Dear Zomato

I am a loyalist as a customer. My brand of toothpaste has not changed in all these thirty years. I might have occasionally tried other ones, but I duly return to my favourite brand. Spending more than 9 years in my first job did teach me that nobody is indispensable, yet I tend to believe that I matter as a customer. I also know that the vendor who sells me vegetables, charges relatively more than the other ones around, yet I find it difficult to move on from her. Probably because she cares to stop and inquire about my whereabouts even when I am not buying vegetables and she looks sad when I walk past her with my grocery bag. So, I am probably not a brand-loyalist but an experience-loyalist. That should explain why I am undecided about Vodafone and Airtel.

Call it a coincidence, but I wrote about my experience with Zomato here, exactly a year ago. I wasn’t expecting a response from Zomato, but they did respond to the article. In fact, for more than a month, they kept insisting that I accept a compensation. My payment was reimbursed as Zomato Credits event before I wrote about it. So, I did not agree to take anything more from them. But I did appreciate their gesture. To me, it looked like they cared about my experience as a customer and that was enough. However, as much as I am a loyalist, I also do not hesitate to walk out and never return if you do not treat me right. Ask those people who I once used to be friends with and they will vouch for that. That meant, although I had acknowledged the efforts of the Zomato team to compensate for that one bad experience, I wasn’t going to return. I was too determined that about ‘no-more-Zomato’ that I cooked my food most of the days. I flirted a little with FreshMenu but mind you I am a loyalist. So, that ended quickly, and I chose to go hungry on lazier days than order a takeaway from anyone else.

Did I tell you, life has a knack for destroying all my determinations? This time life shielded a new weapon called ‘Flipkart’. I ordered an ‘only-on-Flipkart’ Lenovo smartphone for my dad and the experience with them put things into perspective for me. I was amazed at how the first line of Flipkart’s customer support did much better than the higher levels. That must be some terrific customer support model. Even the call I got after reporting the concern through their social media handle was so cold, that the rest of summer got a lot manageable. I know Flipkart still loves me. They keep asking me to buy oil and pulses at Rs:1. I love them even more, that I will, without second thoughts stop being friends with anyone who shops on Flipkart. I used to feel this way about Samsung, but Flipkart gloriously beat them to the first place. If the customer is god, then Flipkart must be an atheist. One good thing that came out this deal with Flipkart was that I learnt to be kinder towards Zomato.

I rekindled a little bit of that lost love. I still was angry that I should have got the money back into my bank account and not as Zomato credits. So, I did not resume writing reviews there. But I was fine with ordering takeaways occasionally. However, the return wasn’t as smooth as I thought it would be. Something was amiss. I was no longer able to order from some of my favourite restaurants. Of course, they were still listed but there was no option to order online anymore. After months of pondering, I accidentally found out that all these restaurants have now become ‘Swiggy Exclusive’. That was quite an uncomfortable discovery for me. Not that, I have anything against Swiggy, but I was reminded of my regular vegetable vendor and her sad face.

I do know that Zomato is essentially a ‘restaurant search and discovery’ service and online food order isn’t their USP. I also read about the acquisitions that Zomato has made and how healthy their growth chart looks. But for someone who has been using the service since so long, I feel the experience is not entirely wholesome anymore. It makes no sense to me that while Ola thinks they can rent out a cab and sell biryani at the same time, why can’t I order my favourite takeaways through Zomato. So, “Dear Zomato, if you are still listening, this is your god speaking. Even though we have had our fallouts, I would still like give ourselves another chance. I hope you will do something about it”.

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