Saturday, July 23, 2011

Is that right, Mr. Tata?

The Retail Association of India (RAI) had recently come out with a notification to implement the Indian Government's initiative to curb the usage of plastic bags in retail. These changes were rolled out in the megapolis of Bombay this week. Buyers are now required pay Rs. 3 to Rs. 7 for taking plastic bags from stores in the city.
Yesterday I happened to visit the Croma store at Juhu knowing fully well that Croma had been handing out eco-friendly paper bags. So I decided not to carry bags alongwith me - yes, I would not be charged for paper bags - the Government notification being implemented by RAI is only for paper bags not the plastic ones.
Now Croma has an impressive lineage - it has been promoted by the much loved and revered House of Tatas - an Indian business group that is well known for its ethics and a principled approach to business. For years I had always looked up to the House, and Mr. Ratan Tata, their Chairman, in awe and admiration for their innate capability to stand up for what is right and what should be.
I was searching for some add-ons for my computer at the store. I picked up some stuff, the bill ran into a respectable amount - a couple of thousands.
I got into the queue. There was a couple ahead of me who had picked up a laptop and some accessories. Their bill was about Rs. 20,000. The cashier refused to give them a paper bag, instead asked them for a charge of Rs. 7 for a paper bag. This led to an argument between the cashier and the couple - don't the people who spend a decent amount of money have a right to an eco-friendly paper bag to respectably carry their stuff? I butted in in support of the couple to no avail. The couple relented and agreed to take their stuff without carry bags. In the course of the argument, the cashier did mention that there had been at least 20 irate customers who lodged complaints with the store manager, Mr. DJ (I am using the manager's initials to protect his identity) during the course of the day.
When my turn came, I demanded to meet Mr. DJ. My logic was that plastic bags were to be charged not paper bags. Croma had anyways been giving paper bags for over 2 years now and there was no reason to charge for that. The RAI notification prominently displayed at the store did mention that plastic bags were to be charged. If do spend a couple of thousands, I would not mind spending Rs. 7 on a plastic bag, but Rs. 7 for a platic bag is a rip-off and is in contravention of the norms.
After a while, Mr. DJ came to the counter. He looked reasonable and educated, but was utterly disappointed on how he had interpreted the RAI notification. Mr. DJ was stubborn to the point that he even refused to see the logic and spirit of the RAI notification.
I would like to ask Mr. Ratan Tata whether Croma is looking to juice out profitability from the sale of "paper bags" when actually they are going against the letter and spirit of the RAI initiative on plastic. In case it is Mr. DJ's narrow interpretation, I am prepared to accept the argument, however, if that's the Tata management's call, then God save them. And I will be genuinely concerned as a long-standing admirer of the House, and, as a shareholder as well!
In all, this was a lousy experience at Croma, Juhu!

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