Tuesday, July 31, 2012

The land of scuzzy portion size

There are a few aspects of Indian culture I just don't get. No matter how much I try to rationalise it I can't make sense of it. In those instances it's very hard for me to admit that these aspects aren't wrong but just different.

My biggest frustrations always seem to be food related. So although this aspect of Indian culture relates to a wide variety of negotiations for me it largely comes down to food. I am happy to haggle for a handbag, but not my food.

I am passionate about ice-cream. I love it. It is the best concoction ever created. I am not talking about the cheap nasty stuff; I rarely waste my stomach space on that… it has to be the good stuff. In Australia I am quite partial to Royal Copenhagen, Maggie Beer's concoctions, and on occasion New Zealand Natural. In Delhi it's Haagen Dazs and once upon a time Gelato Vinto. However, I will no longer patronise Gelato Vinto no matter how good there product… why? Because of scuzzy portion sizes. I don't expect big American size portions but the last time I ordered at Gelato Vinto I received this tiny ball of ice-cream barely more than a tablespoon rolling around the bottom of my cup. Now you might ask... why didn't you say something? I could have, and they might have given me a skerrick more… but why should I have to? Now days when I order ice-cream I send Ray and he deals with it and demands more. The idea that I have to ask for my fair share, for some reason, makes anger bubble up inside me. This sort of situation is not just limited to ice-cream but also most things and for some reason french fries. We have ordered a side of fries at a few places and what arrives is literally 10 chips on a plate. Maybe they give one potatoes worth per serve. Even at McDonalds the servings are laughable.

For shops like Gelato Vinto I don't understand it from a business point of view. To me normal or even generous servings means repeat business and scuzzy serves the opposite. Surely I am not the only one boycotting Gelato Vinto.
I wonder where the balance lies. Surely a decent serve and more business is the way to go rather than skimping on product.

So over three years I have been mulling over the scuzzy portion sizes and have tried to get my head around it. I have wondered if it is the establishments owners that tell there staff to give the minimum. Or do the staff give little so they can skim some off for themselves… I couldn't work it out… I thought someone must be giving the directive…but I just learnt that no one says a word.

I recently read a book and I discovered it's ingrained in the culture. The book was called OMG Delhi. It is a novel by an Indian author who has a central character who is used to narrate chapters of anecdotes about Indian culture and the way things work in Delhi. The author even makes a point in many of the chapters to highlight the nature of give and take in all aspects of Indian culture. Most of the chapters are summarised with the line 'maximum for minimum' in the case of the consumer and the reverse for the vendor. This book opened my eyes. I now understand that a boss doesn't have to tell the staff to scrimp on servings, it's just the way it is. Unlike other cultures there is no clear cut fair share. You just have to ask for more until you can get no more or in reverse you try and hang on to as much as you can. There are no rules, there is no right or wrong and you can't even consider the ethics of the situation.
The ethics is the hardest part for me. In many situations in India it's not that things are ethical or unethical it just doesn't come into play. I can't articulate it, it just isn't part of the equation. So many people and companies (Airtel!) conduct business and and their lives in which I would judge completely unethical but really that is just a foreign concept from a foreign culture. And who am I to judge. Ok… here comes a long tangent which I will save for another day.


Amelia Grace Kumar said...

I agree with you in the serving sizes. Often I have finished the icecream and am left with an empty cone!!

cymric said...

It's nice to see someone writing about something that I have always felt...
Unfortunately most of the times one has to be just thick-skinned and ask for 'extra'

Anonymous said...

You are so right about Gelato's scoop size. It is pathetic!

I now only eat Red Mango - expensive but yummy!

Awesome blog BTW!!!

RMOS Consultancy said...

You are so right, I agree with you.

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