Friday, March 13, 2009

The Naidu Hall shopping experience

Going shopping in India is always a pleasure in retrospect, the more so when you go to premium shops or emporiums (emporia?). (I speak only for myself here, because shopping in general is not top on my list of fun things to do.) I’m not sure if Naidu Hall counts as a “premium” shop any more in Madras, given that there are hundreds of fancy places that sell hugely expensive clothes, not all of them wearable more than once especially after the first wash (and here Fabindia comes to mind).

Fabindia fans (you know who you are), you already know that
I’m not the only one whose opinion isn’t Fabindia-flattering! Anyway, Fabindia didn’t merit a visit this time (mostly because I don’t like to pay half the earth for kitchen rags, but also just a wee bit because I simply didn’t have much spare time), but Naidu Hall did.

Of all the eccentric payment protocols that you encounter in Indian shops, the most eccentric is probably Naidu Hall's. I think I remember, in some very, very far-off times wreathed in the mists of history and poor memory, when it was a fairly simple thing to shop at Naidu Hall – there were two branches, but the one I usually patronised (to buy my unmentionables) was in Mylapore, near the Sanskrit College. It was a simple enough matter, once the gossiping shopgirls’ attention had been drawn to oneself, of asking for the right size unmentionable, paying at the counter and taking home the unmentionable in a cheap plastic bag. Only one counter for both payment and collection, I might add.

But as Naidu Hall’s range and popularity and outlets and number of staff grew and grew, so did the complexity of the whole shopping procedure. This time I went to the outlet in Adyar, because my cousin and I needed to buy underskirts/petticoats for the sarees bought for my brother’s wedding. This had been complicated unnecessarily right at the start, given the fact that our sarees were miles away at the original point of purchase at a very posh shop in Cathedral Road (for fall stitching and picot work) and our blouse pieces were in the possession of a friend (and part-time self-appointed chauffeur and tailor-recommender). Why were the blouse pieces with the friend, you ask? Ah well, therein lies a story of jet lag (mine) and general forgetfulness (my cousin’s) which doesn’t need elaboration.

So, with neither sarees nor blouse pieces at hand with which to find the right coloured underskirts, my cousin and I trudged upstairs (directed there by the Naidu Hall employee at the entrance) and sat down to wait for my friend to arrive with the blouse pieces. I whiled away the time by pointing out particularly hideous pieces of sartorial inelegance to my cousin and threatening offering to buy them for her as a gift. (For some reason, she wasn’t quite appreciative of my generosity. One wonders why.)

Soon my friend-and-chauffeur arrived and we made our way to the petticoat section, where the lady at the counter was duly proffered the two blouse pieces. Mine wasn’t a problem – she found one that matched it quite quickly. My cousin’s was a bit more of a hassle, and eventually the sales lady informed us that there was no petticoat of that particular shade of rose pink.

Earlier, while we were waiting for the arrival of the blouse pieces, I had picked up a hair clip which I now laid on the counter while I rummaged for something or other in my bag. I didn’t notice at first, but my friend nudged me and pointed out that the sales lady was now trying to match the hair clip to the various colours of underskirts on shelves behind her. This led to some idle speculation on our part – would she try and find a matching petticoat for anything that was placed on her counter? Unfortunately we had neither the time nor any assortment of odd materials, at that point, to conduct an experiment; so, giggling only a little, we informed the sales lady that we didn’t need any matching anything for the clip, but we did need to pay for it.

She directed us to take the clip and my petticoat to her colleague at the payment counter on her floor. So we did. Her colleague made out a receipt for the petticoat, took the petticoat and placed it in a bag, and handed me the receipt. I proffered the clip for payment as well, but was told that she could neither accept cash nor issue a receipt for it (presumably she was in charge of making out receipts only for petticoats), and that I would have to take it downstairs for payment. She then called her minion and handed him the petticoat parcel to take downstairs to the cashier.

We went downstairs (by a different route than the minion, I think) and thence to the main payment section, where I handed the receipt to the cashier lady and paid for the petticoat. She stamped my receipt and gave it back to me to take to the purchase collection counter. Once again I tried to pay for the clip and was asked if I wanted a counter-receipt for that. Envisaging another round of being passed from clerk to counter to minion to cashier, I declined the offer, hoping she would take the cash and just give me the blessed clip.

No such luck. I mean, yes she took the cash from me, but she also took the clip, handing both over to yet another colleague of hers for further action. To our amused disbelief, this chap called another minion who then hared off upstairs, having been instructed to take them to the accessories section of the store and get the purchase ratified (or some such arcane procedure) by whoever was in charge there.

Why? Really, I mean, why? Why take the cash and the clip upstairs when I had offered to make the payment there? Why didn’t the cashier on the first floor take the cash directly from me? Why did she tell me to take the clip downstairs and pay for it downstairs? Why did they have to make me pay downstairs, only to then send both cash and clip back to the first floor - where, obviously, they DID have provision to take/leep cash payments?

Anyway, by the time I had proffered my stamped receipt (for the petticoat – do try to keep up!) at the collections counter, had it scrutinised carefully and then stamped again by the guy there, then collected my parcel with the now twice-stamped receipt clipped to the parcel and clipped again to the Naidu Hall plastic bag as well, the minion who had gone upstairs with my clip and cash was back downstairs, receipt and clip in hand, which he gave to the collections fella. Who then – of course – stamped the receipt and gave me my clip, in its own little bag now, but without my copy of the receipt for the clip...

...because, if you remember, I had earlier declined their offer of a receipt!

Yep, definitely an experience best enjoyed in retrospect.

13 comments:

inbavalli said...

Wow! Shyam! You actually came out of this sane? I would have torn my hair and the sales people's as well. In case you are looking for further delightful shopping experiences in Chennai, go to the new, improved Giri Traders. There, if you buy 20 items, you will have to collect 20 different bills and pay them at one place.

brinda said...

re the above comment: pay for it at one place, indeed! For a truly satisfying shopping experience, you should have those 20 different bills, pay for them at maybe 5 different places, and (this is the fun part) collect them from 5 *other* places. Shyam, shop at Fabindia I say :-)

Lekhni said...

I can see Naidu Hall is doing its best to keep a billion people employed :) Maybe all we want is more Naidu Halls all over the place and we'd have zero unemployment !

rads said...

rofl, okay, so now I know what I should NOT do when I do go visit Naidu Hall next month :D

Kamini said...

You are so funny! As Lekhni said, this is one way to ensure that all those minions are gainfully employed!
And thanks for enlightening me about FabIndia - I thought it was all my fault that no matter how carefully I washed those expensive kurtas, they always ended up looking like dishrags. What a shame, because they did look good when they were new and unwashed!

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ra said...

o god. i got lost somewhere. cottage industries used to be like this..

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Teesu (very very Indian, very very good) said...

In Naidu Hall, I have learned, you just go with the flow. With sighs, mutterings and eye-rolls, of course. Questioning it will lead you nowhere, ha ha.

natasha said...

Watch Natsha Naked!

Pollux aka Paps said...

Hyuk, hyuk, Shyam. My sympathies. I did got to NH too this time but didnt encounter this whole rigmarole. However, I also go into any Indian shop with zilch expections of logical processes, so that prolly helps.
Btw, you have quite a few crap comments that you might want to get rid of....

abhirami said...

rofl, especially @ unmentionables...hilarious!