This post is a warning for all of India’s Kickstarter shoppers. Especially the ones who have ordered, or are thinking of ordering, a Pebble watch.
In a nutshell, think twice.
This is my story.
I ordered my Pebble (cherry red, absolutely stunning) in January 2013, paying $150 as a pre-order price. It shipped in June and reached me a few weeks later, despite no intimation from the Antop Hill Post Office (the villain in this saga). I’ll never forget excitedly paying the Customs duty (some Rs. 3,300) and opening the package…only to discover that the piece was defective.
Pebble were good enough to issue a replacement that shipped about 45 days later, after they’d verified the defect. A large part of the delay could be attributed to slow customer service on their part. But, anyhoo…
In September, I received an intimation from the Antop Hill PO. And was surprised to notice that I’d been billed Rs. 4,708 as Customs duty, despite the piece being specified as a replacement, with an order value of $0. Nevertheless, I traipsed on over to the PO. Where I was informed that the only way to dispute the duty levied was to return the item for reassessment to the Foreign Post Office, Bombay.
I applied dutifully for a reassessment. And waited. Two weeks passed. No news.
My wife then visited the Foreign Post Office. And figured that the watch had never reached them for reassessment. Even if it did, there was no way the duty would be reduced. I gulped, and decided to swallow it, greedy geek that I am. I wrote another letter, asking for the reassessment order to be cancelled and the item to be returned to Antop Hill.
Again, no word for two weeks. Then I logged on to India Post’s online tracking site, and discovered that the watch had been shipped to Anna Hill HPO, Chennai!
Alarm bells rang. A couple of frantic days later, I got through to the Foreign Post Office, and was invited to meet a Mr. Dhone. Who told me that Antop Hill had screwed up and sent the watch to Chennai. And that it had returned, with a weight discrepancy of some 60 grams.
I wasn’t allowed to inspect the package. Mr. Dhone was otherwise extremely helpful. He introduced me to the Assistant Superintendent of Foreign Post, Ms. Padmaja Kamat. Both of them advised me to take an open delivery at the Antop Hill PO, and then lodge a complaint if the watch was missing.
My case seemed to have opened up some deeply-buried wounds. As I was leaving, one Foreign Post employee remarked to me:
Sir, don’t ever get an overseas parcel shipped through India Post again. I should not be saying this, but the quality of service is no longer what it used to be.
One honest, brave, cooperative employee.
I visited Antop Hill PO again. And requested for an open delivery. And was rudely shot down by the Postman-in-Charge of Parcel Collections, on the 1st floor. Despite repeated requests to the PRI, a Mr. Jadhav, they were unmoved. Going to the extent of pinning the blame on the Foreign Post Office, washing their hands of all responsibility.
I had no choice but to cough up the duty. I requested both officers to stay while I opened the parcel. Then the Postman-in-Charge delivered the coup de grace.
This has no meaning to me. I will not see anything. I will not sign anything. I will not be a witness if there is an inquiry later.
The PRI, Mr. Jadhav, ran away as soon I started counting out the money.
Sure enough, the sealed parcel was devoid of the watch. I showed it to the Postman-in-Charge. And he actually had the audacity to look up into space and pretend not to see anything.
I will not see anything. I cannot see anything. I will not bear witness.
Today, I filed complaints against the Antop Hill PO. Copied to the Director and Assistant Superintendent of Foreign Post, the Postmaster General and the Superintendent at the Dadar Area Head Post Office.
There are two villains in this saga. The main one being the Antop Hill PO. Below is the evidence.
The other villain, to me, is Pebble.
When I wrote to them about the excess duty, they told me that the duty was the onus of the importer. Fair enough. But in that case, the safe delivery of the parcel should be the company’s responsibility. Then why, oh why, would they continue to ship through the corrupt, inefficient maze of pathetic bureaucracy that is India Post?
They do this knowing full well that there have been plenty of complaints. About lost parcels. Excess duty. Bribery. And more. Google “Pebble in India” and this is what will show up. And this is on Pebble’s own forums.
By now they should’ve realised that FedEx is a better alternative. And that most buyers will gladly pay shipping fees to ensure they get their goodies.
Hey Pebble, a little online listening will go a long way. And if you need some help, drop me an email, me and my digital agency will be glad to set it up for ya.
I don’t want a Pebble any more. I just want the refund. I just want to put this behind me.
As far as I see it, Pebble owes me $150. And India Post owes me Rs. 4,708, plus at least Rs. 20,000 in compensation for the anguish they’ve inflicted. We’ll see where this battle goes.
A better idea for my fellow Indian Pebblers who still want the watch would be to have it shipped to a friend abroad, who can then bring or send it over.
An even better idea would be to leave this goddamn country for better shores, and buy your Pebble there.
Update: Pebble has refunded the money I spent on the watch, without any questions asked, and with some really good customer service thrown in. However, India Post is yet to respond to my complaint. I doubt very much that I will hear from them in this lifetime.