Consumer is an abusive king

When the consumer movement came to the shores of India, it brought radical change with it. Businesses were asked to be more accountable and furnish all necessary information, false advertising was discouraged and consumer courts and forums were set up. All this happened to protect the consumer from being fooled by businesses. Slowly, ‘consumer is king’ came to be the byline for the market and the scenario slowly changed from being business oriented to consumer oriented. A business could no longer do whatever the hell they wanted.

Now, the concept has gotten stronger than ever with all businesses catering to needs of the customer/client at any cost. The abuse has now flipped and customers are the ones throwing their weight around. They have too many options and industries ready to kiss their feet.

The one industry that suffers the most because of this is the small businesses within the service industry – everyone from small cafes, restaurants, tour guides, teachers, salons, beauticians, designers, editors to carpenters, electricians, plumbers, painters, cleaning services etc. Owning a business in one of these fields automatically makes you liable to greet the client with your head bowed and voice fearful. If you so much as disagree with the client, you are screwed. They will either shout at you or not pay your money or both. Because most of these people work as freelancers, there is simply nothing they can do.

I had recently called a beautician home through urbanclap. She was a sweet young girl who was very careful about what she said, how she behaved, where she kept her equipment etc. She did not dare step out of line for even a minute, else she would be risking a bad review or a complaint. I asked her if she enjoyed working in this field and if urbanclap treated her well – her answer to both was no. She said there was simply no respect in this field and people treated her like shit all the time. She said that once she had gone to a lady’s home for a pedicure. After she was done, that lady refused to let her throw the dirty water in her bathroom. She asked her to go and drain it down the pipe from the terrace. So this girl had to carry the equipment all the way to the terrace to drain the water down the pipe.

Listening to her story infuriated every muscle in my body. This was outright abuse. But the question here is – who has enable people like that lady to treat service providers like this? Let us take urbanclap’s platform in consideration – they make their money from the service providers, not the customers. It is free for the customer to raise a request for a service, but the service providers have to pay to send in their proposal to that customer. You either have to purchase credits to apply or you need to pay them their cut before you go to a customers house to provide them the service (lest you vanish). And YET, it is only the customer who can review the service provider. What kind of nonsense is that?!?

So the customer can behave in whatever way he/she may please, but the service provider has to be respectful and accommodating of their wishes all the time, because if you are not – you will end up getting slammed with a horrible review and consequently less business.

One more category that suffers a lot in our country is Artists. As a dancer, I am aware of how much my fellow artists struggle to make a living. I have spoken to a lot of dancers about the existing abuse within and outside the industry and surprisingly a lot of them have had the same concerns – pay the artists what they deserve, treat them and their time with respect, don’t expect them to always dance to your tunes. But despite so many of us having the same concerns, nothing really is changing. I hear so many incidents of artists being abused every single day – most of them involving lack of payment. They are also taken for quite a ride with lots of promises but then are harassed or let down or refused at the last moment. They are always told that they are ‘replaceable’ and ‘disposable’ and that the client will just find someone else if it doesn’t work out.

Platforms like urbanclap only serve to enable this behavior as there is simply no way service providers can broadcast their concerns and experiences on the platform. So they lower their prices and try to be as tolerant of the client’s bullshit as possible. And it’s getting worse day by day. Artists are doing 12 hours shoots for a meager amount of Rs. 2000. They are taking up huge choreography projects for peanuts. Designers are designing for 500 bucks. Writers are writing for 200 bucks. Editors are editing for free.

Is there any end to this? At this rate, a day will come when we literally will be washing the client’s feet with nothing in return.

I am trying to run my own studio and I have listed it on different platforms. Let me just say this loud and clear – most of the leads I get from these platforms are useless. These people are assholes. They are A grade assholes. They shell out all kinds bullshit and expect you to take it in. From the lady who expected classes everyday for 20 days at her home, to the guy who thought 2.4K was too much for 12 sessions, to the girl who said she raised a request by ‘mistake’ – you are all assholes.

I think its time that we collectively as an industry, and I mean all small business owners within the service industry, start saying no to such people until their options dry out. Refuse to dance to their tunes. Refuse to take their bullshit. If someone doesn’t let you throw THEIR dirty water in their washroom, throw it in their room and walk out. If someone expects you to perform everyday at an hourly rate of 200 bucks, show them the middle finger and leave. Start saying no.

It is the responsibility of platforms like urbanclap to ensure that the professionals working with them are treated justly. You are making money off us. Have some courtesy. It is high time that the tables are turned and WE start demanding some accountability. We are not puppets and we will not be pushed around by the customers. We demand respect as professionals and expect to be treated fairly within the professional capacity.

Start saying NO.

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