The idle ramblings of a Jack of some trades, Master of none

Aug 22, 2009

Westland Wasteland

According to its publicity site, WestLand (an Indian publisher under the Tata umbrella) has several years of retail and distribution to its credit. A few years ago they decided to move into publishing. I have no idea how good their retail capability is, but their publishing is scarcely of high quality.

A few months ago I asked my in-laws to bring along Kamini Karlekar’s Unsettled when they visited us in London. They purchased the book at one of Bangalore’s bookstores, a spanking new copy, and I pounced on it like an elderly tiger. Imagine my toothless bafflement and fury when I saw that the first twenty or so pages of the book were blank. There were faint traces of print, but nothing was legible.

Clearly, quality control is sorely lacking at WestLand. (You can see how lackadaisical they are – even now, almost a year since the book was released, the website says it is ‘forthcoming’.)

I sent an email to the contact address given at WestLand’s website, explaining what had happened, and asking that a replacement book be sent to me. I also left a comment at Karlekar’s blog suggesting that she might want to take up the production values with her publishers. There was no reply to either message. Luckily, Space Bar was able to dig up WestLand’s Delhi office chief, Mr Yashjeet Singal’s email address for me; when I emailed him, he was good enough to write back. He would, he said, arrange for a replacement to be sent.

Weeks went by with no sign of the book; the in-laws returned to Bangalore. I wrote to Mr Singal again that I hadn’t received the replacement, and suggested that, at any rate, WestLand might as well send me some other book instead. Maybe Devdutt Pattanaik’s 7 Secrets from Hindu Calendar Art?

Yashjeet Singal replied a little while later to say that both the books were being couriered to my in-laws’ address. At this point, in my mind, Mr Singal was a signal fellow indeed.

A fellow showed up with a packet at my in-laws’ doorstep a few days later, handed over the books, and said that the attached invoice for Rs 500-odd needed paying. In my idiocy, I had forgotten to tell my in-laws to expect the replacement book.  So they unwittingly paid up.

I must confess I feel extremely stupid, but never in a century did I expect that WestLand would want me to pay for a replacement for their shoddiness. I wrote an indignant email to Mr Singal, asking that he reimburse my in-laws for this nonsensical rigmarole. It has been three weeks since, and he has not bothered to reply.

Shoddy production quality is one thing. But this lack of ethics is entirely another.

At any rate, I will not be buying anything again from WestLand or EastWest or Tranquebar.


Nikhil Narayanan said...

I am surprised that a Tata company did something like this.
Very unusual for them.
Hope they see this post

Naanthaanga said...

Quite a bad experience.. I had a similar bad experience with Rediff when i ordered "I too had a love story" and "The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas" . The first one had a bad printing and the second one looked very old

Recently i started using flipkart.. Their service is very good. At least till now i havent had any bad experience with them. U can try them if you want to order online..

km said...

Sweet mother of God. Talk about chutzpah.

That author's blog hasn't been updated since January 2009. So there.

Maybe you can dig up the author's contacts on some social network? (I do see someone by that name on LinkedIn...FYI.)

Kamini Karlekar said...

'That author' apologises, blogging is not her forte, hence the blog hasn't been updated since January and the comment wasn't noted..and Linkedin - don't think she's ever checked that! Now how does one get a decent copy out to you? I'll look into it but it might take a while as I'm not in Delhi and won't be for several months. Don't give up on the book! Apologies, Kamini

Fëanor said...

@Kamini: Thanks for stopping by! (I'm curious - how did you find out about this post?) I don't know if you gave WestLand a talking-to, but they've since written to me offering a reimbursement for those 'replacements'. I appreciate this.

Meanwhile, don't panic! That 'replacement' copy of your book has made its way to London and I've read it.

@NN: Don't know if WestLand saw the post, but sure, they've written - as I explained above.

@Naanthaanga: gotta check if flipkart will ship to England. Thanks for the pointer!

@KM: Chutzpah, indeed. Still, they are keen to make amends, so once the reimbursements arrive, I'll post an update.

Dutchie said...

Hi Fëanor :-)

A decade ago, hubby n I were in the USA for 8 weeks of overdue holiday. We bought road maps (huge edition ... but then, everything there comes in large sizes - haha), travel guide books, etc. Dutifully, we filled out the forms for a discount refund of US$ 45,00. Well, they never did honour it when we got back home.

AT&T however, were good enough to sent a cheque worth US$ 1,50. Our first attempt at the callbox failed n a telephonist was immediately online to help us retrieve our deposit - now, that was great service, dont u agree ?

My worst experience for shoddy product was an evening dress bought
in Singapore. After just one wash to get rid of the "factory-scent", the black n gold colors ran n totally ruined the dress. I went back to the boutique the next day but the proprietress refused to refund the 200 bucks ! It was my fault for using the wrong detergent (as if such a product exist !). Those were the days when CASE (consumer recourse) was not yet in existence, otherwise I would hv lodged a complaint. The whole episode was one of insult addded to injury *sigh*

??! said...

No dissing writer types for not updating blogs. Next you'll jump on Space Bar.

Don't listen to the guitar-hero above. He once said blogging was not 'real literature', so you're in the good.

Also, what a lovely gesture.

More power to you. The papers back home would scramble to interview you for this story. That is, if someone mischevious were to submit the same....

Fëanor said...

Dutchie: ooh, sorry stories from you! I, fortunately, have not had such bad luck. Still, the WestLand folks have now reimbursed and apologised, so I'm smiling.

??!: Right, I'm going into hiding now, to avoid those pesky reporters crowding my front door.

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