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Consumer v/s Legalese

A very recent exchange on facebook brings about this post.

flipkart is aiming to be the amazon of India. Image

They started out with delivering books. From those who have used them, they have 3 key strengths.

1. Books that are available at a discount

2. Cash on delivery

3. Outstanding customer service

Experience with them, from all accounts, has been outstanding.

As they have grown, they have added other product lines.

They have now even included a market place, whereby their platform is available to other vendors.

Yesterday, someone in my newsfeed posted this link. In this article the author talks about how he ordered something from the flipkart market place and they didn’t deliver and further, the experience was terrible. The author goes on to make some assertions about the company’s modus operandi etc.

If you go down the comments section of the article you will find many comments about their experience with flipkart. Some also comment their points of view about the author’s experience.

When I shared this article I got a couple of comments along the same vein as the article itself. However, a friend of mine who is from the legal fraternity was very vehement about the simple fact that the terms and conditions are extremely clear and if the ‘shopper couldn’t be bothered to read them then it’s his problem’.

He is absolutely right. When you decide to do something you need to be aware of what you are getting into, balance the risks with the rewards and act accordingly.

However, this made me wonder how companies treat this sort of event.

Do they hand it to the legal team and say ‘Check if we are in the clear’ or do they hand it to their customer service department and say ‘Talk to the guy, find out his problem and try to resolve it’.

The former protects the company and ensures no harm comes to it. The latter builds customer trust, even if the company is in the right.

As brands start, more actively, engaging with their consumers this is something they will come to face rather often. And the choice the marketer makes will decide what kind of company they will be in the long term.

Being seen to do the right thing, often, is more important than ensuring everything is covered in the Ts and Cs. It is this kind of attitude that drives much of the communication one sees around promotions. ‘Upto 95% off’. ‘Win Rs 1 crore Ts & Cs apply’.

Transparency builds trust and trust builds companies. The more we bury consequences in the fine print the more we erode that trust.

Also reminds me of much of the global financial crisis where some large financial institutions were selling products that practically no buyer understood and when the tide turned they all went ‘but you signed this, so I am repossessing your house’

That is clearly one way of doing business. And if you have a big legal department, might as well keep them busy.

Or have a bunch of happy consumers.

I hope it never has to be a choice.



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