Monday, June 1, 2015

Not so Fab-india

The new Fabindia outlet at Metropolis Mall, Highland Park, Kolkata lets the whole franchise down.

I have been a confirmed fan of Fabindia for over two decades now. In Chennai, Delhi, Mumbai, Pune, and Hyderabad, i have bought a whole lot of my most favourite outfits at Fabindia stores. I love their fabrics, their colours, their styles, i love how simple and sober and classy the clothes are, i love how wonderfully comfortable and cool-in-summer they are, and i absolutely love how long they last (i am still wearing some short kurtas bought 15 years ago) even under the heaviest roughest use.

So, when i took my monkey to watch a movie at the Metropolis Mall yesterday, i was delighted to see a new Fabindia store on the ground floor level. Brand new, the store seemed to be the answer to all my clothing woes, and so close to home! As soon as we were out of the movie, therefore, i headed straight for the store, fully intending to stock up on outfits to wear to my new volunteering job, happily humming to myself in the surety of finding the right sizes and perfect fits in fabrics that would breathe and make me feel fabulous!

Sadly, barely 15 mins later, i was walking out fuming! It seemed all great at first, articulate, polished, classy looking older woman at the counter (my very favourite sort), and seemingly helpful staff. In no time i had three men's short kurtas picked out (yes, those are the ones i like), and was headed to the women's “tunic” section for a few more outfits. And THAT's when things progressed rapidly downhill. The sales person helping me so far (not that i needed much help, given that i knew exactly what i wanted and in what size and whatish colours) handed me over to another person who would “show madam the tunics”.

Sadly, unlike Fabindia stores in Mumbai, Pune and so on, all available sizes did not find representation on the shelves, with Extrasmall having the lion's share of available space, and medium and large taking up the rest, with no visible sign of anything “extra”. So, the guy supposedly helping me went off to find me tunics in extra-large (men's sizes are numbered, women's have these strange categories. So, while i can find a 40 and 42 on the men's shelves, without help, i must helplessly wait around for some employee to fetch me an extra large from some unspecified hidden storage area for the women's tunics)

And that was that. I stood and waited, and waited, and waited, for the elusive extra-large tunics, only to find, at the end of 10 mins or so, that the guy who was supposed to help me had happily gone off to show some “palajos” to another customer without a word to me, and never mind my tunics. I looked around, saw three other employees within earshot who seemed not to be doing much, and started asking “is someone showing me those tunics?” They neither met my gaze nor answered, nor moved to help.

So i dumped my preselected kurtas near the counter, said “if they do not wish to serve customers then let them wear their own clothes” and walked out. A little while later the woman behind the counter left (i found out later from my man that she had had a call from home about an emergency. Soon, a store manager type person approached, and i decided that if he was coming to apologise, i would accept the apology and go back and buy the kurtas and maybe a few tunics (i REALLY, REALLY wanted them!).

Instead of a simple apology, and a request to come back, i got excuses. “madam was called out” so if the owner leaves, the entire store is going to shut down? All the employees are going to stop working? “sorry madam this other customer came in” so if new customers come in, older ones will just be abandoned to fend for themselves? In situations where they can't fend (would be happy to help myself to the clothes, actually prefer that, if only the clothes were ON the shelves)?

Needless to say, i Didn't go back in, and i Didn't buy those clothes i wanted. And i am probably never going into another Fabindia store in kolkata. Who loses out? Sure, i lose out on a few nice clothes, but i can always find other clothes. Fabindia lost a longterm, loyal customer. Maybe they need to start training employees better? Or put some machinery in place to ensure the proper customer service mentality across cities and across outlets? Can they afford to let the Kolkata syndrome cut into their customer goodwill?

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