Flipkart Fiasco

Flipkart is something of a butt of internet jokes at the moment. Meme creators are going after the e-commerce website like nobody’s business. 🙂 (Not that I have anything against them – it keeps me entertained.)

Even ‘The Hindu’ had an article quoting tweets and memes. Other facebook groups like ‘Srini Mama’ are doing a fine job of creating memes that cater to a section of the population (Tamil speaking, tamil movie watching.)

Flipkart Sale: Mega success or epic fail ?

Flip(ped)kart

While the innuendos are adorable, and the memes are truly well thought of, I think the Indian e-consumer needs to get some perspective of things.

Most of people’s crib’s about Flipkart have been around for ages on other e-commerce platforms. Amazon for instance has ridiculously priced items too – of course people make awesome fun of it, and Amazon itself sometimes publicizes it. Read about this watch – specifically the first customer review.

There’s also, Amazon’s own list of awesomely written reviews. There’s also this – especially the horse mask.

A lot of times, there are algorithms in the background that will set the price ridiculously high or ridiculously low. There have been many instances of prices being entered wrong, and the seller not being able to fulfill the order because it would be ridiculous to. Of course, when the prices are low, we aren’t complaining – when the price is accidentally high, instead of contacting the customer care, and trying to resolve the issue, we end up posting it on social media – not at all a wrong thing to do. I guess either way, the retailer ends up correcting the price even if only eventually.

Amazon (in the US) definitely does a better job in terms of the website being up, but they are a software behemoth that knows exactly what they are doing.

Price Changes:

When Amazon slashes prices of items already on discount, they show it as a two-step discount. (i.e., original price, discounted price, further discounted price.) This way people don’t think the prices are being inflated before being offered a discount. But anyone who has used plugin’s like camel know – there is no price guarantee in online e-commerce. The prices vary with the retailer intelligently trying to guess how much a person is willing to pay. So, if indeed the prices go up from time to time, there is nothing to complain about. However, if Flipkart did increase the prices of items beyond reasonable limits of what it was before, only to show deep discounts, that was clearly unethical.

There have also been complaints about the prices of some items on Flipkart being more than competing sites, and also being more than a direct retailer price. Again, nothing new – you will find things like this on Amazon as well. Some resellers price the items the way they want – and Amazon doesn’t control it. If you want it bad enough, and are lazy to do some research, then you will end up paying more.

Out-of-Stock Issues:

As for only a small number of items being available at discount, maybe Flipkart could have done a better job of advertising that – but maybe they didn’t want to kill the buzz. Thanksgiving shopping is similar in the US in terms of availability – the amazing deals like eggsbox (sic!) for $50 – there are probably 5-10 per store. Chances are you won’t get your hands on it. It will take people a couple of years to get used to this, and then they will eventually realize, unless they really must have it – like the Gollum must have his precious, it’s not worth the hassle. That consumer maturity will come with time.

Cancellations

This really has no excuses – you should be able to handle multiple requests coming in at the same time. Anyone who knows anything about transactional databases knows that this cannot and should not happen.

All said and done, a bad day for Flipkart, but the consumer needs to understand that if a discount sounds too good to be true, chances are – it is. Most deeply discounted items are also generally useless. As an interesting after thought, I wonder how much resellers make on products if they can afford to routinely give 40-60% off. Are they selling items at a slight loss when then sell it at 60% off ? Or does it mean goods are extremely marked up ? One wonders.

P.S: I buy some stuff on Flipkart from time to time – especially books and music CD’s. (well, music CD’s because (a) I don’t always like enjoying music for free, and (b) I like lossless music, and there is no website where I can purchase lossless Indian music! (at least not that I know of) ) I also compare prices on amazon.in on the books – and have found that no one website has the best price every single time. It keeps changing.

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