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Flipkart’s shady business practices.

Wed, Jun 20, 2012

National, Products, Rants

Disclaimer: Yeah yeah, we all love Flipkart. I do to (seriously) We love how it has changed the Indian eCommerce scene. I am not a Flipkart hater, infact I (used to?) love them. Have bought variety of products from them in the past, and may hopefully continue to do so in the future, provided I get a reasonable solution to this mess. As a customer I don’t want to lose Flipkart. I have been equivocal in their support when I find my countrymen in a dilemma whether to purchase a product online or not. But I don’t want or can’t accept them going down the same path as the other online companies.

My grievance is not about money here (not a huge amount is involved in this case), but about shady and improper business practices. It is about the wrong business values and their malpractices.

So here is the thing:

I bought “Lost: The Complete Collection” (link) last month on May 10 as I felt tempted by that 50% discount they were giving. I superficially scanned their description area to look for the keywords “region encoding” but dint find it and I (IMO justifiably) assumed it was for Indian region. They have it listed under “Video Encoding: NTSC 1,3,4,5 & PAL 2,4,5). I am not sure if that’s the correct way to describe/ report region codes. Region and video encoding are differ It was too tempting for me to resist given that it was one of my most beloved TV series. Thanks to their wonderful service and shipping I got it within 2-3 days I guess.

The pack has 24 DVDs. Now in full excitement I inserted the disc in my Indian PS3, and alas, it didn’t play. It gave me a region code error, something like “This is incompatible with your region”. I tried another and got the same error. I tried a couple more discs and got the same error. Needless to mention, it plays the Indian region DVDs and Indian and region free blu-rays fine, without any issue, including the ones bought from Flipkart. They all play fine. I even bought DVDs from Flipkart after this fiasco and they work fine as well.

Now this isn’t the first time I have had a negative experience. Sometime back I ordered 2 DVDs of “The It Crowd” Season 1 and Season 2. Season 1 DVD played fine but Season 2 DVDs just dint play. They shipped me 2 replacements and they dint work at all. It was clear that the problem was with the whole lot of season 2 DVDs. I urged them to contact the vendor (“Eagle Home Entertainment) stop selling it and looting customers for a defective product but they dint stop. How this was resolved was a tweet of mine on this issue was caught by a senior manager at Eagle Home Entertainment and he contacted me. He contacted me and apologized for the inconvenience and we worked towards a solution. They got my respect for going out of the way in order to satisfy a customer.

Coming to the present case, I contacted Flipkart with the problem. Their rep (Jayawant) told me that they only sell genuine and tested product on their website. I said I never questioned whether the product was genuine or not. We buy from Flipkart because they are trusted and offer brand new good products. I requested them to test it themselves at their side to which they said it cannot be done since they do not have any provision of testing in their facilities. They also said (I think by mistake) that they DO NOT test or make sure that the product matches the description provided by the manufacturer and that they just take the word of the vendor as final on the product description.

They then suggested me to try it with some other player etc etc. Obviously, problem was not solved. They said they can offer me a replacement. I said it is pointless because the disc is not defective in the sense that it cannot be played, rather it is wrongly region encoded. After a series of worthless mail and phone discussions, they said they will contact the vendor and get back to me. They offered me a refund to which I refused as I got lured into the offer as I was getting a great discount at one of my favorite TV shows, LOST. I said I am ready to wait for 1 month or two months or whatever it takes to get the correct product, but I do not want a refund.

After sometime they tell me (on Phone) that they have received an “E-mail” confirmation from Disney that it is compatible with Indian region players. I am sure Disney didn’t check it at their end as well and just went by their existing description that it is the correct region coded product.

I invited them to come over to my home to check the error themselves with my Indian PS3. They said no (fine with me). I asked them a working proof that it is the correct region product (like a image of it playing on any Indian region player/ PS3/ Xbox. All they gave me that they have received a reply from Disney that “it works”. They just took their (Disney’s) word for it arguing that when a trusted vendor says something, they believe it to be true. They also accepted they have no internal testing for products, before they go on sale. They just take the manufacturer/ vendor’s word for it, especially if it is a trusted (big) manufacturer.

Seeing it go no where, I requested Jaywant to give me contact details of a manager with their sales department, so that I can bring it to their notice that they are selling a wrong product. Jaywant declined to my request saying they don’t have official email addresses or phone numbers in Flipkart and hence he could not provide me the same. The best he could do it arrange for a phone call or email reply from their team lead (Sajida) in CS department, using their same generic customer service email id. So I could only talk to these two people.

They kept going back and forth on how many purchased it and how many got the same error as me. First they said about no one else reported this problem. After sometime their team lead in CS department told me that “one” guy told me that there has been one feedback of region code error. They contacted that person again and gave me an advice from him that playing (a replacement was provided to him) on “PC” solves the issue. :-\ I have a Home theater setup costing close to 1 lac (LED+ PS3+ HTiB). I didn’t buy DVD to play it on PC! That’s an insane suggestion.

They even suggested contacting the vendor from my side. I did even that. Surprisingly, Disney’s customer care was even worse than Flipkart. They only gave me a call once and never called back to inform the result of their “tests”, instead just giving an e-mail reply that it is the correct product and there is nothing they can do. They advised me to contact Flipkart for further assistance? Excuse me? It is as much a fault of Disney as it is of Flipkart. Flipkart is merely selling Disney’s product. The responsibility lies with Disney equally, if not more, as compared to Flipkart. I really really didn’t expect such customer service from a company of Disney’s repute.

Review deletion:

In the meanwhile, I posted a review on the product page which went something like this (don’t have the exact wordings as I don’t have an exact copy and I didn’t expected them to delete my review):

Do not buy this product. This is an incorrectly region encoded product and does not play on Indian region players.”

Flipkart did not think it was in accordance to their “review policy” (http://blog.flipkart.com/deleting-negative-positive-review-moderation-process-2) and DELETED it. They said that their review section is not a “comment section” and my comment was not a fair one to future customers as it was just one case and not representative of all those who bought it. I tweeted about this and it created some noise. They promised me on twitter they will review on review. Later they told me that it does not fulfill their “review criteria” and that deletion stands. How many times do we see reviews of Flipkart’s service like “fast shipping”, “great service”, “Flipkart is the best” etc etc etc on the reviews section? They are fine with those “reviews”, but when there is a negative non-service product review representing a case where the product is not playable with “X player”, they deem it as unfit. What a great way to encourage fair reviews. Makes me realize why I never see any negative reviews on the site. Most (and I really mean most) of the reviews are OVERLY positive.

Even if it was one isolated case, I am entitled to write and share my experience with future buyers who can/ will be able to reproduce the problem if they were using the exact same setup, preventing them from buying it in first place. That’s how reviews work!

I pointed them to “flipkart is great” reviews, which they ignored. I gave them the existing review on the same product page about the “product” Lost. Here it goes:

“The most gripping TV series

Lost encompasses every genre that a tv show could ever have. Beginning with drama and lots of action, the series moved into mysterious sequences that delves into the secrets of the universe while firmly throwing each character with emotional quagmire that they must face under severe stress of being the selected beings. The series posed more questions than answers even till the end, and this leaves the audience with plenty to think about. A definite gem from hollywoodland.”

Tell me how is a legit review? This is purely a review of Lost as a TV series. Flipkart is not IMDB or RottenTomatoes! If I wanted to review Lost, I would go to these sites. Yet, this still is visible on their website as it, somehow, satisfies their “review policy”.

Their twitter personnel contested that if product was the “DVD” most reviews be like superb DVD, great packaging, shiny. I have to say, that is exactly what the product reviews are! We are reviewing the DVD not the content it holds. For reviewing movies/ tv we have niche websites.

Now back to the issue:

Once, their twitter support guy told me that 129 people bought this without any complaint, which shows they are hiding things as different people are saying different things. When I confronted them that their team leader in customer care department himself told me on phone that their has been atleast one feedback with same complaint, they had no acceptable answer. They even gave me a proof that it is the correct description product. You know what the proof was? Image of the back side of the pack cover with the compatible DVD region codes “highlighted”.

Y U NO BELIEVE US?

Excuse me, do you understand what a wrong product description is?

I’ll show you what a proof is:

Attached is a screenshots of DVD content information for a season 1 disc from 1st set I received, with details about the region coding of the DVD content. I have highlighted the region code area for easy look-up. The software I used is: DVDInforPro.

No surprises here!

Few days back Jayawant told me that more than 200 bought it without a single complaint, I told him I have written (via twitter DM) information that about 120 bought him and do they just make numbers up, he had no answer.
Where things stand as per our last telephonic conversation (last Friday): They say they aren’t denying that I am facing the issue, but they reject that they are selling a wrong region encoded product and they reject my proposal/ suggestion to stop selling it. The product is now “Not in stock”. It continued to sell for a long time since I registered this complaint, and I am assuming they sold it till their stocks were exhausted? I also asked him to give me a final reply in writing stating their side that the product is correct and they will continue to sell it. Which they haven’t till now. I think he forgot.

As for why there has been only one complaint, I don’t know. I don’t care how many else bought the product. They may be playing it on an appropriate region coded player or on a PC. What I do know is, it does not play on my Indian region players.

Going back on forth for a long time, I told them on twitter I really want a solution to this, and that I am not hell bent on proving them wrong but making them realize a fault in their business model. They said they have tried their best and advised me to try a replacement just once, failing which they would “seriously” take this up with the vendor, i.e. Disney. I wanted to give them all the chances to correct their wrong before going full public. I was not accepting this idea up until now, but just to honor their suggestion and to rule out any mistake on my side, for what it was worth, I accepted it. I was writing this blog post at that time, and I postponed it till I test the replacement.  As expected it showed the same error. I also gave both the collections set copies to my brother-in-law to try on his Indian Xbox. He also reported the same error.

Based on my 2 experiences, Flipkart is great, till you run into a problem which can be corrected by a replacement. All they can do is replacing and refunding. While this is fine, this does not mean they can sell wrong products on their website. They do not have any testing mechanism to ensure correct functioning of the products, nor do they listen to customers when they inform them about such cases.

Now I want your advice/ suggestion on the following questions:

  1. Did anyone here purchase “Lost: The Complete Collection” from Flipkart? Or do you know anyone who bought one? If yes, were you able to play it? If yes, on what player? Please give proper details like model number, purchase place etc. If no, please contact me via contact form/ PM. ou can also reach me (@knayam) on twitter using this hashtag: #FlipkartLost.
  2. Flipkart guy is asking me to ship the replacement back. At first I bought time so that I can get suggestions here and then decide whether to go ahead or not (as this replacement is “evidence”). But due to my PC’s UPS gone bad, I was not able to write this and hence I have no time. The guy will come to collect the DVD set Wednesday i.e. 20 June. Should I return it? I can consider paying for this second copy and keeping it (as evidence) if that’s worth it.
  3. Why did they only have this item on sale? I mean LOST is still a new series with a huge (cult?) following. What is the need of giving huge discount? Is it only to lure customers to buy wrong DVDs? Why is there no such discount on other DVD sets? There are other DVD sets about as old as LOST, Prison Break for example. I may be sounding like a conspiracy theorist, but after my experience, I am forced to look at it this way.
  4. What are my options here? I really hoped (and I do still) that things work out. But looks like they aren’t going to be. Flipkart is not agreeing to stop selling it or even correcting the product description. I do not want to just let this go. Else I would not be able to, in my right mind, buy stuff with confidence on Flipkart. What more should I try to make sure it is not Indian region compatible. I haven’t tried every single DVD as of yet. It’s a tedious task. 24*2=48 discs. But I’ll do it If it makes sense. I think I have done enough but I want to be sure I didn’t miss any chance because I don’t really want to go to the mess that is point #4 below.
  5. Is a legal action, a consumer court complaint, viable? If so, what should I know about the process? Like cost and time involved. What is the process? I don’t really want to get into this as I hardly have enough time left after my work and family. I want to get a solution that does not involve a legal action. But also, I don’t want to ignore this. I will do it if I have to, provided it does not cost me a bomb (which probably it won’t  be as I read somewhere that consumer complaints have become easier).

TL;DR: Flipkart is selling an incorrect region encoded product (tested two copies of the set) at 50% price  and refusing to accept that product has wrong description and refusing to stop selling it. Have tried it on Indian region PS3 and Xbox 360, both of which are able to play ALL other  Indian DVDs and Indian and region free blu-rays (in case ofPS3), just fine. They are offering me a refund, which I am ready to take, provided they accept that they were selling a wrong product and they won’t sell it further and both Flipkart and Disney offer an apology.

I have waited for a long time, 40 days so far, in hope of a solution. I have been continuously harassed by both sides. There were times when I used to get 2-3 calls from their delivery department or CS department and asking for delivery of replacement or about the issue. I had to explain to them every time what the issue was. And to top it, all they offer is refund. That, in my opinion, is not an acceptable solution in this case. They should really acknowledge their mistake.

P.S.  My apologies for any grammatical/ spelling mistakes. Wrote most of this using Swype as my PC yet is not working. And I cannot wait any longer as it will dilute the issue and also, reverse shipping date is today.

P.S.2: I may have missed some information as it is a long post. I’ll add more if and when I remember anything else.

___________________________________________

Update: 25 Sep 2012

Its been a long time, I know, but, I did not give up.

Well, a lot of things happened in the past few months. In short, as someone suggested on some board for taking help from Akosha, I said fine. I took there paid service (500 Rs). They contacted both Flipkart and Disney for a long time but both companies did not contact me about anything. Finally, with there help, I drafted a letter to be sent to Disney, expressing my displeasure and mentioning that if they do not respond this time, I will legal route. This time a received a letter from Disney (very close to the deadline date we gave). In the letter they only said that they will send me a detailed reply soon and nothing else. So some more time passed. And Akosha suggested that we draft the legal complaint against them, as they may not respond at all. So the legal complaint was drafted and I was all set to go to the consumer court, come the next weekend, but, that week, on 18 Sep, I got the first call from Disney. They said they are very sorry about everything and they said they will send me Lost collection in blu-ray within 72 hours as compensation. I told them I was about to go to court this weekend and anyway it is too little too late. This thing could have been done way back in May, when this ordeal started. Its been more than 4 months! I said if you really want to restore faith in the company, do not sell products with mis-guiding labels. I said you can test it on your end.

I also told her I really doubt if they have the correct region encoded blu-rays as well. And I requested her to make sure the region coding is correct as I dont want to go through it again. She assured me. I asked her to send me an email (not from generic/ customer care email) so that I have atleast a point of contact in Disney to track the progress on what steps they take to correct region code on DVD collection and other products. She sent an email on 18 from some xyz@gmail.com and also mentioned that they would send me the bluray collection pack.

After a few days (last Wednesday I think), I got another call from Disney apologising for delay in sending bluray due to shortage of stocks. I had to repeat the same story. I asked is requesting a direct point of contact from Disney a huge deal? I said I want to track and be kept in the loop of how they rectify their mistake.I said its already too late to salvage image. I said I dont want the bluray actually, but please rectify the issue and let Flipkart also know. She said she will email me from a direct @disney email address and also assured I will receive the pack by Monday (24 Sep).
She did send me an email from xyz@disney.com. But Monday passed yesterday, so I replied on the email asking for the status to which she said that they will dispatch it today and give me the courier details.

So this is the status ATM. Will update.

Any opinions/ thoughts/ advice are welcome.

___________________________________________

Update: 26 Sep 2012

So I got the shipment of Lost Season 1-6 blu-rays. It is not a collection as such, rather Disney has sent me blu-ray packs for season 1 to season 6. I have tried a couple of discs from Lost season 3 pack, and they worked. I am assuming the rest will work too.

I have still asked them to investigate the issue and share their findings and what steps they have taken to correct it, with me.

Lost bluray blu-ray season 1 to season 2 3 4 5 6

 

,

This post was written by:

- who has written 290 posts on BT-G.com: The Everything Blog.

I'm a 22 year old guy blogging about things which I feel are important. Currently pursuing B.Tech in Biotechnology.

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28 Comments For This Post

  1. Rajarshi Sharma Says:

    Hmmm yea even I’ve been observing a few shady transactions from flipkart.com.. even though not directly.. but thru some friends to whom I had recommended the service, now I doubt whether those ppl would be considering to use the site again since it was the first online emall purchase for all of them.

  2. Deep Ganatra Says:

    I think the only option is to return the DVD back to them. You can’t go to customer court as they are willing to offer the refund so the case of dispute does not arise. Yes, they might not have DVD of PAL region but they can simply accept their mistake or pass it on as vendor mistake.

    About taking off the DVD from their product list, logically they should do it but I think that can only happen when 5-10 customers complain about the same issue.

    Just my 2 cents.

    Deep

  3. Rajarshi Sharma Says:

    Also, legal option is certainly viable .. alibeit i don’t know how cost effective..

  4. Arvind Says:

    Flipkart and Karthik Srinivasan, their communications head are quiet about this. I doubt they have anything to defend.

  5. Sathya Says:

    Point 1: No.

    Point 2: I’d take the refund – looks like you have all the evindence viz., the paperwork & audit trail. I’d keep photographic proof of “not region compatible”.

    Point 3: I do think you’re sounding like a conspiracy theorist. I don’t think FK would do like this with a deliberate/malicious intent. Did they make a mistake? Absolutely – they took the distributor’s word for it and didn’t test – and I don’t think testing each and every item is feasible.

    It’s another matter that they haven’t admitted to it – why, I don’t know.

    Why no discounts on other DVDs? Look it’s not just picking up random stuff saying, “hey let’s put this on sale!”. They’ll have to source it and I _really_ doubt they’ll source items at loss(well, more than they’re currently incurring anyway). I’d assume the distri wanted to get rid of the stock, got in touch with FK & agreed with the discount offer.

    Point 4: I don’t know; it’s up to you. You clearly don’t want to let this go – not sure others saying anything will have an effect on you,

    Point 5: IANAL; can’t comment on this.

    (On a technical side: Note that wrong region doesn’t mean that the DVD will stop working – most DVD players will accept a total of 5 region changes before locking on to that region. What this means is that you can buy an Indian region DVD player, change it to play US region DVDs and change it back again. After the 5th change, whatever was the region that was switched to – that’ll be the set region. This means that the consumers might have bought the DVDs and it’d have worked because the DVD players internally handled the new region. Possibly, your player doens’t have this feature or has the region locked.

    Also, there are quite a few region-free players which totally ignore region codes and play anything and everything.)

  6. Deepak Rao Says:

    If they are offering a full refund, whats the complaint?

  7. Mahesh Says:

    Shut the crap dude. Its your fault that you got into the discount thing.
    Simply refund it and get your money back.
    Or else play it on PC. THats the best thing. You can connect your LED + Home theater to CPU easily if you know how to. LOL
    Or the best option is to download HD version of LOST online for FREE.
    I have never seen a LOSER like you who blames flipkart for his mistake.

  8. Linda Marshall Says:

    Another perfect article, Dave :)

  9. Anon Says:

    My suggestion is to just get the refund and be done with it. Another suggestion, buy any cheapo DVD player that is/can easily be made region free and kiss the stupid movie studios’ region coding restrictions goodbye.

    I’d also like to present my recent experience with Flipkart’s review system and how it has prompted me to reconsider buying anything from them in the future.

    My review clearly indicated that there was nothing wrong with the product or Flipkart’s description just that the product in question was (a particular camera case) did not fit a particular camera. Guess what Flipkart did, they deleted the review indicating it was misleading / confusing. Aren’t reviews meant to help other customers make informed buying decisions? Or are they just meant to sing the praises of the e-tailer. Perhaps they would like a few more customers to buy the product find it unusable and waste their money.

    Amazon when are you coming to India?

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    Regards
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