What kind of customer care is this, anyway?

By Sushmita Bose

I don’t shop online. Almost everyone I know does, and they always look at me, all sneery, when I say I prefer the touch-feel experience. “You’ve been living under a rock, e-tail is the new normal.”


To cut to the chase, I had a run-in with the India division of a mega online brand — one that sells everything from bare necessities to frills and dreams. I realised I’d been, over the past one month, receiving alerts from this site on my Gmail account, thanks to a barrage of (online) shopping sprees by a namesake. Another Sushmita, who lives in Kolkata, West Bengal, India. Our email IDs, for some strange reason, have become namesakes too. The first 50 times, I stared glassily at mails which said stuff like “Your shipment (no: xxx) is on its way”, and wondered how someone could possibly purchase so many makeup/skincare products (the shipment details were also being shared in those emails) in such rapid succession.

The 51st time, I reckoned enough is enough. I created a user name and password (yes, one more of those dreadful things) and logged onto the site to look for a customer service contact. I didn’t qualify for a callback option (from their side) since I (currently) don’t live in India, so had to settle for an “online chat”.

Well, why ever not? It’s the new normal, as they say.

So, this is how the conversation unfolded:

ME: Hi, I’ve been receiving XXXX.in alerts for another Sushmita — on my Gmail account.

(You are now connected to Mr XYZ from XXXX.in, I’m informed, so I repeat myself.)

ME: Hi, I’ve been receiving XXXX.in alerts for another Sushmita — on my Gmail account.

CUSTOMER CARE OFFICER (CCO): Hello, my name is XYZ. How may I help you today?

ME: Hi, I’ve been receiving XXXX.in alerts for another Sushmita — on my Gmail account.

(As you may have guessed, I was copy-pasting by now.)

CCO: As per your concern, you’ve been receiving alerts on your different account. So what is the issue that you are facing regarding those alerts?

ME: No. I’m receiving email alerts from XXXX.in — but the person addressed is someone else, not me. It’s somebody who shares my name (Sushmita).

CCO: I have checked that you are now contacting us with your mobile account.

(WHAT? What does that mean? But let me plod on…)

ME: But the messages are coming to me. She must have given a wrong email ID.

CCO: And as per your concern, the address on your account is someone else’s, not yours. Am I right?

(Finally, the penny drops… or so I think.)

ME: Yes!

CCO: I understand your issue completely. Please give me a moment to assist you with the reason why it is happening.

ME: Okay, thanks.

CCO: Let’s suppose your email address is sushmita007@gmail.com and the other person’s email address is sushmita.007@gmail.com. So these email addresses are same, the only difference is of that dot (.).

(No, they are not the same, there’s a dot separating them, like a dot separates 1.5million from 15million.)

ME: There must have been some confusion. So kindly take my email ID off the mailing list. Maybe someone can contact this lady and get her correct ID.

CCO: I would like to inform you that it is happening because of Google because Google does not recognise dot(.) in emails. That is the reason you have been receiving emails from her account.

(Again, WHAT? But let me at least give it one more shot.)

ME: Right. Can this be fixed please? Because I’m getting bombarded with messages meant for her, her shipment number, her tracking code etc.

CCO: In this case, I would suggest you to change your email address because if I’ll escalate this issue it is not certain how long it will take.

ME: You want me to change my email ID because of this? Are you serious?

CCO: I do understand your inconvenience because of this and if I relate it to myself, I would have felt same way. I am requesting you to change email address because you have been receiving emails that are from your account and this might have been frustrated for you [sic].

(At this point, I’m ashamed to admit, I lost it, and started sounding dangerously shrewish. But believe me when I say I dropped the ‘journo’ name because most of my work contacts mail me on my Gmail ID.)

ME: Listen, I am a journalist, and my email ID cannot be changed, everyone has my email ID, it’s even printed on my card. My bank has my email ID. All my online resources have my email ID.

CCO: I do understand everything.

ME: Can you put me onto someone who at least knows his job? This cannot be a solution! Do you have a supervisor who can genuinely handle complaints? I’m getting someone else’s messages due to no fault of mine. And you are saying I should change my email ID????????????

CCO: Please give me a moment so that I can check and provide you further details or else try to get it resolved by my superior. I do understand ma’am that it is not your fault. Please be online, I’m checking. Please try this link (CCO forwards a link) to reset your password and I’m sure your problem will be resolved. I hope we are connected ma’am?

ME: What are you talking about? I’m telling you that I’m receiving SOMEONE ELSE’S emails on my Gmail account. HOW WILL RESETTING MY PASSWORD HELP???? Your company needs to STOP sending emails to my ID — that’s all I’m asking you to do!

CCO: By clicking this link, you can also arrange a call-back from your side and our account specialist team will contact you.

ME: So I have to call you back because you guys can’t handle this at your level?

CCO: Or else you can arrange a call by clicking on the below link… It is my humble request to you to arrange a call back and once your call will be connected, our account specialist team will handle this problem and help you in resolving this at the earliest.

(I take some time out to gnash my teeth.)

CCO: I don’t mean to rush you, but we’ve been idle for 1 minute. I want to make sure our chat’s still connected. If you aren’t able to respond in 1 minute, this chat will close.

(I get up to vent to a colleague or two.)

CCO: Since we’ve been idle for 2 minutes, I’ll need to disconnect this chat. We hope to see you again soon!


Sushmita is editor, WKND. She has a penchant for analysing human foibles

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