How I got my Kindle back: an inter-continental call centre story

Dealing with online support in India is a nightmare. So when his Kindle Paperwhite crashed, Pramod thought that getting a replacement would be impossible. But Amazon's customer service left him very surprised.

G Pramod Kumar April 12, 2013 13:08:28 IST
How I got my Kindle back: an inter-continental call centre story

The rather inexpensive and super light Kindle Paperwhite has been my inseparable companion as I live between two cities in the South.

Hardbound books, particularly with mouthwatering online discounts, are look and feel great, but when it comes to reading and carrying around, the Kindle has no comparison. Its screen looks better than ink on paper and all books weigh the same — a mere 213 gm. You don’t need more than two fingers to hold and carry as many as 1100 books with you. It looks cute too.

So naturally, I was crestfallen when this tiny gadget that I have been recommending to friends, suddenly became unresponsive. I had just bought Sonali Deraniyagala’s Wave that was released in the US only the previous day and was so eager to see what the international media were raving about.

It was only four months since I lay may hands on the Kindle Paperwhite, that too when it was shipping after a month of massive advance booking end of last year. And suddenly in the middle of a book, its screen looked like a rock. It just kept blinking when I tried to swipe and revive it. Was it yet another made in China contraption that fooled me? Couldn't I have bought the Wink, the Indian e-book reader from DC Books? If I did, at least I could have asked for a replacement because it would have had a warranty valid in India.

For this American product, who was I going to ask — that too over expensive long distance calls? Would they care for such a small value customer in India? I do remember that before the Kindle era, Amazon had slighted me by refusing to sell me books in India. Of course, of late they are even shipping bulky gardening implements to Indians — that’s another story.

How I got my Kindle back an intercontinental call centre story

The Kindle Paperwhite is seen in this file photo. Getty Images

Anyway, since I was so obsessed with this gadget, I went to the Amazon support site and did everything they mentioned to reset and revive the Kindle, but it was as good as dead. I do have a Kindle on the iPad, but reading on an LCD screen is so strenuous for my tired eyes. Kindle, in comparison, is a breeze.

With absolutely no hope, I entered a lazy line in a message box on the Kindle support page: “Bought a kindle paperwhite in the US for use in India. It doesn’t work any more, its screen is frozen”.

My story of surprises began soon after.

Within a few minutes I get an email from an Indian sounding name on behalf of Amazon. Most of the email looked computer generated and I thought the computer overlooked the fact that the query was from some minion in India and that my call for help would be dismissed in the next stage.

The mail went like this:

Hello,

I'm sorry for the inconvenience. That's definitely not what we want our customers to experience.

Based on what you've mentioned in your e-mail, I see that we'll have to look into your problem with Kindle a little more deeply.

I would suggest you to please give us a call or chat so that we can try some real-time troubleshooting and see if you need a replacement. Over the email, we are not able to fill up the replacement form as we require some information from the customer that is only possible over the phone or chat. So its my request, please contact us over the phone or chat for live assistance.

I hope you understand our limitation in this case as we'll not be able to do live troubleshoot in email.

I realize that at this point of time asking you to contact us again would be disappointing, however, we really feel that the best way to assist you with this concern is over the phone or chat.

Your patience and understanding is highly appreciated in this matter. You can reach us by phone directly and toll free from many countries by clicking the Contact Us option in the right-hand column of our Kindle Support pages at:

Still, unsure and unexcited, but certainly appreciative and curious, I went to the support page and entered my phone number — with the country code and city code — in a box. The idea was that we enter the number and they would call us back. I was still unsure — will they call somebody in India? That too for such a low-value product?

There were two buttons after I entered the phone number — one said “Call Now” and the other, “Call After Five Minutes”. I pressed the “Call Now” button.

Voila! The phone started ringing the moment I pressed “Call Now”.

I had to run to my landline phone and as I picked up, it was the usual recorded message welcoming me to Amazon etc, etc. It would have lasted just ten seconds before a customer care person came online. Her voice was not greatly audible and the line appeared to have been switched over the Internet. I thought perhaps the call was taken somewhere in India from one of countless call centres, but her accent didn’t seem affected. She was matter of fact and sounded very American.

She didn’t ask me any details except the last four digits of my credit card number that I use to shop on Amazon using their one-click service. I gave her the digits and the verification was over — no litany of security questions that we encounter in India.

“So, what’s the problem?” she asked.

“The Kindle screen is frozen, it is not responding. I have tried everything your support page suggests, but it’s not working”. I said.

“Okay, do you have the Kindle with you”?

How I got my Kindle back an intercontinental call centre story

The Kindle Paperwhite at the launch. Getty Images

“Yes, I do”

“Okay, keep the power switch pressed down till I ask you to release it” she said.

“You can start now”.

After roughly 20 seconds, she said: “Okay, you can stop now. Did anything happen?”

“No,” I said.

“Okay, your Kindle needs to be replaced. We will send a new one”

This was the second time I got excited. The first was when I got a call as soon as I entered my telephone number.

I was still apprehensive that they might charge me at least for the shipping and that I will have to spend money to send the faulty piece back.

“You will get an email explaining everything in the next five minutes. Follow the steps. You will get your replacement between 28 March and 2 April,” she said before I could ask how the replacement will work and if I will have to pay, etc.

“You will have to send your old Kindle back within a month. Otherwise, we will charge you”

Shit, I will have shell out a lot of money for sending it back, I thought. Roughly Rs 3000 for 500 gm is what freight companies charge. I might as well buy a new piece when I travel next or perhaps ask somebody to bring one. Or I should buy a $ 100 e-reader available in India.

“Anything else?” She asked.

“No, I shall wait for your email” I said.

She wished me well and hung up. The whole call lasted three minutes.

Within five minutes, my mail box pinged.

Her mail was courteous, precise and clear:

Hello,

I'm sorry your Kindle isn't working. I'm sending you a replacement Kindle via Two-Day shipping to get it to you as soon as possible.

Here's your replacement order information:

Order Number: XXXXX
Estimated Delivery Date: March 28 - April 9, 2013

Please don't modify the replacement order in Your Amazon Account, as that may delay the replacement shipment.

A pre-paid return shipping label can be printed using the link below:

The process was simple. They will send me the replacement and I just have to drop the old Kindle at UPS after affixing a pre-pad shipping label that they have sent.

The new piece arrived in its original box ahead of the deadline and I, as a true Indian, sent back the old piece only in the nick of time.

Since this encounter with an overseas vendor, I have recounted the story to as many people as I could because this is what has been missing in my life as a consumer in India. Dealing with online support in India is a nightmare — mostly semi-literate and rude customer service agents who don’t even know the basic technicalities of what they handle — whether it is a computer or a cellular service.

The worst has been the cellular operators — some of them try to cheat you with bills and try to speak in weird languages that you give up. One company charged Rs 1000 for one GB data when I exceeded my regular 3G quota simply by misleading me on the pricing scheme.

And the wait period to get a customer-care person on the phone in India can be infinite, that too after you punch in at least half a dozen options. Most of the call centre agents, if at all you get them online, sound hugely untrained with weird accents. Unmistakably, most of them are annoying!

And here somebody so far away calls me back, doesn't keep me waiting, asks me nothing, does not put me through the rigmarole of punching in IVR options, and doesn’t fool me by promising action and feigning ignorance when I call next time for non-deliver of that promise. In fact, I didn’t need to call a second time.

I have heard traders in Delhi saying “cheap and best”.

In India, it’s neither cheap nor best. It’s simply worthless.

Updated Date:

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