Saturday 17 December 2011

Incredible India: Selling rags as ermine

Tales to tell
There are many stories to tell of the past day, all bringing some perspective of things in India as a foreigner might experience them.
Friday was a half-day, we covered a topic I was quite familiar with, afterwards I wondered if we had just breezed through something we could have spent more time on, but it did not appear I could be as engaged. I was also beginning to feel that I needed to get out to see a bit of New Delhi, the triangle of hotel, training centre and church hardly offered the picture that makes for Incredible India.
However, in the same vein, one of the elements of my kind of tourism is to understand the people, appreciate how they live and maybe comment on the similarities and differences with my experiences and other observations.
Masks are needed
Having left on the bus after lunch, I got to the hotel literally exhausted; I wanted to get a nap which I did. Then it was time to go to the tailors to fit out the suits being made for me. When in Asia, one must always avail oneself of the luxury of bespoke tailoring with quality materials at a fraction of prices at home.
Since we were going by auto rickshaw, I decided it was wise to get a face mask, from a surgical perspective, they are disposal but in reality, they are reusable. I got a few just in case.
Pressed to dress
As we got to the tailor’s time was wasted on trying to sell us other stuff we did not need; I was firm in my rejection of this distraction asking him to get the suits over for our fitting as there were 2 of us there for the purpose.
We probably spent another 15 minutes there before our urgency made the suits appear, meanwhile I sat with my palm to my forehead and one of the ladies in the shop said it was a bad omen. It was frustrating enough not to care about cultural differences with their lackadaisical attitude to customer service.
For all the luxury in the shop, there was no changing room, the lady attendants had to leave the shop for us to change and check the fit of the clothes.
Not my stripes
The moment I saw my suit I knew it was not the material I had ordered for many reasons. I most wear pin-stripe suits but have never ever liked double pin-stripes of different colours. No matter how bad the lighting was, there was no way I would have missed the second pin-stripe that became obvious on sighting my suit.
I was forcefully vehement enough about it but to insult me the more, the tailor suggested I order another suit to the material I really wanted. Now, my colleagues thought the suit was suits me, maybe it does – it is not all that bad, it is just that it would not have been my choice in so many innumerable instances.
To reinforce the fact that the material had been changed, the receipt booklet was full of samples of cloth for other orders but nothing was ever pinned to my receipt in the book. The simple lesson is, if ordering a bespoke suit from material, always ask for a sample to keep and later compare if disputes arise.
My trainer told me there have been many instances of switching material and underhand practices by tailors trainees have visited, he suggested we ply more sophisticated outlets like Raymonds.
Not ermine by far
This evening I went to pick up my suit and once again, the hard sell started, I wasn’t playing ball as I had my suits packaged with two pairs of trousers as one should always do when buying suits.
A new consignment of material had arrived and it all still in the wrappings, the tailor could not resist another pitch when he suggested he had material very much like my stripped trousers. As he laid the cloth on the counter, my eye caught the original factory markings in chalk-ish ink, as I tried to read the markings the lady assistant began to fluff the cloth in order to conceal the markings.
I allowed her to do her thing as I was being told it was the best material on the market, then, I reach for the side where the markings were, obviously, they could not grab the cloth from me when I turned it over and it read – Polyester & Nylon – I suppose those materials have a way of acting like Kashmir to the eye, to the touch and to the hearing of the trader’s spiel.
Knowledge is power
On seeing the label, I just stepped back and said to my colleague, we had to leave. The tailor also realised I had gained knowledge as he then asked if the material was saleable and I said it could be as we agreed that everyone has their notion of quality – the truth being, quality is not all that it is sold out to be.
Bales of material on the shelves have already had the factory markings cut off, since it is branded in the end of the roll of cloth, the unwitting customer left to read the braided counterfeit markings the line the edges of the cloth pretending to something it is not.
Once again, a bargain in a backwater with the story that they also do it for ambassadors does not mean ambassadors know much about quality material and you are soon sucked into a tale of satisfied customers lured by the vicious circle of word-of-mouth to the confidence trickster’s lair – the silver tongue of selling rags as ermine continues to rake in the bucks, many none the wiser of the fact they have been had.
My consolation, it looks good, it is bespoke and I am not a Nigerian politician dressed up to the nines in every luxury label bought on stolen money.

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