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Review

Hotel Altius Nest, Kodaikanal, a haven for honeymooners and families

Altius Nest, though a relatively new entrant, is a pearl among the various hotels dotting the landscape of Kodaikanal. I chose Altius as our honeymoon destination, going by the various positive reviews on Tripadvisor, and I’m really glad I did so.

 

Booking

Wanting to save some bucks, I was searching for a honeymoon destination that was safe for couples and families, providing comfort and great service, yet light on my pocket. Scouring the internet for deals, I happened to read some reviews on Altius Nest. It wasn’t available for booking universally at all sites yet. I managed to find a deal on Goibibo that amounted to Rs. 12462 for 5 nights at their Standard Room. Applying Goibibo’s “SEASON14” promo code, I got the price reduced to Rs 7362. I admit that I had more than a trifle of trepidation booking an unknown hotel without being able to verify the authenticity.

 

Prearrival

Going by recommendations on Tripadvisor, I phoned the hotel ahead of arrival (a couple of months in advance) and asked that a room on the first floor facing the woods behind, be reserved for me. The woods referenced turned out to be part of the property belonging to the CSI Church, and are a really pretty view. I contacted the manager, Mr Bala and he assured me that a room of my preference would be reserved for me.

 

Arrival

I travelled from Thiruvananthapuram to Madurai, and stayed overnight at Madurai. Early morning after breakfast, I proceeded to Kodaikanal via an SETC ultradeluxe (semireclining) bus from Madurai Arapalayam bus terminus. I recommend an SETC bus if you’re travelling to Kodaikanal from Madurai, as it is hardly ever crowded (as it’s slightly more expensive than the regular Corporation bus). Our bus had just 5 passengers and the bus did not have any stops between Madurai and Kodaikanal. The journey was pleasurable. After an hour of travel though warm Madurai, the bus ascended the slopes leading to Kodaikanal, and the journey waxed with scenic sights and hordes of monkeys. The bus journey took around 4 hours, and our bus dropped us at the bus stop adjacent to Kodai Lake.

 

There are no autorickshaws in Kodaikanal. There were a couple of taxi cars lined up at the bus stop. After bargaining for a while, they told me that they could take us to Altius for Rs 150. I called up the hotel and they said Rs 100 was the reasonable charge for a car to the hotel. I argued that Rs 100 would be the maximum I’d pay and finally we got a Maruti Omni minivan to take us to the hotel.

tripadvisor05

The Hotel and Reception

The Hotel was lovely from outside. It resembled what I’d imagined about what a country side inn out of old Western classics would look like. The receptionist was very pleasant, and immediately recognized us, and after handing over the Goibibo receipt for the prepaid rent, we were taken to the cost room on the first floor. Drawing back the curtains, we were greeted by the lovely woods at the back with wild flowers in full bloom.

Being used to the tropical hot climate in Kerala in mid January, the weather seemed was extremely cold. However since we intended to enjoy the cold at Kodaikanal, we were not moved. The heater was working, and after a quick bath, we were invigorated. We went down to the restaurant for a quick cup of coffee.

 

There was hardly anyone else in the restaurant. Our waiter identified himself as Veerapani and told us that he and Veeramani would be looking after our stay for the next few days. Coffee was great, and so was lunch. The tap water was biting cold, however Veerapani offered warm water out of the drinking jug, to wash our hands. All through the stay, what stuck me deeply was the amount of courtesy that Veerapani and Veeramani provided to us. We never gave a tip for the food, and yet every day he would kindly provide us warm water to wash, and would be ready with tissues to dry our hands after washing. Every night after dinner, he would ask and replenish our drinking water.

 

Rooms

The room was cosy, and spacious for a regular room. The flooring was wooden. The bedding was made up well, and a white blanket was drawn over the sheets, neatly folded. The bed was a king size bed, and there were switched at both sides for the lighting. There was no air conditioner as is the usual norm for hill station rooms. There was a row of three windows on the right side of the door which faced the woods at the back. The lobby and the corridor leading to the room was tidy and the rooms and lobby was built around an open rectangular space, and even before descending the stairs we could peer down into the lobby.

 

January 28-February 2 was off season in Kodaikanal and in answer to my query, I was told that there were only 2 other rooms out of the total number of 25 rooms that were occupied at the time.

Toilet

The toilet was clean, with fresh hot water and a partition between the latrine and the bathing area.

Service

As I mentioned earlier, service was the distinction of this hotel. I am not an avid traveller, yet I could gauge that the service quality of this mid range hotel was exceptional. I don’t believe 5 star hotels elsewhere would provide the service quality equalling Altius Nest. Veeramani and Veerapani acted as our hosts. In addition to providing exceptional service at the restaurant, Veerpani would call us every day before breakfast, lunch and dinner, and remind us that food was ready. He would ask us after dinner, regarding our preferred time of breakfast, and right on the dot, would phone us up and announce that food was ready. As honeymooners, we were bound to be late for breakfast, but he would remind us patiently.

 

On the eve of our checkout, there was an issue with the card processing system, and I was told that they couldnt process my card. Instead of being told to go to an ATM and withdraw cash, Veeramani took me to nearby ATMs (the first two were faulty) on his scooter to help me get cash.

 

The room I reiterate, was extremely chilly during this chilly off season. On the third day of our stay, I chatted up with Mr Bala. He had apparently worked at Kovalam beach in Thiruvananthapuram. On being told it was too cold for us, he generously offered a room heater free of cost. Once the heater started to function, the cold become pleasurable and Kodaikanal seemed less like Kashmir.

 

Sightseeing trips

Sightseeing trips were planned by the hotel in arrangement with local tour operators. Veeramani would ask us what kind of sightseeing tour we liked, and the hotel arranged guided tours along with other couples. Every morning, a mini bus containing half a dozen other tourists, would pick us up from our hotel, and take us on guided tours to various places. A typical trip lasted from 11 am to 2 pm, and the guide would take us to various scenic places, describe them and even take photographs for us. We especially liked Pandiyan of Rajah’s travels who conducted guided tours with a personal touch and affection.

 

Food

Breakfast was complimentary, and we could choose savoury hot dosas, masala and ghee dosas, onion oothappams, pongal, and toasted bread and jam. Other than the scrambled eggs, everything was deliciously tasty. Thinking of our breakfast would arouse the taste buds! I forgot the names of our chefs, but apparently there were two of them preparing delectable dishes.

 

Lunch and Dinner by comparison to dinner were less exciting. We didn’t like the Chicken biriyani they dished out. However noodles and fried rice were good, and so was the Chicken chilli. After the second day we stuck to fried rice with Chilli chieken and Stuffed parathas for dinner. Anyway there was nothing to complain regarding the food.  Everything was scrumptious.

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Review

Flipkart.com – Losing its footing in the e-commerce sector?

Update: See below for an Update posted on September 14, 2014

Flipkart.com used to be a market leader in the e-retailing industry. Once upon a time Flipkart used to be synonymous with quality service and trust. However in recent months, Flipkart seems to have become a commercial venture which has lost track of quality service and has dwindled distribution nodes. At least that seems to be the conclusion drawn from its lack of distribution nodes in major cities of South India.

For the past few months, Flipkart has been notable by the absence of distribution partners for mobile phones and other electronic equipment in major cities in South India. Cities like Thiruvananthapuram, the capital city of Kerala; Cochin, which is called the commercial capital of Kerala are places where Flipkart does not deliver electronic goods to. The situation is similiar in other cities of South India, except perhaps Chennai and a handful of other metropolitan cities. This has prompted customers to comment whether this once giant in the e-commerce industry is on the verge of decline, since reducing distribution outlets in major cities is often the first sign of cost cutting and reduced profits.

Selection_004

That this has occurred in recent weeks when Flipkart has tried to market its “Flipkart First” subscription service which guarantees “same day” delivery to multiple cities of India is ironic. One wonders whether Flipkart has the logistical infrastructure to undertake this venture, the first step of which should have been securing a dense distribution infrastructure, at least within major cities of South India. Flipkart’s move may perhaps be a cost cutting exercise in the segment it was once renowned for, and it may be a sign of it concentrating more on the clothing segment, as suggested by its recent acquisition of Myntra.com.

Flipkart also seems to lack the hardware infrastructure to handle large number of transactions. On May 23, when Moto E was restocked, Flipkart.com’s server became offline for hours at a stretch and the mobile app became unresponsive.

Flipkart has been the sole delivery channel of Motorola in India. Motorola has enjoyed a massive support from userbase in India for its recent launches, the Motorola E and Motorola G. These launches have so far been a novelty unavailable across major parts of South India, thanks to Flipkart’s lack of a delivery network in this region.

When contacted, Flipkart’s Farheen M. from customer support responded that Flipkart does not have any immediate plans to consolidate its delivery channel in South India. He responded by saying, “Kindly note that the availability of service in a locality is based on several factors like the products, the coverage of us for this servcourier partners used by ice and the policies of the respective sellers. Unfortunately, at this point of time, the mobiles cannot be delivered to the pin code ..(all cities in Kerala) .. by any of our sellers. We are unable to provide an approximate time frame on the availability of service in your location for the mentioned product.”

It makes one wonder whether Motorola should have chosen a better partner for distributing its mobile phones, an e-retailer with a more diverse and solid infrastructure. However in the e-commerce sector, companies rise and fall, and Flipkart.com may well be replaced by globally acclaimed brands like Amazon.com (amazon.in).

Already companies like Amazon.in are proving to be a staunch competition to the homespun Flipkart.com and customers have already started moving away from Flipkart.com even in their once secure stronghold-online book sales. Flipkart used to provide books at a competitive rate, excellent delivery and post delivery service via its Easy returns policy. Unfortunately for Flipkart, Amazon.in now matches prices and in many cases undercuts Flipkart’s pricing for books, and delivers books and other goods even on the same day. It’s easy to predict that Flipkart is going to see a massive decline in user base over the coming months, given their lack of a solid delivery infrastructure.

Update on September 14, 2014:

It was perhaps a bit too premature to put the blame on Flipkart. The real issue was a standoff with the Commercial Taxes Department of Kerala. According to newspaper reports that came in over the next few days, stopping transactions with customers in Kerala was due to the Commercial Taxes department starting to charge VAT on products delivered to Kerala. Since the items had already been taxed at the source of shipment this amounted to double taxation and non-viable for online stores. The Government also prohibited Cash on Delivery orders stating that these shipments had not paid taxes.

Online shopping is a huge boon to citizens. Since it does away with profits by middlemen, and to a large extent does away with mass media marketing, stores are able to price items at a fraction of the amount at which it is available at retail outlets. As a mechanism of transferring profits to the enduser, it should be considered as a boon, and not as yet another golden goose slaughtered before its time.

As of today, products sold directly by Flipkart (WS Retail) are the only items that can be shipped to India by Flipkart. Jabong and Shopclues.com are other sellers which have completely stopped shipping to Kerala. Yebhi.com as of now redirects purchases to Jabong (buyout?), and hence that’s another option gone. Myntra was bought out by Flipkart and along with Amazon.in are some of the few remaining sellers who ship to Kerala. Around three quarters of sellers on Snapdeal.com have stopped shipping to Kerala while a few still do.

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Review

Hotel review – UG Grand – Travelguru

Among all the hotels that I’ve ever booked, this is the worst service that I’ve ever had to endure. I have booked the hotel through Travelguru.com and am angry that they could enlist such a hotel in their service. Read on to learn about my experience.

Access

Hotel UG Grand is just a brisk 10 minute walk from the Majestic (Kempe Gowda) bus terminus. Having found the location on my smartphone’s Google Maps, I decided to take a walk instead of hiring an auto in an unknown city and succumbing to their exploitation. After a few intersections, you can see the sign which points to the UG Grand Hotel.

Parking

It doesn’t have any sheds for parking. There’s a small open area parking that can accommodate around 10 cars at most.

Location

As mentioned, it is close to the hub of Bangalore city, the Majestic bus stand and the Bangalore City railway station. Hence it is easy to visit anywhere in Bangalore, since the Majestic bus stand has buses to everywhere.

Reception

The staff were unhelpful even to the point of being distinctly hostile. When I reached the front desk, they were sending away another guest who had reached there after being shunted from another of their hotels nearby, and had pre-booked his reservation from ‘Makemytrip.com’. Apparently they had no idea about the number of rooms already paid for via online bookings, and had already filled the rooms to other people who had no bookings.

I had to argue with them for 15 minutes to make them understand that I had already paid for the rooms online, and that they already had my money with me. Finally they had to acquiesce. I had to wait for 45 minutes in the lobby for their manager, before I was accommodated.

The Room

I have stayed at this hotel in the past and the previous stay was in a cosy room. However this time, they accommodated me in a room with tattered walls, unkempt sheets and to add fuel to the fire, one whose electrical wiring was shoddy so much so that the socket where you insert your key to power on electicity was hanging loose from the wall. It took half an hour for an electrician to fix it, before I could switch on the fans in the place.

The bed sheets I was provided were torn (See photo).

The pillow covers were dirty.

The mirror was stained and useless (See photo),

and the paint on the walls was falling apart in places (See photo).

The room itself was in corner of the building, and had no view. If you open the windows, you can peer into another room through its windows. However you’d be advised to close the windows shut since there are a lot of pigeons rollicking about in the spaces between the rooms.

Even though the hotel is close to the roads, it is very quiet within the rooms, and you can hear the bustle and noise of the city only if you listen intently. It is a good choice if you need to take a good nap.

General cleanliness and facilities

There is nothing much to praise about this hotel. When I was shown into my room, the pillows were missing covers and there weren’t any blankets. They took around an hour to bring fresh pillow covers and even these were stained. They provided just one blanket. They did not provide towels or soaps, which are provided by almost every budget hotel.

Dining facilities

Since the hotel did not have a restaurant, I didn’t order from room service, and instead took a walk to a nearby diner and ordered tasty South Indian dosai and curry. Mind you, there are NO good restaurants nearby. The diner I used resembled a fast food joint, and may not be for everyone’s taste.

Overall

I cannot recommend this hotel for families. If you’re staying for just a couple of days and absolutely need an economical hotel, this one is fine if you can put up with the unkempt rooms, and aren’t claustrophobic. I’d still advise you to keep phoning up the hotel reception at least a couple of times to make sure they hold your reserved room. On the overall, a very pitiable service. The only advantage is the closeness to Majestic.

I have never received such a poor and shoddy service in a hotel booked through Travelguru.com. I have complained to the online booking service and asked them to refund my booking at least partially. When one uses an online service of good repute like Travelguru.com, they have a responsibility to ensure that hotels they’ve enlisted provide a minimum standard of service to their guests. When the hotel has no clue that an online booking exists for the date, something stinks somwhere, and maybe it’s time to switch the online provider and use another service like Yatra.com or Makemytrip.com.

I’ll keep this post updated with details of any feedback from Travelguru. As of now, their only response was that they will talk to the hotel’s management and ask them to improve their facilities, which seems a pretty dismal response. What about the consumer who had to endure the shoddy service due to their lapse?

Other Photos

Update:

I’d complained to Travelguru.com today morning and also contacted them through their social media portals. I just received a reply from them (after around 5 hours), so that’s pretty fast for customer service.

Response from Travelguru.com:

Dear Mr.Mathew.

Greetings from Travelguru.

With reference to your e-mail, we sincerely apologise for the inconvenience caused to you and would like to express our deepest regret for the disappointment caused to you during your recent booking with Travelguru.

We would be closely monitoring the hotel and would upload your feedback on our website which shall also lead to a decline in the hotel rating. We would also like to inform you that in future if we continue to receive any more complaints we shall blacklist the hotel on our website.

You deserved better – a lot better – from us with each transaction you do with Travelguru, and this time we have let you down. Nothing is more important than regaining your trust and as a goodwill gesture we are providing you Rs 500/- gift voucher which you can use for your future reservation.

So that seems pretty decent of them. It doesnt take away the difficulties I faced, but mitigates it.

Categories
Review Shopping

A critical review of the best Indian Shopping sites

As an early adopter of the Internet, I’ve been “in the loop” on the dawn and metamorphosis of e-shopping in India. From being portals hazarded only by technophiles, e-shopping has rapidly undergone a major evolution in terms of adoption by shopaholics and deal hunters. One of the major benefits, especially for citizens of the non metropolitan cities of India is the proximity of availability of fashion wear and gadgets, which previously used to be within the realm of their more privileged cousins in Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, Bangalore and to a possibly lesser extent, Chennai.

However this post isn’t about the philosophy and review of e-shopping in India, it is a critical review of the best Indian shopping sites. So I’ll jump to my review.

Review of Yebhi.com

Yebhi is one of the most popular shopping sites renowned for good deals on Footwear and Clothing. Yebhi and Myntra have become a household name in India owing to the convenience offered to customers by providing Cash-on-delivery service, and impeccable after-sales service and a transparent Returns policy.

Ease of Shopping on Yebhi.com:

Shopping on Yebhi is a breeze. I’d go so far as to call it the haven of shoppers in terms of ease of use. The site has recently undergone a makeover for the better, and though the new site is rather graphic heavy, it does load rather quickly. Searching for items is very accurate though it does not offer any Advanced Search facility. However if you’re a casual shopper, you may find it better to find what Yebhi has to offer by browsing through the sidebar and may find a nice surprise. Yebhi offers a very good categorization of items and you can swiftly find your dream product.

Payments on Yebhi.com

Yebhi is one of the best in terms of offering a variety of payment options. In fact you’re  in for a huge surprise when you discover that Yebhi offers Cash on Delivery for everything! You can order anything (no minimum value required), and Yebhi will deliver it free to your doorstep. You can then pay the courier guy. The characteristic feature of Yebhi is that they offer COD even on already discounted items and items on which a coupon has been applied.

If you wish to pay in advance, Yebhi also offers a variety of payment options, and support all major credit and debit cards. The payment process is worry-free, and failed transactions auto-refund to the same mode of payment. Yebhi offers free shipping on all items even on COD. So it’s a great shopping experience.

Yebhi also claims to offer a “phone shopping” option.

Shipping time and reliability of order completion on Yebhi.com:

Yebhi like Myntra is renowned for its lightning quick shipment delivery. They ship on the same day of placement of order, and the items reach the destination usually within 3 days. Blue Dart is the shipping partner, and in association with them Yebhi offers free COD. They also claim to offer a “Try and Buy” in metros, however I’ve never had experience with this.

I have never faced an issue of not receiving an item ordered on Tradus.

Ease of Availing Returns on Yebhi.com

:

Yebhi has a transparent returns policy, and claim to offer returns on a “No questions asked basis” for unused items. Yebhi offers a 100 day “No questions” asked returns on all unused products. In this regard, Yebhi offers a unique deal to customers, and seems to be the key to the huge popularity Yebhi has enjoyed in recent months. Yebhi has a transparent returns policy.

After sales support and Enquiry at Yebhi.com

After sales support and returns on Yebhi is a breeze. The customer care techs are extremely supportive.

Promotions and Coupons at Yebhi.com

Yebhi used to be renowned for their amazing discount offers via coupons. However in recent years, Yebhi has cut down on coupon offers and has restricted coupons to certain categories of goods.

Additional Features/Comments

Yebhi is one of the best shopping portals in India.

[easyreview title=”Feedback score for Yebhi” cat1title=”Shopping” cat1detail=”Ease with which you can search for products” cat1rating=”8″ cat2title=”Payments” cat2detail=”Variety of payment options offered and reliability of payment gateway” cat2rating=”10″ cat3title=”Returns” cat3detail=”Ease of Availing Returns and customer satisfaction after sales” cat3rating=”10″ cat4title=”Shipping” cat4detail=”Shipping time and reliability of order completion:” cat4rating=”9″ summary=”Yebhi is highly recommended for hassle free e-shopping and offers a great shopping experience. Cash on Delivery is an amazing highlight”]

 

Review of Myntra.com

Myntra, like Yebhi is one of the most popular shopping sites in India. It has carved a niche among these sites for Clothing, and offers a huge variety of Clothing. It also offers footwear and accessories.

Ease of Shopping:

Shopping on Myntra is a no-brainer. The site is well designed, and offers a simple search for items. The results and item browser is very simple to use, with quick previews of listings, along with accurate close-up photos of the actual item. Fabric details are presented very well, and I’d go as far as to say that Myntra offers a truly comfortable shopping experience similiar to actual shopping in a real shop. Results can be sorted according to price, and is very easy to compare and contrast.

Payments

As with Yebhi, Myntra too offers a huge variety of payment options. In fact you may be in for a huge surprise when you discover that Myntra like Yebhi offers Cash on Delivery for everything! You can order anything (no minimum value required), and Myntra too will deliver it free to your doorstep. You can then pay the courier guy.

If you wish to pay in advance, Myntra also offers a variety of payment options, and support all major credit and debit cards. The payment process is worry-free, and failed transactions auto-refund to the same mode of payment. Yebhi offers free shipping on all items even on COD. So it’s a great shopping experience.

Shipping time and reliability of order completion:

Myntra is famous for its lightning quick shipment delivery. In fact, Myntra ships items within a few hours of order placement! You may be shocked to receive courier tracking number for your items within a couple of hours of placing the orders! They ship on the same day of placement of order, and the items reach the destination usually within 2-3 days. Myntra has a transparent 24 hour shipping policy.

Ease of Availing Returns:

Myntra has a transparent returns policy, and claim to offer returns on a “No questions asked basis” for unused items. Myntra offers a 30 day returns on all unused products except innerwear, cosmetics, socks, deodorants, perfumes and free items. In this regard, Myntra like Yebhi offers a great deal to customers, and seems to be the key to the huge popularity Myntra too has enjoyed in recent months.

After sales support and Enquiry

After sales support and returns on Myntra is a breeze. The customer care techs are extremely supportive. Myntra does not have a Toll free number for support. But they advertise their telephone number, email and address prominently, in addition to having a Web contact form.

Promotions and Coupons

Recent shift in policy has made Myntra stop offering promotions for discounted items. Since most items on Myntra appear to be discounted, shopping on Myntra does not provide the satisfaction that it used to in terms of happiness in getting a steal deal.

Additional Features/Comments

Myntra is one of the best shopping portals in India.

[easyreview title=”Feedback score for Myntra” cat1title=”Shopping” cat1detail=”Ease with which you can search for products” cat1rating=”8″ cat2title=”Payments” cat2detail=”Variety of payment options offered and reliability of payment gateway” cat2rating=”10″ cat3title=”Returns” cat3detail=”Ease of Availing Returns and customer satisfaction after sales” cat3rating=”8″ cat4title=”Shipping” cat4detail=”Shipping time and reliability of order completion:” cat4rating=”10″ summary=”Myntra is highly recommended for hassle free e-shopping and offers a great shopping experience. Lightning fast shipping and transparent product along with universal Cash on Delivery are highlights”]

 

 

Review of Ebay.in

Originally, the only e-shopping known to the majority of people, Ebay.in is most famous for the sheer variety of goods available on the portal. From the latest gadgets to clothes to currencies and stamps for the *philes, Ebay has everything. Ebay in itself doesnt stock anything, it relies on deriving profits from listings and sales by thousands of sellers from Kashmir to Chennai.

Ease of Shopping:

The site is well designed. You can search keywords, put in price restrictions, sort by price (even inclusive of shipping cost), use Boolean (Or and And) searches using the Advanced Search option.

Payments:

Ebay.in offers a variety os payment options, and support all major credit and debit cards, and Netbanking options of major banks. They claim to offer Cash on Delivery too, but you’d be hard pressed to find sellers who offer COD for their products. The payment process is worry-free, and failed transactions auto-refund to the same mode of payment.

Shipping time and reliability of order completion:

Ebay.in has fixed shipping deadlines. As of this review, the shipping deadlines on Ebay are as follows:

  • Entering shipping details: Within 1-5 days of buyer’s payment confirmation
  • Delivering item to buyer: Within 1-7 days of entering shipping details in My PaisaPay Dashboard
Most good (high volume) sellers deliver on time and most adhere to shipping deadlines. Because of being a pool of different sellers, the courier companies vary from seller to seller. In many cases you can phone up sellers (you get their contact details immediately after payment) and request shipping through a particular courier service.

Ease of Availing Returns:

Ebay.in ‘claims’ to offer their trademark “Paisapay” option for your payment process. In truth, it is not really an option. All transactions are “Paisa pay”. What they describe is trouble free returns of your product of you’re not fully satisfied of your purchase with regard to Item Description. In simple words, they claim to return your money or offer a replacement product if  the item you receive is “significantly different” from what the seller listed, or if the goods you recieve are defective.

Does it work? More often than not, Paisapay is a load of crap. Ebay has stopped giving money entailed in shipping the defective goods back to the seller. Many sellers resist allegations of defective goods. Ebay’s handling of Paisapay claims is via “Claims adjusters” who are just Call centre employees who are intermediaries between sellers and buyers, and try to settle the claims. The Claims adjusters mostly rule in favor of the sellers, and are difficult to contact. Even if a favorable resolution is passed, it takes around a month to get your money back, since claims take more than three weeks to process, and most of this time is spent by Ebay in waiting it out. On more than one occasion, I have had occasion to file Consumer complaints against Ebay.

After sales support and Enquiry

Ebay provides a Toll free number for contact along with Web contact forms. The web contact forms are never replied to. Calling them up is a chore, mostly due to odd and paranoid security checks that they’ve implemented to verify your identity. Through the Toll free number, you can contact them  for enquiries and complaints.

Promotions and Coupons

Ebay irregularly provides shopping coupons for shoppers, mostly for people who have never shopped on Ebay before. The coupon quantities are of low amount of money like Rs 200 off on Rs 205, but at times you can get good deals with these coupons. However a notable feature is that Ebay does not offer most coupons to frequent buyers, which is a rather incredulous and frankly stupid move on their part.

Additional Features/Comments

Ebay has a feedback and review system whereby consumers and sellers can leave feedback after sales, letting others know of the service from a particular seller. It has its merits, whereby you can confirm that sales and after sales of a particular seller are good, before placing the order. It also functions to some extent in keeping fraudulent sellers at bay.

[easyreview title=”Feedback score for Ebay.in” cat1title=”Shopping” cat1detail=”Ease with which you can search for products” cat1rating=”9″ cat2title=”Payments” cat2detail=”Variety of payment options offered and reliability of payment gateway” cat2rating=”9″ cat3title=”Returns” cat3detail=”Ease of Availing Returns and customer satisfaction after sales” cat3rating=”2″ cat4title=”Shipping” cat4detail=”Shipping time and reliability of order completion:” cat4rating=”8″ summary=”Even though returns on Ebay and after sales support suck, the sheer volume and variety of goods beckon.”]

 

Review of Homeshop18.com

Homeshop18.com is one of the well known shopping sites in India. They have made a name for themselves in having close associations with various importers of goods in India, and offering gadgets at amazing discounts to customers in India. In many occasions, these prices rival prices offered across the world.

Ease of Shopping:

The site is well designed. Though it lacks an Advanced Search option, Homeshop18 offers a “Shop in ” category wise search. Items are easy to find. However Homeshop18 suffers from a befuddling issue of deleting entries of withdrawn or “out-of-stock” items.

Payments:

Homeshop18 offers a variety os payment options, and support all major credit and debit cards. Netbanking options of major banks is also an option. They claim to offer Cash on Delivery too, but rather like in the case of Ebay, most sellers dont offer COD for their products. The payment process is worry-free, and failed transactions auto-refund to the same mode of payment.

Shipping time and reliability of order completion:

Shipping time on Homeshop18 varies. In case of gadgets sourced internationally, shipping time occasionally may take upto a month. Resolving shipping delays is a major issue, and customer care often fails to provide adequate information about the shipping details, and there numerous cases of Homeshop18 customer care techs providing invalid tracking information for shipments in a bid to falsely provide reassurance to anxious customers. However unlike in case of Pepperfry.com which is infamous for failing to complete orders, Homeshop18 is known for always delivering the goods even if it takes a long time to do so.

I have never faced an issue of not receiving an item ordered on Homeshop18 .

Ease of Availing Returns:

Homeshop18 has a transparent returns policy, and claim to offer returns if informed within 48 hours. Further details are available on their site. Since I have never had a reason to ask for a refund/returns I am not sure of the actual difficulties involved.

After sales support and Enquiry

Customer Care on Homeshop18 is one of the worst, rivalled only by sites like Pepperfry.com. In many cases if contacted for clarifications regarding items listed on their site, Homeshop18 customer care techs are often clueless, and read from the site. As if you’re illiterate yourself and cant do it on your own.

Promotions and Coupons

Homeshop18 has recently enjoyed a lot of popularity for offering amazing deals on gadgets through their “Super deal” offer. Periodically, Homeshop18 provides a collection of gadgets at an insanely low price in limited numbers for the first N respondents. After the numbers have been sold, the deal expires. A rather shrewd way to get customers to revisit their  site frequently. It is not unusual for items to appear on Homeshop18 superdeals at a ‘not-so-low’ price. They occasionally offer coupons too.

Additional Features/Comments

Homeshop18 suffers from poor customer care and long shipping time. However a promise of delivering and insanely low prices on some items makes it one of the favorite shopping sites for gadget lovers all over India.

[easyreview title=”Feedback score for Homeshop18″ cat1title=”Shopping” cat1detail=”Ease with which you can search for products” cat1rating=”8″ cat2title=”Payments” cat2detail=”Variety of payment options offered and reliability of payment gateway” cat2rating=”8″ cat3title=”Returns” cat3detail=”Ease of Availing Returns and customer satisfaction after sales” cat3rating=”5″ cat4title=”Shipping” cat4detail=”Shipping time and reliability of order completion:” cat4rating=”5″ summary=”Homeshop18 offers good value for money and delivers, though at a slow pace”]

 

Review of Flipkart.com

Flipkart.com is one of the well known shopping sites in India. They have carved a niche for themselves as popular online sellers of Books and offer a huge collection of popular books and even some uncommon books too. They also offer a variety of gadgets and other items, however the prices of these are nothing to write home about.

Ease of Shopping:

The site is well designed. Though it lacks an Advanced Search option, they have a good categorization of items which are easy to find. Books can be searched by Title and Author.

Payments:

Flipkart offers a variety os payment options, and support all major credit and debit cards. Netbanking options of major banks is also an option. They claim to offer Cash on Delivery too. The payment process is worry-free, and failed transactions auto-refund to the same mode of payment.

Shipping time and reliability of order completion:

Shipping time on Flipkart is good, and most items ship within a week. Orders are honored and completed in time. Customer care is exceptionally good, and professional. Most complaints are resolved in a time bound manner.

I have never faced an issue of not receiving an item ordered on Flipkart.

Ease of Availing Returns:

Homeshop18 has a transparent returns policy, and claim to offer a 30 day returns. Furthermore orders can be cancelled before being shipped, and a full refund is offered in such cases. Since I have never had a reason to ask for a refund/returns I am not sure of the actual difficulties involved.

After sales support and Enquiry

Customer Care on Flipkart  is one of the best. Customer care techs are professional and supportive. Problems are resolved without a furore.

Promotions and Coupons

Flipkart does not believe in offering shopping coupons. Books often have good discounts in comparison with rival sites. However the same cannot be said of other categories of items like gadgets. In this respect, Flipkart seems to have lost their edge over the years. In fact, 3 years ago I had bought my first Android phone, the HTC Desire from Flipkart.com at a great price. Now I wouldnt even bother to look at the price of gadgets on Flpkart as the prices are not competitve.

Additional Features/Comments

A treasure trove of books. Gadget and other items do not have competitive pricing. Excellent customer care and good shipping times.

[easyreview title=”Feedback score for Flipkart” cat1title=”Shopping” cat1detail=”Ease with which you can search for products” cat1rating=”8″ cat2title=”Payments” cat2detail=”Variety of payment options offered and reliability of payment gateway” cat2rating=”8″ cat3title=”Returns” cat3detail=”Ease of Availing Returns and customer satisfaction after sales” cat3rating=”8″ cat4title=”Shipping” cat4detail=”Shipping time and reliability of order completion:” cat4rating=”8″ summary=”Flipkart offers good value for money for book shopping in India”]

Review of Pepperfry.com

Pepperfry is a recent entrant into the world of e-shopping. Founded by a retired Ebay Country manager, Pepperfry.com cuts across categories like Gadgets, Home applicances, Health care appliances, Clothing and Sports goods. Pepperfry offers limited number of items in each category though, and is no way comparable to heavy weight shopping portals of the likes like Yebhi and Myntra, or even Ebay. However, Pepperfry has created a niche for itself by regularly offering discount coupons among the items it sells, albeit selling items at a much higher price than competitor sites. Pepperfry’s shipping time is the worst among most online shopping sites, and all items are shipped after 7 working days, which in effect may extend to about a month after full payment is made.

Ease of Shopping:

Search is limited to a Simple search, though in most cases you dont need the Search as the Product Category menu at the top suffices in taking you to the items you wish to buy. Item description on Pepperfry suffers from limitations in adequate description of item in terms of features, and in many cases you’re required to do an additional Google search for getting more information. This is a bad approach, as in many cases, customers become aware that the same item available elsewhere is overpriced on Pepperfry.com.

Payments:

Pepperfry offers a variety of payment options, and support all major credit and debit cards. However, Netbanking options of some major banks are notable by their absence. They claim to offer Cash on Delivery, however COD is not offered for items bought after availing of a coupon. Free shipping is offered. The payment process is rather irksome as in more often than not, the payment gateway communication with the site is terminated, and your money disappears into a black hole at least temporarily. In many cases they dont have an adequate response to your query about failed payments and it takes more than is customary to refund back to your bank account. If payment was being tried with a coupon, failed transactions lead to cancellation of coupons, and coupon can be activated only after calling up Customer Care and waiting an hour after they cancel the order manually. If you’ve been placing this order near coupon expiry deadline, you may be unable to order thereafter.

Shipping time and reliability of order completion:

Among the sites compared, Pepperfry offers the worst in terms of Time to ship following Order completion. The Shipping Time advertised on Pepperfry in most cases is “Within 7 ‘working days’ “. In contrast to all other sites, what this means is that in most cases, Pepperfry.com waits for around 15 days or more to ship an item. If you become impatient after a week of item placement and call up Pepperfry’s customer care, they have the nerve to remind you rather ingratiatingly that they had many holidays in the time interval, and that your item will be shipped within the deadlines. Having placed numerous orders on Pepperfry over the year, I’ve never found a single occasion where they’ve actually dispatched the goods within a week.

Pepperfry is also unique in failing to obey their own shipping deadlines, and failing to honour contract agreements. In many cases, they’ve faced numerous criticisms from customers where they’ve cancelled the orders because they’ve felt that they’ve underpriced items. Pepperfry is one of the unreliable shopping portals out there. If you need a quick delivery of an item, say to gift someone on time, stay away from Pepperfry. You may receive the item after a month or not at all.

Pepperfry also does not allow order cancellation. In case you require order cancellation, they will announce that they do not offer refund of your money, and will only provide you a coupon for future purchases. To add fuel to the fire, they have the nerve to tell you that this coupon expires in a week! In short, the Shipping and Returns on Pepperfry is the worst among E-commerce sites.

Ease of Availing Returns:

As mentioned above, Pepperfry does not allow order cancellation. In case you require order cancellation, they will announce that they do not offer refund of your money, and will only provide you a coupon for future purchases. To add fuel to the fire, they have the nerve to tell you that this coupon expires in a week! In short, the Shipping and Returns on Pepperfry is the worst among E-commerce sites. Shopping forums are rife with criticisms that Pepperfry does not even offer returns or refunds on items delivered in a damaged state. Even in cases where the mistake is on their part, Pepperfry customer care techs will try to sell off coupons for the hard earned money you’ve spent on their site.

After sales support and Enquiry

Pepperfry offers a Toll free number and Live Chat for enquiry and support. Ease of connecting to their support hotline is good. After sales handling of refund requests suffers from a bad Returns policy.

Promotions and Coupons

Pepperfry is one of the sites who actively promote marketing of their site through Periodic advertisements of coupons and deals. However beware of buying items on Pepperfry without a proper research of competitor sites, as Pepperfry.com is very well known for over-pricing items over and above all competitor sites. Items selling for around a thousand rupees are often sold for around many hundreds of rupees more than the competition. They probably do this to adjust the offers on coupons. They do regularly provide a variety of coupon discounts via email. If you’re a shrewd customer, you can often cut a good deal.

Additional Features/Comments

Poor after-sales support, unreliability of honoring agreements and extremely poor shipping time makes Pepperfry one of the worst E-commerce portals. However a shrewd shopper can avail of some discounts if he’s careful enough.

[easyreview title=”Feedback score for Pepperfry” cat1title=”Shopping” cat1detail=”Ease with which you can search for products” cat1rating=”8″ cat2title=”Payments” cat2detail=”Variety of payment options offered and reliability of payment gateway” cat2rating=”5″ cat3title=”Returns” cat3detail=”Ease of Availing Returns and customer satisfaction after sales” cat3rating=”1″ cat4title=”Shipping” cat4detail=”Shipping time and reliability of order completion:” cat4rating=”1″ summary=”Pepperfry is one of the worst shopping sites in India. A bad Returns policy and snail like shipping time spoil the shopping experience”]

 

Review of Tradus.com

Though a relatively new and probably a bit unfamiliar to most except seasoned shoppers, Tradus has rapidly made inroads into the world of Indian e-shopping, and has made quite a name for itself among gadget shoppers

Ease of Shopping at Tradus.com:

The site is well designed. Tradus lacks an Advanced Search option, unlike Ebay. However you can easily find the items you’re looking for using simple keyword search. Tradus like most well designed sites features a “Sort-by-Price” and you can easily compare same items between sellers

Payments at Tradus.com:

Tradus offers a variety os payment options, and support all major credit and debit cards. However, Netbanking options of some major banks are notable by their absence. They claim to offer Cash on Delivery too, but rather like in the case of Ebay, most sellers dont offer COD for their products. The payment process is worry-free, and failed transactions auto-refund to the same mode of payment. Combining shipping for various items, you can easily save on shipping costs for multiple items.

Shipping time and reliability of order completion at Tradus.com:

Tradus has made a name for itself with its quick dispatch and delivery time. Most sellers offer renowned couriers like Blue Dart, First Flight or Quantium.

I have never faced an issue of not receiving an item ordered on Tradus.

Ease of Availing Returns at Tradus.com:

Tradus has a transparent returns policy, and claim to offer returns on a “No questions asked basis” for unopened items. However it seems that the Returns policy is an eyewash and not adhered to in most instances.

For returning items, one has to call their Customer support phone number, which is non-toll free. Then follows a long wait time as most customer care execs are “always busy attending to other customers”. Finally, they ask you the reason for returning the product and if the reason is acceptable to them, they email you a Return Invoice for returning the item. They dont have a Courier pickup service for Returned Items, and one has to go through the hassle of packing the items and sending it to them via a courier service. They promise to provide refund of shipping charges, however they failed to deliver on that when I returned the product. My courier charges were non refunded even a month after shipping it back to them. The actual price paid for the goods were returned to the Bank account within a week however.

After sales support and Enquiry  at Tradus.com

Tradus does not provide a Toll free number for contact. They do have a web form for enquiry and customer complaints, however the answers take time in coming. When I had reason to contact them, they did not respond to even half a dozen mails sent over a period of two weeks. This is in stark contrast to Customer Care a few months ago, and hence I have to say that Tradus is slowly becoming one of the unreliable shopping sites out there. I have had to downgrade the rating I gave to Tradus since this review was first published. It’s still better than certain cheating sites out there like Timtara.com. Lack of a Toll free number is a glaring deficiency.  Customer care officials are aloof and non-professional.

My recent legal notice to the company was answered by a curt one-line response by some lower rung employee. Overall, Tradus.com has now become thoroughly irresponsible and unprofessional.

Promotions and Coupons

Tradus is one of the sites who actively promote marketing of their site through Periodic advertisements of “deals”, and also has associations with cellphone and DTH recharging sites for offering “Flat Off” coupons for products on their sites. This is a very good approach to consumer satisfaction. In fact, if you decide to buy from Tradus, you may find it worthwhile to search for coupons from Tradus.

Additional Features/Comments

When I first wrote this review, Tradus was recommended as a reliable e-shopping portal. However in light of recent dealings with Customer Care, I should say that Tradus is slipping, and is now one of those Commercial portals who consider Business over Customer Satisfaction. I would recommend that buyers be 100% certain of their purchases before using Tradus.com, since their returns policy is a big failure.

[easyreview title=”Feedback score for Tradus” cat1title=”Shopping” cat1detail=”Ease with which you can search for products” cat1rating=”8″ cat2title=”Payments” cat2detail=”Variety of payment options offered and reliability of payment gateway” cat2rating=”7″ cat3title=”Returns” cat3detail=”Ease of Availing Returns and customer satisfaction after sales” cat3rating=”3″ cat4title=”Shipping” cat4detail=”Shipping time and reliability of order completion:” cat4rating=”7″ summary=”A poor after-sales support and irresponsible and aloof customer care spoil the shopping experience”]

 

Comparison between popular online shopping sites in India

[easyreview title=”Top Indian shopping sites” cat1title=”Myntra.com” cat1detail=”A pleasure to use. COD option on all goods, great variety, excellent shipping time” cat1rating=”9″ cat2title=”Yebhi.com” cat2detail=”Stunningly easy to use, COD on all items, quick delivery, great customer support” cat2rating=”9″ cat3title=”Tradus.com” cat3detail=”A poor after-sales support and irresponsible and aloof customer care spoil the shopping experience” cat3rating=”6″ cat4title=”Flipkart.com” cat4detail=”Treasure trove for Book lovers” cat4rating=”8″ cat5title=”Ebay.in” cat5detail=”Huge variety of items and easy transaction, good site usability” cat5rating=”7″ cat6title=”Pepperfry.com” cat6detail=”One of the worst shopping sites in India” cat6rating=”3.5″ summary=””]