Wednesday, May 03, 2006

In Bad Company

On the whole, I favour globalisation and liberalisation of the Indian economy, something which has literally transformed our lives within the last decade or so. I am even, to an extent, on the side of multinationals, given the jobs, professionalism, and work ethic they bring with them. I mean, where would most of us be without them? Stuck in our hometowns, trying to wheedle some mandarin into giving out a low-paying but cushy government job, spending leisure time reading, cooking, watching TV, visiting relatives and waiting to get married... You get the picture.

But lately, I have found myself surprised, more than once, at how
dumb modern companies can be. Pizza Hut, for instance. After experiencing a surprisingly gender-discriminating treatment at the hands of one of their employees which I had written about for my friends on Women's Day (and which I am reproducing below for the sake of readers here), the Guy and I had another unpleasant meal at the place some time ago. For one thing, it was so crowded we had to sit at this small table for two (which actually wasn't big enough for more than one.) This time, the waiter seemed biased in the opposite direction, placing a knife and a fork in front of me while ignoring the Guy completely, until I pointedly asked him to give the poor Guy something to eat with as well. (Completely unnecessary, as both of us used our hands - but I had to make my point!) The pizza finally arrived after an inordinately long period during which we entertained ourselves by making wild guesses as to what was taking them so long. Failing to find a bottle of mustard on the table (they used to have them earlier - must have removed them out of fear of unscrupulous customers who might carry some mustard home in their pockets.) I asked the waiter - a different one - for mustard. (For me, pizza is incomplete without mustard: it's like toast without butter.) He seemed quite surprised at my wanting something so unreasonable, but was kind enough to go off immediately to find some. He came back in a while, with a tiny paper receptacle (no, it was not a cup: those of you who have used them at MacDonald's to get ketchup out of the dispenser will know what I mean) filled nearly to the brim with mustard kassundi (a kind of Indian chutney made mostly with mustard, which is however not what I would want to have with pizza). Accustomed to splashing huge quantities of mustard over my pizza, I said to the man, "Can I have some more?" (Note: the use of 'can' instead of 'may' here is deliberate.) He raised a very sarcastic eyebrow, said, "Sure, ma'am", and got two more toy-paper-plates of the stuff.

On the whole, a very unpleasant dinner, and the Guy and I vowed not to repeat it. Our next experience at Pizza Hut was quite as bad, however. We were at a friend's, and there being no provisions in the kitchen, decided to order pizza. Two phone calls and an hour and a quarter later, it finally arrived. They promised to give us a 50% discount on our next purchase, but we haven't mustered (no pun intended) up the courage to do that yet.

Last weekend, we had tickets for Ice Age 2 on Sunday. On Saturday, having spent most of the day lazing at home, we decided to see if we could get them exchanged for that evening's show. The young man at the counter told me that they had tickets for the show, but I could not exchange mine: I could buy new ones and come the next day to sell mine. That was a bit too much for me to grasp, so I turned to the Guy for help. He found out that Inox (the multiplex company) has a policy of not exchanging tickets, but if we came the next day
in time for the show, they would help us sell them to customers. The Guy was so annoyed by this that he asked to speak to the manager, who very kindly repeated the statement - without being able to inform us why we could not watch the show tomorrow if we were capable of coming to 'sell' the tickets. (Which idea, by the way, brings to my mind unpleasant childhood memories of horrible men and women brazenly selling movie tickets in black - before the arrival of the multiplex.)

Worked up by this encounter, we dropped in at the nearby Barista to calm down over a cup of coffee. The Guy doesn't like coffee much, and I was hot and thirsty, so I asked for a cold mocha (or something). The young man at the counter promptly asked, "With chocolate or vanila ice-cream?" The Guy politely turned to me. I said, "I don't want ice-cream." The Guy was a bit harried - he wanted to please me, but he wasn't sure if this (my demand, not his wish) was possible. The man at the counter obligingly said that it was. On being pushed, he admitted that ice-cream would cost an extra 20 bucks - something that he had neglected to mention and was not on the menu hung up behind him. Already annoyed from the previous 'brand encounter', the Guy got enraged and gave the Barista man a piece of his mind. (A small piece, mind you - the Guy is normally mild and soft-spoken.) I, for my part, had been fooled in similar ways earlier, so this piece of jugglery did not much astonish me. But seeing the Guy all worked up and righteous was a sight much more delicious than the overpriced concoction they served me.


My Women's Day Mail:

A few days ago I had gone to Pizza Hut with a guy friend. Every time the waitress came to our table, she would talk only to (the Guy). Ask him for the order, ask if he wanted anything more, and give him the bill. Trifling incident. But for me, it was rather annoying. I do not know why she did that. It might be some unwritten code at Pizza Hut, but I doubt it. It might be because of some old-fashioned chivalry, or because the man is expected to have the money power. (In our case, definitely not true.) in either case, I resented it, for if nothing else, it was rude.

I engaged my friend in a debate. He felt I was getting too vehement. The issue was trifling, definitely. But it is because we allow such issues to pass that we end up being treated the way we are. It is because we ignore the lewd comment of a colleague (we do not want to cause trouble or seem ill-natured) that such remarks become commonplace. It is because we do not speak out enough that we, and others probably more vulnerable and weaker than us, are subject to such harassment.

I just wanted to remind you today, to speak out. To stand up for what’s right. It may be for yourself or for someone else, but do not let it pass. You are harming yourself. We deserve to be treated with respect.

There will be no instant results. Attitudes do not change in a moment, and are not subject to reason. It will be a long and hard fight. But if we fight hard enough, maybe our daughters will not have to go through what we have.

Happy Women’s Day.


Unmana said...

I do mean that one, I'm afraid!

Ham Actor said...

I am not sure, should i blame the waitress? when you see couples at such places, most of the girls behave like they don't care about anything and her BF is there to take care of everything. After all the waitress's behaviour is somewhat influenced by her customers also.

Unmana said...

Siva: Even if I trust your observation, that doesn't absolve the server from treating the guests well. That's what he/she is there for. They're not supposed to address only one guest and behave like the other doesn't exist.