This is the story of an innocent young girl, a naive father, a heartless multinational and a salesman with a dead conscious serving in a store in Delhi’s premium market.
One Friday, a family visited Khan Market for an early dinner. While walking towards the restaurant, they passed the Nikon store a few shops from the iconic Bahrison. Suddenly an enthusiastic Sikh gentleman popped out of the Nikon store and blocked their way. He looked at the seven year old girl and said “come inside the store, I will show you something made just for you!” The mother looked at the man with doubt, the father was puzzled and the elder brother of the girl showed no interest in the salesman or what he wanted to sell. The salesman continued to pester the girl ignoring the rest of the family. She was his clear target. The father looked at the little girl. Her eyes were lit with curiosity. The vulnerable seven year old had clearly been taken in by the attention the salesman had showered on her. However, as a well-mannered child she did not nudge her parents or insist on going inside the store. The girl continued to walk quietly holding her father’s hand. However, the father could sense from the softening of her child’s grip in his hand that her mind was still on the salesman and what he wanted to show her. The father stopped abruptly and asked the child, “do you want to go and see what the man wanted to show you?” The girl jumped with joy, “yes!!!!” Both turned back as the mother and the brother decided to continue and hold a table at the busy restaurant.
As they stepped into the store, the father failed to notice the look of triumph on the faces of the salesman and the father-son duo (owners) of the store – a look not dissimilar to one that appears in the eyes of a hunter who has set the trap and finds the bait has been taken. The salesman went for the kill without wasting a moment. He grabbed a Nikon camera box from the shelf, pulled out the camera and handed it to over the girl. “Throw it on the floor with all your strength.” He prompted the girl a few times. She refused. How could she throw such a delicate looking camera on the floor? It is bound to break, she thought. “It won’t break. It is designed to withstand any shock. Try.” He urged her as if reading her thoughts. She still could not gather the courage to throw the camera on the floor. She had been taught by her parents to take good care of things. She handled all her belongings with utmost diligence never being careless. The salesman snatched the camera from her and dropped the camera on the floor. The girl’s eyes popped out with shock. The salesman picked up the camera and handed it to her. Intact. “Look nothing happened.” He switched on the camera. The girl could not hide her joy as the screen lit up. The owner father-son duo grinned enjoying the theatric they were perhaps by now so familiar with, from a distance.
The salesman was now further emboldened. He raised the pitch further on the vulnerable girl. “It does not get damaged even by water. When you go home put it inside a bucket full of water. In fact you can click pictures with it underwater.” The girl continued to get impressed and the father, concerned. The over enthusiastic salesman was now bordering aggression. “It comes with two year warranty”, he said as if reading the doubts in the father’s mind. After all, he was the one who was going to empty his wallet if he was able to convince the girl. It was only later that the father was to realise (reminded by the wife) that it was the dotting love for the daughter, which was more of a give away then the daughter’s own desire for the camera. The salesman continued to rant about Nikon, how it was such a reputed company and that since the USP of the camera was that it was unbreakable and functional under water nothing possibly could go wrong and it was completely replaceable if at all something went wrong. It took fifteen minutes to complete the sale. The girl proudly carried the camera bag to the dinner table unable to part with it for a full week thereafter. She was fully convinced it was an immortal camera.
Six months later.
After returning from a holiday trip to Singapore having merrily used the camera in a water park, the girl discovered the camera refused to start. She was obviously very disappointed. “Papa, that salesman had said it will never got spoilt but it has. Why did he lie to us?” She produced the camera neatly tucked inside the Nikon box. The carry bag was there too with literature and receipt carefully preserved.
The father took the camera to the shop. The same salesman who was fully charged up while trying to sell the camera now looked at the father with suspicion as he approached them. The father-son duo looked the other way though their eyes were clearly in attention when the father told him about the camera not starting.
“No worry, sir, Nikon will replace it. Let me send it to their service center,” he said handing over a receipt. He kept the conversation short. The father was not convinced. In fact he was surprised at the change in body language of the salesman. “I hope you will get this repaired. The little one is very disappointed. Please be sure you don’t let her down. You told her it would never get spoilt and now that it has, please get it replaced. Else, I will bring her to the store and you explain to her why you had lied to her.”
“Sir, I am only a salesman. I can not promise anything on behalf of Nikon.” He said already starting building a defense. The father-son duo shuffled impatiently in their seats. They were used to these kinds of conversations it seemed. They waited for the father’s response. After all the camera was worth only Rs. 6000. Customers who shopped from Khan Market spent that much or even more on one dinner. Why would one bother about a camera? He will probably ignore it as most others did and instead buy a new camera to please the daughter, they thought it seemed.
The father had to go back and answer his daughter. He was not willing to give up easily. “Well, when you were selling you had all Nikon conviction behind you. Where is that conviction now in the matter of after sales?” The father-duo knew this customer was not going to pass this easily. The conversation was beginning to attract attention of other customers. “Give me ten days, sir”, the salesman said preempting any further conversation. The father-son duo smiled sheepishly.
Five days later.
“I am calling from Nikon center. Have you sent a camera for repair?”
“Yes” the father said.
“Well, you will have to pay Rs. 6000. There is an internal damage.”
“But it is under warranty, isn’t it. And it is an internal defect not external”, he realised only after he had finished the sentence that even external damage is covered under warranty going by the salesman's representation.
“Sir, you will have to pay.” The voice said, cold, routine and indifferent.
“But that was the purchase price of the camera?”
“Please let me know sir?”
“I won’t pay. It is under warranty.” The lawyer in father asserted.
The call went dead.
Five days later.
“Sir, Rocket Singh calling. Your camera is made. Please come and collect.”
The girl was elated. “Dad when will you go to collect?”
“I will whenever I have a meeting near Khan Market next.”
She was disappointed but did not press further.
Finally, a few days later the camera arrived. The salesman was full of pride while handing over the camera. “I told you. This is Nikon.” The father was impressed and cursed himself for having doubted the salesman or Nikon. The father-son looked pleased and relaxed.
“Papa, it won’t start.” The girl came running to father. The father and mother both tried but failed to start the camera. The following day father took the camera back to the store. The salesman tried desperately to start the camera as father-son looked over his shoulders. Finally, he pulled out the report that had come from Nikon center to find out the telephone number. It was then that the father noticed clearly written on the report. “Refused to pay. Returned.”
The salesman and father-son duo lost colour in their faces. They had not even bothered to check if the camera had been made and simply called the father to announce it had been made and to come and collect it. The owner-father quietly slipped out of the shop leaving Rocket Singh and son to deal with the matter.
“Why did you refuse to pay? You will have to pay. “Salesman said, his voice betraying lack of confidence.
The father was now angry. “But it is under warranty, isn’t it?” he said, a bit louder.
“Let me send it again to the center.”
“No. You replace it. You sold us the camera. You replace it and do whatever you need to do with damaged piece. They will again ask to pay.”
“Sorry I cannot help you in that case,” the salesman said defiantly. I am only a salesman. It is not my business what Nikon does after sales. The son in the meanwhile stepped away avoiding eye contact.
“This is not fair. You made tall promises to my daughter. Now you answer her.”
The father and daughter arrive in the store. The salesman ignores them, attending to the other customers. Aware of the imminent show down he wanted to first dispose of the other customers waiting inside the store. They having gone without buying anything as the salesman was unable to show the same enthusiasm as shown while selling the camera to the girl (who stood there watching his actions and listening to his words carefully), he turned to the father, almost angrily. “Yes”, he asked.
The girl looked at him expecting same attention and care or even enthusiasm as shown while selling the camera. But the salesman refused to even acknowledge her presence. He addressed the father, “look, my job is to sell. I am not responsible for Nikon….” His mobile rang interrupting his sentence, “I will call you later. A customer is creating a scene.” He said to the one on the other side.
The daughter was shocked. They had not even started to talk and they were being accused of creating a scene. She was completely shocked by behavior of Rocket Singh. She looked at her father, eyes moist by hurt and disappointment. Anger started to build inside the father. “If you can not help, do be honest. She has to take the camera along for a school trip.” The salesman and the owner son remained unmoved showing no emotion. Finally, the father had to say, “ look I am a lawyer and we know our rights. We wouldn’t give up easily.”
Both the salesman and the owner son responded in the same voice: Jo karna hai kar lo. Dekh lenge (Do what you want to do, we will see you) as if they were waiting for the opportunity to turn aggressive and intimidate the young girl. “Nikon is a big company. They can fight. If you read the warranty document carefully you will find that you are not legally entitled for free repair or replacement. In any case we have no role once we have sold the camera.” Both said in the same voice.
The seven year old was on the verge of crying. The father decided not to fall in the trap again and decided not to respond. He knew a smart salesman and a big brand like Nikon had taken them for a ride. He should have read the warranty. He had been such a naive. What was he a lawyer for? But then he had gone by the representations the salesman made to the young girl. A big brand like Nikon cannot let its salespeople make such tall, false and misleading claims, those too to vulnerable young kids. Oral representations cannot be contrary to written documentation not that they absolve Nikon of their legal duty.
It is said that the devil lies in the detail. But this devil that is left to lurk behind the mash of fine print in the deep of the warranty document is often born on the shiny tables of multinational or flashy offices of a large corporates or lawyers tasked to invent ways to cover the risks of manufacturers with complete disregard to customer satisfaction. The devil is sometimes left to creep out in a new avatar – that of Salesman Rocket Singh.
Rocket Singh is still selling cameras by fooling kids. Father-son duo is still grinning from their smartness. Nikon still spends millions on advertisements to lure young kids to buy that camera. The camera rests on the shelf of the young girl’s room with the yellow Nikon box mocking at her. Law will take its own course. But in all this a young girl stays disappointed, her faith shaken.
A million dollar company has broken the tender heart of young girl worth billion dollar. In fact, more.