Thursday, October 12, 2006

desi shopkeepers

I think a lot of Indian storeowners are in business despite themselves. I feel like a lot of them go out of their way to be as unhelpful as possible. I'm not sure how they stay in business. Hell I'm not really sure how they chose commerce as their vocation of choice... I mean it's not like they really like customers. The other day after work I decided to get a new cellphone and for whatever reason the phone I wanted was really only available in Curry Hill (well really Murray Hill in Manhattan, but the area from 27th to 29th St & Lexington is a bunch of Indian stores). Well the place I was aiming to go to was closed so I went to a random place next door. Inside I was greeted by a man who did his best to give his store the ambiance of a shady street bazaar store.

Now what I'm going to say next is a bit childish, stereotypical, cliche, and racist, but for the love of god why can't many shopkeepers grasp the fact that deodorant is in fact a good thing? Sweat is not cool, even if it's from Nelly Furtado. I just don't get it, I mean do people not pay attention to their surroundings? Not only was this a rather ominous way of beginning a consumer experience but the guy himself knew less about the products he sold than I did. I asked him if he had my phone model and he said "yes, it's here." So I was like "whoa, really? I mean this phone isn't available yet in the states and you allegedly have it just sitting in your display case." Since I couldn't see all the phone models I just asked him simply "well can I see it?" This seemed like a logical question to ask given the situation. His answer: "can you come back in 30minutes?"

30 minutes? Are you kidding, there was nt one else in the store and from the looks and smells of it, no one else had been through the front door in days. And with that, our conversation proceeded:
Me: What is happening in 30 minutes?
Shopkeeper: The case is locked, the key is coming.
Me: The key is coming?
Shopkeeper: Yes
Me: From where? who?
Shopkeeper: The man with the key. He open it.
Me: You don't have a key to your own showcase?
Shopkeeper: It's locked
Me: Um, okay then. Well listen, are you sure you even have the phone back there, otherwise there's no reason for me to wait..
Shopkeeper: Oh yes. What is the model number?
Me: (sigh)
Shopkeeper: Do you want this phone instead? (pointing to a phone outside of the display case)
Me: But that's a regular phone. I want a cell phone
Shopkeeper: Okay no. Sorry. No thank you.
I've traveled to Indian city areas far and wide.... from the wide streets of Cerritos to the cramp paan stained sidewalks of Jackson Heights and I'm continually amazed at how Indian shops can stay in business. There are basically 4 types of vendors: food, DVD/CD stores, jewelry, & phone cards. This is not exactly your most diversified product offerings, especially given the fact that there are like 10 of each stores selling the same thing. To be fair occasionally you'll see an electronic store that specializes in 220 volt appliances and kitchen utensils. Regardless of the items being sold, desi shopkeepers seem to do their best in scaring away potential customers through a combination of sheer neglect and inability to be responsive to their customers.

If the motto for most retailers is that the customer is always right, the desi store wala's motto is probably "service comes last...after my tea break and I get paid"

On a total concluding sidenote, I always liked to refer to the DVD/CD stores as the Video Goondas because that's what they are. A lot of them are sorta shady and are a little too cool to actually help out. Also they constantly chew paan and wear clothing that says either Diesel or A/X is a block letters. That being said, if you can get in tight with the Video Goondas, you can get like CD's for less than five bucks. This my friends, is pay dirt.

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