• Mohana Prabhakar

The washing machine that never was

While I was falling off car seats, flooding hotel bathrooms and leading a nomadic life for a week, an integral component of our home collapsed – our washing machine. An attempt to repair it resulted in the usual realisation that it’d probably be cheaper to replace it. The sturdy machine had survived ten years and it was time for retirement.

After I came back home, we went washing machine shopping. Buying any sort of electronic equipment here is always a hit and miss affair, whether you are at a hypermarket or a specialized store. I have had all kinds of sales people, from complete ignorance and a ‘why, oh why, are you making me work?’ attitude to decent product knowledge and polite indifference. I was, therefore, pleasantly surprised to be done with our purchase within ten minutes.

We didn’t even have to hunt down a salesman; one actually came to us and made suggestions that were very helpful. We bought what he suggested and the delivery was set for two days later. I requested for a next-day delivery but he said it was impossible because the item would only come to them from the warehouse the following day.

Two things struck me as we walked out. One, that I was so relieved that it had been a hassle-free transaction and that the chap had actually helped. Two, that it was ridiculous that I was so impressed and happy over basic customer service that should be a given. The marketing strategy of both under-promise and under-deliver is so embedded in us that we are grateful for the smallest crumbs.

I spoke (or thought) too soon, because they certainly proceeded to live up to their under-deliver strategy with a bang. The scheduled delivery time of 10.30am on Thursday came and went, and it was already two in the afternoon when we realised it. When we called, it started with the usual and ever so popular, “It’s on the way.”

Unless it was coming from Salalah, it goes without saying that our washing machine was definitely not on its way to us. Then came a new revelation. “But you asked for a refund.” “No, we did not.” “Are you sure?” “Yes, of course, I’m sure.” By now, my normally calm husband was not very calm. Haitham, who was at the other end, kept saying he was checking and would call back (he didn’t).

Eight calls later, we discovered that our washing machine was on a truck that had gone to Ma’abela to make another delivery. Did I mention that our house was about a ten-minute drive from the place from where we bought it?

So two hours became four and I knew that at 7pm on a Thursday, no driver was going to bother to make a delivery. My husband, by then more than a little annoyed, called again at eight. By this time, Haitham had gone home and we were now talking to Imad. And Imad was great compared to Haitham: His repeated apologies, his reassurance that our machine would come even though the driver’s phone was off, that he would keep checking and call back (he did).

There I go again, so pleased that someone did his job and suddenly hopeful that something would happen. Something did happen: The driver called to ask for directions, we gave it, but that would’ve been too easy a solution.

When the phone rang half an hour later, it was Imad again to say that the driver didn’t know Muscat at all and could my husband come to the hypermarket to show him the way. Driving back about 30km at the time wasn’t an option so we said goodnight.

The sun appeared and set three times before our washing machine appeared. One entire day was again spent on the phone with the after sales manager of the store, with the new line being, “We have many deliveries, we don’t know when we can come.” He said many other things, most of which are not worth repeating, but suffice it to say, he was one of the most aggressive and combative people I have spoken to in a long while.

We also learnt from him, later on in the day, that delivery ‘may’ happen, but as far as installation is concerned, “I don’t know. Somebody will come. You didn’t ask for installation.” What can you even say to that?

Anyhow as I’m writing this, I have a giant cardboard box near our front door that may contain a washing machine. I must admit I’m hoping for a leprechaun and three wishes instead.

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