway, then the Indian common sense came to me. I called up the local pick-up office. They confirmed that the declaration is enough. They said that they will do the pick-up. I felt better (and baffled. Talking to the people at these two places, you would think you are talking to two totally different companies, with totally different policies, probably even working in two different countries, with two different sets of laws!)
But that was not the end. The church street office, where I first called, gave the number of the sales guy in our area. The sales guy in our area gave me the number of the operations guy in our area. The operations guy in our area confirmed that he would pick the consignment up the same day, or latest the next day. He did not come the same day. The next day, he did not pick up the repeated calls we made. We were already late, since we had told the customer that we were shipping it the previous day. So, we called up the sales guy again and asked if there was some place we can drop it. Yes, there is one – in Domlur. Gave me another number of Mr. JP. We called him up. Confirmed that we can come at around 4 ‘O clock to drop it. We got an auto and reached Domlur as per his directions. As is common, the last mile is alway a problem and you need to call the person up to get the direction from the last landmark. We called, and called and called. At least 15-20 calls, but nobody picked up. Abhaya went around the whole of Domlur looking for a Gati office, while I waited with 50 KGs of books on the road side, hoping that God Indra does not become too eager! No Gati office to be found. No Mr. JP to pick up the phone. So, we call the sales guy again. He gives us the direction. After some trial and error, we reach a place, which does not say anything about Gati, is closed since morning (according the kids playing there), but is supposed to be a Gati franchisee. Hff… The sales guy is equally clueless. Promises to call me back after talking to Mr. JP. I don’t expect him to have better luck in reaching Mr. JP. Two more numbers are mentioned on the board there. We try those too. No luck. The clouds are so dark that they are threatening to pour down heavily anytime. Finally, we think of something better. We decide to drop it in the church street office. We know for sure that there is a visible office there. And they were reassuring on phone. To the credit of sales guy, he did call back and was relieved to know that we are on our way to the church street office. We get an auto. Load the books again, reach the Church Street . Pain is not yet over. I am in the auto, while Abhaya is on the scooter. By mistake his mobile is also with me. And the auto wallah tells me, after reaching at the other end of church street, which is a one way, that he can not come from the other end on the Brigade road, because autos are not allowed on Brigade road. Wonderful! Now, I am supposed to walk down the church street with 3 carton weighing a total of 50 KG. I am no weakling, nor is it that I can not carry a reasonable amount of luggage, but trust me – 50 KG is a lot! And I can’t even connect to Abhaya telling him where I am, so that he can come and we can carry it together. Because his mobile is with me.
I don’t know why, but I call up Gati office to as how far they are from the other end of the church street and it turns out that Abhaya has already reached there. Sigh! Finally we talk, he comes over. We use the scooter as a bailgadi to load all the cartons, and drag it close to the Gati office.
Now, things are better. As I carry one carton inside, the guy there comes out with me and helps carry one of the others inside. Although we ourselves carry two out of the three cartons, but this gesture of coming out is a bit reassuring, especially after the careless behaviour of people for last two days. The guy is calm, helpful and gets it done with the declaration. Just because of the simple gestures of this person, we have still not given up on Gati. Next time, we have a heavy consignment, we’ll simply drop it in Church Street office. To hell with all others. But we would have certainly considered them for more things, if the overall experience, right from the call centre, hadn’t been so bad. And if they decide to shift the church street office somewhere else, or the guy working there moves out – I am done with them. Probably our customers will have to pay a higher shipping charge for heavy consignments, or be content with normal transport options. But for all its innovativeness – no more Gati please!