Sunday, January 22, 2012 A Perfect Example of How Not to Run an Online Shopping Website

Today I am going to narrate a story, A real story.

In this story, lead role is played by Deep Shah (name not changed) and His Friends. Every story has good guys and the bad guys right, in this story the bad guys are (name not changed) as a company (nothing personal against anyone). There are some side hero's in the story as well, I will introduce them as and when they appear. I am all exited to tell the story to you guys, so here it goes!

The Plot:

There was a guy called Deep Shah - A Software engineer living in Pune.  He wanted to buy a new mobile, specs he wanted were:
  • Android OS
  • Dual core CPU
  • Minimum 4" Screen
  • 1GB RAM
  • Budget max Rs. 20K (approx  $400)
For a very long time none of the phones met all his criteria.  Samsung Galaxy R (around Rs. 25K), Samsung Galaxy S-II (around Rs. 28K) and Samsung Galaxy Note (around Rs. 33K) would match the technical specs but were totally out of his budget.

Then one day, one of his friend pointed out that prices of Samsung Galaxy R have fallen to about Rs. 21K.  He decided to go for it!

The Buy - The Good:

Just like any other middle class person, he decided to get the best deal (read that as cheapest deal) for his Samsung Galaxy R.  He checked out the prices at a few local stores, but the best deal he could find was around Rs. 22K.

The online price for Samsung Galaxy R was around Rs. 21K.  Deep Shah had ordered quite a few things (some of them expensive as well) online in foreign countries and they all were delivered just fine without any problems.  But in India, his online shopping experience was limited to books and some not so expensive stuff.  He really wanted to give Indian Online Shopping websites a go (actually he really wanted to save the 1000 bucks!).

Hence, he checked out few online shopping websites, that were selling The Samsung Galaxy R.  I am not going to mention other online shopping websites names (since this post is not about them).  He decided to order the phone from a website called who were selling the Samsung Galaxy R at Rs. 20990.

Why did he choose
  • They had a decent web site
  • They had a call center where one could call for enquirers between 8 am to 9 pm, 7 days a week
  • They were giving away free branded accessories worth Rs. 1200 absolutely free
  • He had found a discount coupon for which would give him an additional Rs. 1000 off!
Obviously, the last two reasons were the most important reasons to choose, the phone was costing Rs. 19990 after all the discount!

OK so the choice of the website was made, now it was time to actually place an order.  The moment of choosing the payment mode had arrived.  There were mainly two options Cash on Delivery and Pay by Credit Card.

The choice was simple, it was Cash On Delivery, however, there was a catch, the discount coupon wont work for the Cash on Delivery payment mode.  Damn, if he choose Cash On Delivery the phone would cost 1000 bucks more.  You guys must have guessed his choice of Payment Mode by now, yes he choose Pay be Credit Card.  Unfortunately to save 1000 bucks he risked loosing Rs. 19990!

The order was placed on on 30th December 2011 a Friday -   Lets buy order number: LSB-757065 (actual order number). claimed that they will delivery the phone in 2-4 business days.  Deep Shah was expecting the delivery latest by Thursday.  Now it was time to wait anxiously for the delivery.

The Confusion - The Bad:

He checked the order status on and found that that, the order was going to be dispatched in two parts, one was the actual phone and other was the accessories.  Over the weekend he saw that his order was partly dispatched from  The phone was on its way!

By Monday (02/01/2012), had updated the shipment number and the courier company's name on the order.  The phone was being dispatched by a company called Aramex (name not changed), the shipment number was 6273338610 (actual shipment number).

Checking the current status on the shipment on, showed that shipment was on its way to Pune.  However, one thing caught his attention, the shipment was to be delivered in Pune - 411013, but, when Deep Shah had placed the order the address mentioned as Pune - 411016.

Hmm, how could the pin code be different.  He and His Friends smell something fishy. 

He decided to call up the courier company to find out whats wrong with the order.  The courier company Aramex was pretty prompt and accurate in their response.  He could talk to an executive within 30 seconds.  Deep Shah asked the executive to track the shipment 6273338610, to his surprise (read that as "shock"), executive informed that, the Order was in the name of Mr. Amer (name changed) and order was to be delivered in Magarpatta, Pune - 411013.

Clearly, something was messed up.  Initial guess about the problem with Deep Shah's order was:

Probably incorrect shipment number was updated against the order on

He asked the courier company executive to find any shipment against his phone number (the number that he had given while booking the order).  But unfortunately no shipment was found against his phone number.

Next, he decided to call call center to get some clarification.  This was the first time that Deep Shah would talk to call center executive.

He had to wait a full 7 minutes before he could actually speak to someone at

Deep Shah explained the situation with his order and asked for an explanation.  The executive calmly said that may be an incorrect shipment number was updated for his order (which was his guess anyways).  Executive requested Deep Shah to wait for 24-48 hrs and he will get this error resolved.  Executive registered a complaint (no: cc120139286 - actual complaint number).  This was on 02/01/2012

The Followup - The Ugly:

Next day (Tuesday 03/01/2012 - i.e. after 24 hrs), he logged on to to see if the shipment number was updated.  But, there was no change in the shipment number.  He decided to wait for one more day. 

Next day (Wednesday - 04/01/2012), ditto, no change in the order information.

He decided to call again to find out whats going on for his complaint.  Again, it was a long wait for 9 minutes before which he could speak to someone at

Deep Shah had to repeat the entire story again to this new person.  Executive informed that they were working on Deep Shah complaint and he has no update on the status of the complaint.  Executive requested Deep Shah to wait for another 24 hrs.  On this day, Deep Shah received the free accessories (not the phone).

Next day (Thursday - 05/01/2012), there was an unpleasant change on the order status, the Order status showing as Delivered on  That freaked out Deep Shah a bit.

He tracked the shipment no: 6273338610 on website.  Turned out that it was actually delivered to Mr. Amer.  But no, Deep Shah had not received the phone yet.
Shipment Delivery to Mr. Amer
He called, after a long wait for 8 minutes, he could speak to someone at

He had to explain the entire story again (which was very frustrating).  You must have guessed the result of this conversation by now, executive asked Deep Shah to wait for another 24 hrs as they had no update on his complaint/order.  Executive even assured him that by the next day, in most likelihood Deep Shah should receive the product.

Next day (Friday - 06/01/2012) nothing happened.  Following up with was frustrating and pointless.  Every time, Deep Shah had to wait for long durations and then explain someone the same problem all over again and get the same response. executives would not give their direct contact numbers or their email address.  This means
  • Long wait before one could speak to a executive
  • Explaining the situation all over again (to different executives) and eventually get the same response - Please wait for 24 hrs.
Wait for 24hrs and do what?  Expect some miracle?

On Sunday - 08/01/2012, i.e. Full 10 days after placing the order, Deep Shah still didn't have any trace of his phone.

He had received the free accessories, as one of my friend keeps saying,

Its like giving an hungry dog a rubber bone!  

Deep Shah called up again and this time demanded to speak to some manager.  He got to speak with Mr. Laxman Patil (name changed) a supervisor at  He seemed like a nice guy, heard Deep Shah out, understood the situation and promised to look into the matter himself.  By this time all Deep Shah wanted was a regular feedback on his order.

Being a software engineer, he understands that all systems are pron to programming/human bugs/errors.  But customers should be given regular feedback on what action was taken to rectify the mistake.  Even after contacting, like 10 times, didn't have enough courtesy to call Deep Shah and update him with the complaint status.

BTW the order status on was Delivered, they didn't bother to change it, even after they agreed that it not yet delivered.
Order Status is Delivered Even though no phone was delivered
Next day (Monday - 09/01/2012), no news from, no news from Mr. Laxman Patil.  During this period Deep Shah wrote numerous mails on but didn't respond to even one.

During these days, Deep Shah and His Friends tried our different (random) tracking numbers, which were around the tracking number that was given to Deep Shah.  They found quite a few tracking numbers that had funny shipment history.  For e.g. Tracking Number 6273338621 was delivered twice once in Panji, India and once in Bombay India.

Shipment Delivered Twice
What did this signify?  Does this mean Aramex was reusing shipment numbers?  

We called up Aramex to ask whether they were reusing shipment number?  Of course they said shipment numbers are unique.  They cannot be duplicate.

Deep Shah and his friends could find multiple instances where there were two deliveries made on one shipment number.  If you notice the tracking history of Deep Shah's shipment number you can see, even that one has two shipments moving.
  • One shipment arrived in Pune on 31/12/2011 at about 1845 hrs and went on hold.  
  • Other shipment started from Banglore on 02/01/2012 and was delivered on 05/01/2012 to Mr. Amer
Notice two shipments moving on one shipment number
In this shipment, notice that, there are two products involved but only one delivery was made.  While in all other shipments we noticed that two products were moving on the same shipment number but two deliveries were also made.

By this time, Deep Shah and His Friends were sure that his shipment was lying in Aramex Pune office but was never delivered.

What was so special about this shipment?  Why others got delivered but this one was not delivered?

The interesting thing to notice about all other shipments with duplicate shipment numbers was that, they were to be delivered in different cities.  for e.g. in the image shown above, one product was to be delivered in Panji Goa and other one in Bombay.  But, in Deep Shah's case both the shipments were to be delivered in Pune.

This was the turning point.  After some motivation from Deep Shah's Friends, they decided to visit Aramex Pune office and figure out if their theory was correct.

On Wednesday - 11/01/2012, There was still no updates from  Even after giving numerous calls to no one would every get back to give any update.

Deep Shah would call and insists to speak to Mr. Laxman Patil, he would have to wait for full 15-20 minutes, eventually Mr. Laxman Patil would inform that, he has escalated the case to higher authorities and action will be taken.  It was too late and too little and very very frustrating. 

Deep Shah and His Friends visited the Aramex office in the evening and explained them the situation.  Initially they had tough time explaining them that two shipments were moving on one shipment number.  If they looked up the shipment number in their system it would always bring up details of Mr. Amer's shipment.  As there cannot be two shipments with same shipment number.  Entire logistics business is based on this assumption. 

Once a logistics expert (who had around 15 years of experience in Logistics) told me that,

We cannot have duplicate shipment number being generated in production, this would have catastrophic effects.

Now, I truly understand what he meant by that!

Anyways, In Aramex Pune office one guy (A very good guy) did agree that, two shipments were moving on one shipment number.  He and his team manually checked all the shipments that were present in his warehouse.

Guess what, they did find a box that was shipped by and was with the same shipment number i.e. 6273338610.  One very smart person at Aremex Pune office had kept this shipment aside since he saw two similar shipments with same shipment number had landed in his warehouse.

It seemed like the mystery was getting resolved, it was clear that the box had the phone for Deep Shah, but, Aramex would not deliver it to Deep Shah since, in their system, this shipment belonged to Mr. Amer.  Funny part was, the shipment was already delivered to Mr. Amer.

Aramex guys requested Deep Shah to wait for one last day so that they could get a confirmation from about the shipment and delivery it to him. 

Next day, Thursday - 12/01/2012 - Deep Shah called up to inform them about what he had found out, he had also written an email to inform about this new development.

Again as usual they asked Deep Shah to wait for 24-48 hrs. call center is like an IVR system which is programmed to listen to what customer has to say and always respond by saying we will get back to you in 24-48 hrs and never bother call the customer back.  Worst part is they will ask whether they can help with anything else?, what a joke!

In the evening at about 1730 hrs, the smart guy from Aramex Pune office called up Deep Shah and asked him to come and collect his phone.  Finally a sign of relief, Deep Shah did get his phone after 14 days of placing his order!  Aramex Pune office folks actually managed to resolve the issue within 24 hrs as promised by them.  They really were the people who saved the day in the end.

Out of curiosity, Deep Shah the smart guy at Aramex, Why duplicate shipment numbers are getting generated?

Turned out, a range of shipment numbers have been allotted to and they are not supposed to repeat them.  But, because of a bug in's system, same shipment numbers were getting used for two different shipments.

Well, I can understand that mistakes do occur when you are running a business, but the quality of service is judged by how well you handle those erroneous cases. failed miserably in handling this case.  

On a scale of 1 to 5, I would rate my shopping experience with at -5.  I hope not every customer is treated like this at else its just a matter of time before which they perish!

What Should have been done:
  • Customers should not suffer because of some goof up in the system
  • Customers should always be keep informed about the status of their complaint
  • Customers should not be waiting for 7-15 min before which they can speak to a customer care executive
  • Customers should not be speaking to different executives every time they call. 
I am sure knows much better how to run an online shopping website.  However, things that I have pointed out are just common sense items which should not have been ignored.

End Result:

Deep Shah and His Friends promised themselves never to buy any thing from and hopefully people who read this post would do the same. 

Moral of the story:
  • Never judge a website by the amount of discount they are offering on a product
  • Choose the one that has a better reputation and better and responsive customer care
  • Always always always opt for Cash On Delivery payment method
Standard Disclaimer: 

Every incident mentioned in this story is real.  All order numbers and shipment number are real order/shipment numbers.
Have some Fun!