Express News Service

CHENNAI: “If you can’t convince them, confuse them: if you can’t confuse them, scare them.” The adage describes the present state-of-affairs on General Patters Road, regarded as the hub for car accessories in the State. Touts deployed at entry and exit points of the road are resorting to unscrupulous and predatory marketing practices to solicit customers who throng the place looking for accessories for their cars.

GP Road is a one-km-long stretch between a prominent restaurant chain on Anna Salai (opposite to Hazrath Syed Moosa Sha Khaderi Dargah) and Express Avenue’s entrance. Local sources said the touts, aged between 20 and 45 years, are deployed at all entry and exit points to the hub. Anytime during the day, they can be seen stopping cars on the busy road and tailing them on two-wheelers to convince the occupants to make purchases from select outlets.

In return, such outlets offer a share of revenue to the touts for bringing in customers. The practice that took shape in the last four years, however, seems to be doing more bad than good to the businesses, at least four owners of accessory outlets told TNIE.

“They are freelancers who work for anyone who pays them,” a wholesale dealer said. The incentive paid to touts for bringing in each customer ranges between `200 and `1,000. However, outlets are forced to sell low quality products to make up for the share given to touts, who in turn do not let customers make an informed choice.

The hub attracts customers from Chennai and neighbouring districts. At times, people from even farther districts flock to the place due to availability of diverse products. However, another dealer, who wanted to remain anonymous due to the fear of targeted harassment from the touts, said the customer sentiment has been waning of late. “Customers from other districts and women are the most gullible ones here,” said the dealer.

Office bearers of The Madras Motor Parts Dealers Association said they are open to have talks with stakeholders to resolve the issue. An office bearer said the police department is turning a blind eye towards the issue despite flagging it on several occasions. A senior police officer said outlets that are not prominently seen are the ones that employ such touts. Stating that cases have been slapped against touts in the past, he said, “Teams would be formed to increase police presence on the stretch.” The officer added that FIRs are being registered immediately on receipt of complaints from individuals.


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