Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Differences: Self-Service

Going by my description of Netherlands as of now, it may seem to be an extremely comfortable place in all aspects compared to India. But let me give a few reasons here, why it may not be the same and why life would be tough in that place.

Undoubtedly, India is one of major economies as of now resisting the economic downfall, and much of it has been due to the private sector. For most of the corporate ventures, the primary agenda is to serve the customers and ease their life to every possible extent. Although the corrupt public sector hassles the common man regularly, if you have the money, business ventures will walk an extra step to pamper you, and get things done for you at your doorstep. Surprisingly in that highly-developed country, things seemed quite the contrary. For instance, I will describe a 3-star hotel where I lived and compare the same to an Indian one.

According to my personal experience in India, some staff member collects the luggage from the car on customer’s arrival delivering it safely into the room, as the receptionist guides us through the formalities. There is a room-service number, but some room service staff makes sure we don’t have to call him, and bangs often to deliver prescribed services by the hotel.

Contrarily in Hotel Het Haagsche Schouwe, Leiden where I stayed for 12 days as a participant in Conference, my experience with such services was amazingly different. Although the prices were high, when I entered after a long journey via flight, train and bus, no staff member was present at the door, as I made way into the empty security-less door with my heavy luggage guiding myself to the reception where they handed me the keys with a smile. I had to drag the luggage myself into the room (though via an elevator). During my entire stay, not a single staff member for once entered the room to deliver services, except once when my roomie specially requested to get food for him from somewhere outside. When I faced any difficulties, I went to the reception myself and the problem was solved within minutes.

At my accommodation in Delft, I stayed in private student-housings. There were three types of rooms- one where 4 people shared kitchen, one where 2 people shared a kitchen and the last type was single room- the one I was given by the University. The moment I entered, I was confronted with an instruction sheet about regular cleaning of kitchen, bathroom and room. Regular checks were viable to be conducted, especially when you were about to leave, where heavy penalties for failing cleanliness levels were there. Although I came to know, for the single rooms the cleaning people cleaned the facilities once every week themselves. Despite that, I took to cleaning stuff myself. But when the cleaning ladies came, they told me off for not keeping it clean enough, despite being paid (which they can definitely not do in India). Thus the facilities which we have been used to all our life, like having dishes washed, kitchen and utensils cleaned, floors swept, garbage picked up by someone and bathroom cleansed were almost absent. People must help themselves (rather than spilling off money).

In stations, tickets could be printed by ticket machines which accepted coins and credit card payments. There was the facility for human service as well, for the same but then tickets cost 50 cents more in all such cases. Similarly in other places like Supermarkets, petrol-pump where you were supposed to fill the petrol yourself, walk to the payment machine and make the payment. There was camera surveillance. Basically I felt, people were made self-dependent to every possible extent with the help of mechanized alternatives and with lesser money incentives for availing the same.

In the University cafeteria, you can pick anything for food from the items kept there and then walk yourself to the payment counter with either cash or credit cards. It all happened so smoothly, without requiring a regulated mechanism to carry out the same. After eating, people got up and kept the plates in appropriate slits for washing by walking an extra distance (so unlike India). Self-service had imposed discipline in them as well.

Thus although the customer makes the payment for services (more than India), he is not entitled to be pampered by the businessmen. Even though maids and floor-cleaners are present, they are registered by the Government and the employer must pay taxes for the same. This avoids exploitation as well, by the rich of the poor thus heading towards a more equal society at every level. Despite the apparent less friendliness of the service-providers, just ask them for help and they deliver it with a bigger smile on their face than in India and said Thank You and Welcome umpteen times.

Thus I feel many Indians from the upper-middle class and the richer ones, may find it difficult to adjust there. But I had anticipating such a model, where people help themselves first and only then sit down to complain.

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