Tag Archives: dishonesty

Facepalm Meadows

I finally got around to joining the Palm Meadows mailing list. For the better part of a year now, I’ve been clueless to the political goings-on of my neighborhood. It seems to be practical and handy. For example, I now know about the debates over the security processes at the front gate and won’t be surprised by any changes.

It is also extremely entertaining.

One fellow recently actually read his newspaper delivery bill and found that he was paying more than the newsstand price. I pay more than the newsstand price. I pay twice the newsstand price; 10 rupees per issue instead of five. It is worth 5 rupees to me to have it delivered to the door at 6:30 in the morning instead of taking the time to go to the newsstand. I may have lost a nanosecond or two of sleep over it sometime in November. I’m not sure.

But oh did it set off a firestorm!

Soon the topic turned to the milk delivery guy. He does not come to our house, but he does come to a couple of the houses on the street. Apparently, someone ranted that he charges 3 rupees a liter more than the store cost. This rant was met with much general agreement about robbery and how even 1 rupee per liter is too much. One neighbor even went to far as to do an absurd, back of the envelope calculation of 3 rs per house in Palm Meadows per day by 600 houses and came up with over a lakh of potential milkman income; causing him to rant even more. These kinds of calculations were how pets.com managed to get venture funding in the 90’s. Palm Meadows has a high vacancy rate due to the financial crisis and only a fraction of those homes get milk delivery. At best, the milkman makes the middle class income of an ordinary bureaucrat. I wonder how this rage against the ‘dadagiri’ the milkman’s cartel will turn out.

Now I understand not wanting to be overcharged because I’m perceived as an easy mark. I’ve had my own stories to this effect. This however is clearly a case of paying a small premium for convience. The fact that the elite of society can get their knickers in such a knot because an enterprising individual is making a modest living off of others being willing to pay for convience boggles my mind.

There is only one possible reaction…

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Professor Rowdy

We had an interesting experience on Christmas Eve. Daniela was making Fondue and needed a bottle of wine. I did not feel like driving all the way to the Cosmos Mall, so I went to the bar across the street from Palm Meadows. I walked up to the bar – an open air roadside bar that is typical here – and asked if they had an inexpensive bottle of white wine.

The bartender suggested a 900 rupee bottle. No way was I going to spend $18 on a bottle of wine to cook with. For that matter, I’d be averse to spending that much on a bottle to drink. Then he suggested a 700 RS bottle. I demurred. Finally, he produced a 600 rupee bottle. I mulled it over and finally decided to buy it. I handed him the money and took the bottle. I expected the price to be inflated. I’d guessed that the maximum retail price (MRP), the maximum price a retailer can legally charge, that was probably 450 RS. When I got home and found it on the bottle, it was 300 RS. They had charged me twice the MRP.

Daniela and my mother were annoyed. Sivakami, who was spending Christmas Eve with us, was absolutely livid!

They are cheating you because you are a foreigner! This is not right!

We debated just leaving it be. Siva wanted to go give the bartender a lecture on honesty and hatched a plan. She would take the bottle in a bag to the bar, ask for the same kind of wine and ask the price. If it was 600 RS, she would ask them why they were charging twice the MRP. We would quietly park in front. If they wanted to charge 300, she would call me over, produce the bottle and ask why they charged me 600. Daniela also played a critical role in her plan. Her presence was needed to prevent the bartender from changing the topic of the conversation to strange nonsense about Siva.

She got out of the car a bit ahead of the bar and walked down the street towards it. We pulled up in front of the bar and turned the ignition off. We watched her speak to them. Then she called us over. Daniela and I got out of the car and walked over. Siva turned to the bartender and asked:

So why did you charge my neighbor 600 rupees?

Siva began lecturing them about cheating foreigners and honesty in general, waving her finger for effect. She did this in English as she did not feel comfortable arguing in Kannada. The demography professor was a force to be reckoned with! Men here generally look down on women who even approach a bar. “After all, only prostitutes would do such a thing, right?” Yet here was a woman – in jeans no less – giving them a lecture about their lack of moral fortitude! The bartender and his two assistants looked like deer caught in the headlights of an oncoming car. They said nothing. One of the assistants took the bottle and nonchalantly started peeling the MRP sticker off. I snatched it out of his hand and snarled:

Don’t even think about it!

Shiva saw what happened and chimed in:

Hey man! If you remove the MRP I’ll call the cops!

Then she resumed lecturing. One of the bartenders regained enough of his senses and put three hundred rupees on the bar. I took the money and the bottle. Then we walked off, but not before Professor Rowdy told them that this would be the last time any of us ever bought anything there again.

The wine – a white grown here in Karnataka – was not terribly good; but it was delicious!

Siva later told us about some more background to the story that she heard from her driver. Apparently most of the Palm Meadows residents won’t actually go pick up a bottle of wine from the bar. If they want a bottle of wine in the evening and are not willing to travel far, they often send their driver to pick one up. There seems to be a system where the bar charges the driver the MRP and the driver informs his employer that it was the inflated price. The bartenders and drivers are in collusion. If a foreigner shows up, they give the inflated version of the price to keep the charade up.

Back – Part II

Continued from part I

So the afternoon after my holdup in JFK, I headed back up to New York. It was a beautiful, clear, warm, early autumn afternoon. A day like that two weeks later in the year would be called Indian summer. I wonder how much confusion this causes for Indians from the subcontinent that Americas also use the term “Indian” to mean “the aboriginal people of the Americas”. The 360 view from the Verrazano Bridge of Manhattan, Brooklyn, New York Harbor and the Raritan Bay all the way out to Sandy Hook and Atlantic Highlands was magnificent, as was the drive along the Shore Parkway. Check in and clearing security in JFK was smooth. The flight left on time and the fancy on-demand video system in the Delta Airlines 777 had more things to watch that I had the time to in the 15 hours it took to go from New York to Mumbai.

Then I arrived in India.

The international arrival hall in Mumbai’s international airport has a similar quant, run down feel as the old Bangalore airport. I could not figure out where I needed to go. The Delta agent in New York told me that I would have to check in again with Air India in Mumbai and that he could not give me boarding passes for the entire route. So I ignored the sign reading something to the effect of “domestic connections” and walked out the exit. I asked a policeman with a rifle where I had to go to check in with Air India. He directed me to go out the exit and around the corner. As I started out, a man in a white button down shirt with a security card hanging from his neck asked me where my destination was.

Oh you need to go to the domestic airport. That is a 20 minute drive from here. You’ll need a taxi. Come I will take you to one.

Great I thought. This airport employee can direct me to the taxi stand. But if it was a 20 minute drive, then why were there no shuttle busses? I asked about the fare. As I only had 200 Rupees in my wallet, I wanted to have a metered fare and wanted to avoid the unmated Taxi rip-off.

Oh the driver has a fare card that he can show you.

He then took me PAST the taxi stand and a non-descript Tata Sumo (a small SUV that is ubiquitous here) pulled up.

He will take you.

I climbed into the back seat. The man that I had thought was an airport employee then climbed into the front passenger seat. After driving out the airport exit, the driver handed me the fare card… 1950 Rupees, plus a 30% after dark surcharge. I had a heart attack. That was $60. They nicely rounded the two thousand plus 30% to 2500. I was angry, but I was also committed. What was I going to do? Get out onto the streets of Mumbai, not knowing where I was or how to get back to the airport?

As we drove through the city, I was thinking over how I had been scammed already. I hate this having to be constantly on guard. Were they even going to take me to the airport, or would there be another “fee” after they have driven me around. They nicely took me to a cash machine. The “airport employee” stood outside the cash machine’s kiosk. Behind me in line were two Americans. They were young, physically fit men with short, military style haircuts; not the usual middle aged yuppie types on business trips, or the hippie types doing the Goa or ashram thing.

Hey, isn’t that our taxi driver from last night?

Yeah. He scammed us. Shall we kick his ass?

They were actually debating beating the “airport employee” up. Apparently, they decided against it. As I turned to leave, one of them asked me

How much is he charging you? Two thousand?

2500

You are being robbed. That trip should cost no more than 200.

I know, I replied grumpily.

Well, the same thing happened to us. Live and learn.

They actually took me to the airport without further trying to rob me, big surprise. Later, while googling around, I discovered that the domestic and international airports share a runway and are in effect different terminals of the same airport. There is also a shuttle bus that should cost 50 Rupees.

If I ever see these guys again, I’m going to kick their asses.