Perspectives from the *other side* on Software, Management and Life

Saturday, December 24, 2005

product warranties .......

My dad loves me. As i am sure most dads do :) So he decided to gift me a food processor as a gift, which was very thoughtful of him given i was moving to my new appartment and such things come in handy. He ordered the processor through citi bank rewards that he had accumulated through his VISA card.
One happy day, a big box arrived with a Black &Decker Food processor FX750. Yep, it had all the fancy grinding and juice making capabilities....i could have sworn it looked as if it cook as well!
...fast forward 1 month.....
I'm in lahore and my wife brings the jug portion (used to make juices) and says it had smoke coming from its base. I looked under, and yep i could see there was a screw, a nut and the usual stuff...so i decided that it was a case of a loose screw. After looking and pondering, i decided i was no closer to solving the puzzle as to how the blender worked with the screw in there. So i decided to see the smoke for myself. I put it on, and "whmmmmmmm ......pukhhhhh", the blender became jammed.
Trying to run it again, i had pushed my luck ....i had probably made the matter worse.

Not to worry, or so i though, this is black&decker, and its box has the BIG 2 year warranty written on it. So i decided to locate the warranty center. For Pakistan, they have a number listed in the booklet, which no one picked up. Lucky for me, the only center in pakistan was in lahore (poor islamabadites and karachites). I went about trying to find it based on the address .....and i must say, the service center for B&D looks like a rat breeding center, located in a basement of a cheap plaza, where electricity wires are hanging dangerously low.

Upon receipt of the jug, the technican said that a damaged jug is not in the warranty. I responded that its in the warranty period and dont see why i should pay for it (In the US i could return the damm thing at no cost to me, and replacement of this part would definitly have been handled immediately). The technican said that he was just a technican and such matters are handled by 'headquarter' and he'll let me know what happens.

3 days later, i call up the service center and the person there says that i should talk to a certain Mr Zameer there as he was handling my case. Hmmm ...interesting, i call up Zameer, explain my case and inquired its status. He said, "hmm, you should know that such things are not covered under warranty. Only motors are".
I said, "this was not normal wear and tear and it was not caused by being dropped either,so...."
He interrupted me and said" ahhh, sorry but ....you have to buy the jug"
me,"So how much will it cost me"
Zameer:"its got a list price of 500 Rs (approx 10 USD), but i'll give it to you for 400Rs"
me, thinking its not worth the effort to push him to give this to me for free, and its cheap too:"ok, thats fine"
Zameer:"give me your address, and i will drop it off at your house tonight"

I gave him my address, amazed at him dropping the jug at my home. But something sounded fishy.
So i call the service center and explain all that just happened, and he too was surprise (in a toned down fashion, trying not to accuse anyone or get anyone in trouble ....). But thats all i wanted to hear. I decided i was not going to be suckered out of any money, be that 1cent or $10!

I call back Zameer, and ask him to bring a reciept as well for the jug. I said (lied) that i had spoken to citi bank and they were willing to reimburse the amount if i provide the reciept.
Zameer:"Why dont you just give them the jug to fix"
Me:"Well you're the warranty center, and thats your role. Citi will just reimburse me the cost"
I was clearly getting the vibe that Zameer was feeling like a fish out of water. He knew that trying to con someone was easier than trying to con someone who was going to involve a corp (ie citibank). We hung up then.

Within 5 mins, i get a call from Zameer saying that he had discussed my case with the "higher authorities", and that he had convinced them how 'good' of a customer i was and now i will get it for free. But now the jug will be sent to the service center in 10 days.

Moral of the story: Know what the other guy fears, and then use it. I had an inkling that Zameer did not want to have a paper trail of his activities and by asking for a reciept on the pretex of citibank, he would be involving himself into something bigger than he could handle

Monday, November 21, 2005

police - tool for intimidation

So a week back, i ran into this peculiar situation in lahore. I got a call from my wife on friday that our part time maid (girl of around 17 years)had 'disappeared'. She had been cleaning our porch and area near the main gate and was no where to be found.
She then went about contacting the girls parents etc, and i continued on with my office work assuming she had just gone home etc- oblivious to the issues that awaited me.
When i returned in the evening, i inquired as to what had happened, and was told that it seemed serious, the girls parents were, understandably, very angry as she had still not returned home. Then at around 10pm, about half a dozen men along with the girls father rang my house bell. FYI i live in DHA, Lahore. So i go down, meet them and ask what the status was. I then inform them that the only 'logical' thing left to do was to inform the police.
I go back into my house and call the 'garrison' force (its a force with police and military officers for law enforcement in the cantt area. For those who are completely out of the loop, the military in pakistan has these areas in the cities that are 'owned' by the military, a legacy of the british empire). No one picks up, and after two tries i just call '15', the police hotline. i got two busy signals, and then finally someone picked up on the third attempt. I inform the hotline operator of the issue, and he informs me that i should come to the police station.

So i get my car out, and the girls dad is sitting with me. And his neighbours/relatives are behind me in around 3 motor bikes ..... there was a moment when i became concerned given i really did not know if he was the girls dad, she had only been working with us for 2-3 weeks.

So we finally reach the police station - where i am told that i should talk to the SHO. The SHO is generally the senior most officer at a police station. They generally have a mustache that has had significant care taken. They are a breed of their own. Me being fresh from the states, thinking all is well, walk up to him and inform him of the situation. He tells me to write it all on paper (that i do so in english, cause my urdu writing is really horrible by now). I then shake his hand and say my farewell as well as to the girls father + other men of her family etc.
At this the SHO tells me in a stern voice, "where do you think you're going?"

me: "errrr, what do you mean"

SHO, in a patronizing voice: "You have a moral obligation to stay with the girls father until recovery, and also participate in the recovery. The girl was your responsibility"

That comment does hold a little weight, but its delivery had my bloood boiling.

me: "my responsibility, excuse me. You're the police, you get my tax rupees [confession:i havent paid my taxes yet, cause its just been 2 months, and taxes get filed after year end] and so YOU are responsible for everyone safety. I cannot take part in the recovery, because i am a citizen. Its the police that has to recover people. I have done my part, what more do you want"

SHO, who was clearly taken aback by my statement, that too infront of everyone:"You speak english and i responded back in english cause i didnt wanted to advise you without letting these people [pointing to the girls family] know. You just cannot come here and then leave. You must stay with the father until the girl is recovered. What is this, you think you can come here, and then just leave. I asked you to write your application to protect you [implying that he can twist the facts and get my screwed in some case involving the abduction of a girl].

This statement clearly got me worried, a police case with your name is essentially a long term headache in pak.

me:
ok ....

SHO: no, i will not listed to you, you listen to me

me: hey, i dont have to listen to you if you're not bothered to listen to me

SHO: more blah blah

me: Lets stop fighting, it aint helping the victim. tell me the next steps and i'll see what i can do ......

Anyway, lots of things happened afterwards, and i did manage to go back home in 40-50 mins. I called up my parents and other uncles, who in turn called up some military and police officers and essentially got the SHO to back off.
The girls family got the FIR (police case) registered against some driver who had been hanging around with the girl. Turns out, my neighbours helpers had seen the girl voluntarily get on a bike with someone. She had essentially eloped (a point of relief and anger. Relief as i was at ease that atleast it was no abduction case, and anger that she got me in the middle of all this crap). An internal audit at my house showed that Rs7000 had been stolen (ie USD 120).

Some of the lessons learned:

1. Dont hire young maids, they are known for eloping (seriously, i got told about how often this happens only AFTER it had happened)
2. Keep a close eye on maids, lahore has an issue of maids being involved with robber gangs - they use the maids to understand when and where to strike.
3. Always know the roots of the maids, ie which village they come from and their residences. Also get their ID photocopies and have them registered at the police station
4. Money is always stolen in parts. Home workers know that if they steel the complete amount, the theft will be obvious, so they take out certain percentage amounts. I had 23K in my house, out of which just 7K was taken. Lucky me, my wife keeps a strict audit and so we were able to be confident that a theft had taken place.
5. If you have to go to the police, try to first find out if you know someone in the police. Pakistan has a major problem with police corruption
6. If you dont know anyone in the police, try not to get into a verbal argument with the idiots in the police station.
7. Be smart, dont assume people are good (or necessarily bad). Be quick in grasping the situation. I've been told that sometimes money is also exhorted by the girls parents in such situations, even if they're aware that the girl had eloped or was planning to do so for some time.

Monday, September 12, 2005

public sector - getting work done

Bad phone line story:
My parents house in islamabad (where i am currently crashing in), had a bad line ie lots of static. I called PTCL (Pakistan Telecom Corp Ltd) and got a case created through their automated system. A week went by, and NO response. Called up again, and this time asked for the operator - told him about the problem. A day later I get a call by a lineman who asks if there is a problem, and i confirm there is. He says that he'll swing by, but no one shows up.
Time for escalating ..... I call up PTCL complaint number again, get the operator and then ASK for the number of the exchange handling my area. I dial that number and first thing i ask is for his name and then explain my problem. The lineman shows up within 1 hour!
disclaimer: i had some issue about a month back and i tipped the lineman 1.8 USD or 100Pak RS - my brother was fairly angry at me tipping as he thought it might mess with the working ethics for public sector employees. Anyway, now the lineman has given me his personal cell phone number (and refused to accept 50 RS or around 1 USD this time and said i shouldnt tip him each time i register a complaint) :)
I will be going to lahore soon, and will need a DSL connection at home ie requires a crisp clear phone line(for work from home purposes). Hoping my experience there is good .....

Sunday, September 04, 2005

move back to pakistan


life in pakistan seems to be better than i had anticipated. i had been worrying about moving back for months, but now it all seems childish having done so.
Being addicted to technology definitly helps in settling back (contrary to what i would have assumed). The first thing i did was to unlock my palm treo650 (locked on the cingular network). That turned out to be more complicated than i had anticpated. Even after having getting the unlock code from cingular (i am told that after being a customer for 3 months, one becomes eligible for it), i could not unlock the phone. After searching through the internet, i figured one had to type in the following to unlock the treo 650: *#*##
Now i have a treo 650 that i can use in pakistan! I am told that islamabad and lahore are safe for PDA based phones as phone robbery is rare. Karachi is another story.
I have Alwarid (waridtel.com); its reception and coverage is poor, although its GPRS is too good, and dirt cheap. I can still check my gmail and company emails from my treo and am quiet happy with the internet speed.
Mobilink has better coverage but am not sure of its GPRS capabilities and cost (the other telco's are: ufone, paktel and telenor).

Calling the USA to settle my accounts, close down subscribtions etc was a big headache. Luckily my friends in the US helped me out big time. Calling the US through warid costed close to 18 cents/min. Calling through calling cards is even cheaper, one such card costs close to 5 cents/min. Although now most cellular companies are reducing their international call plans drastically (PTCL - the land line monopoly of pakistan, recently privitised; still lags behind in being competitive for international calling).

But nothing beats having a US based number, i got one through packet8 (although be warned, they say if they figure that the phone is being used on a permanent basis outside of the US, they will charge extra, including for the past months). Someone said vonics.com is pakistani based VoIP solution and has people in pakistan that come over to do the installation/setting up etc (of a US number). Needless to say, you need high speed internet (my dsl.net.pk has a 300 kbs downlink and 150 kbs uplink) and costs just under USD 20 / month. The quality of PTCL (land line) in islamabad is generally good - so DSL is a good option here, and the ISPs also help with clearing up the line if there is static.

Now my biggest hurdle is moving to lahore. Finding an appartment while adjusting to a new job/role will be a challenge, i just hope that phase goes through smoothly.

All in all, so far the move back seems like a good idea. I'll post in the coming days on my experiences etc.

THE PICTURE is of BADSHAHI Mosque. It was built by the Moghal king Aurenzeb. The mughals has also built the Taj Mahal as well. I took this picture from cokoo's den - great restaurant for having dinner in the evening - the view of the mosque is truly breath taking (disclaimer - i'm newly married and so might be in *that* phase ;) )

Monday, February 21, 2005

news update

lots happened since i last blogged. This includes: brother getting married, trip back home and completion of masters.
Ahh - life couldnt be better ....hmm, wait a minute. It can! Anyway, this year is going to be pivotal in my life. Have to decide to go back home for good or not. But that decision will mainly be based on a good opportunity rather than mere homesickness.
Yesterday, i returned from a trip to CA last week. It was just soo soothing, except the return part. I messed up my return time, thinking it was 11:50 am rather than its scheduled 1:15 pm. The speeding violations from san jose to san francisco were bad ...but helped me reach the airport in a record time (50 mins taking into account return of rental car). It was a bummer to find out my traffic zig zagging, speeding and high speed turns were for no good reason.
All in all, i look forward to another trip to CA (have one in 2 weeks, but will probably not be able to get out to meet friends due to the hectic schedule :( ).