If it wasn't enough to have to go through middlemen to get a driver's license, a passport and what not, I now see the rise of a new class of middlemen - the Digital Middlemen.
If you are a parent today you'll probably remember the time when starting school each year was a time of excitement & fun. Notebooks & textbooks from Bipin stores, pens from Gala stores, sports shoes from Bata and school uniforms from the neighborhood aunty who was an expert in stitching perfect fitting uniforms with just the right material. While going to these places we'd even meet our classmates and exchange notes about our summer holidays.
Things have changed so much. Textbooks, notebooks & uniforms are no longer bought at stores but at schools. Some schools even sell shoes, socks and maybe even underwears. Still, things like having the tailor measure the students for stitching the uniforms, children trying out different sizes of shoes ensure that we at least get things that fit.
This year however even this has changed. We don't have to visit anyone. No tailor, no stationary seller, no one. Welcome - the Digital Middlemen.
I had to create a login to a website which sells everything and buy everything from them. Everything from shoes, socks, belts, books, craft material its all available. Being quite experienced with Amazon, it didn't take me long to fill my shopping cart with everything ... everything except the trousers. I usually remember the shoe size of my son but his waist size? After a couple of minutes arguing, my wife and I concluded that the only way to know for sure is to measure him. The first challenge was to locate him; unfortunately children don't come with GPS trackers, we had to wait until he came back home after his evening play.
'Ok, 23 inches, lets place the order right away' is what we thought only to find the website doesn't have this size, size starts from 26! What do we do? Can we send him to school with everything but his trousers?
Customer support! Why didn't we think of that earlier? We called them up. A well spoken gentleman picked up the phone. My solution to this problem was to get in touch with the tailor directly and get the trouser custom made but no amount of reasoning was enough for this person to divulge the phone number of the tailor. I then asked 'ok, so what do suggest?'. To this he replied 'Sir, we have a service where our representative will come and take the measurement at your home'. Not trusting how things were moving I asked 'And?', he replied -'and you'll be charged Rs. 350 for this service and even if you don't place the order you'll still have to pay the charge'.
Such practices I call Value Subtracted Services - this website was following this paradigm perfectly.
Websites like these are the new middlemen - the 'Digital Middlemen'. I have no problems using their services but the service should at least work out in favor of the customer. The RTO agents now seem a lot better compared to these websites. As the saying goes 'the more things change the more they stay the same', I couldn't agree more.