Thursday, 28 May 2015

BBC News: "Pakistan rocked by 'fake degree' scandal"

From the BBC.
"Was the Pakistan-based internet technology firm Axact doing what a New York Times International report last week accused it of doing - selling fake university degrees online?"
It looks like we have them on the run!

Saturday, 23 May 2015

Will you make money from WorldVentures? No.

WorldVentures is a pyramid scheme masquerading as a Multi-Level Marketing scheme according to at least one national regulator.

Like many other MLMs that try to appear legitimate they've been forced by various countries to post income statements that illustrate what their distributors actually earn from their business. Note one point though. These statements only talk about income, they never mention profit. These figures exclude all the costs associated with running the business like transport, phone and internet bills.

The most recent Annual Income Disclosure Statement I could find for WorldVentures covered their US operation in the year 2012 and it makes sad reading.

Firstly 77.51% of their representatives made no money at all. Nothing. Zero.

For their "Active Representatives", who comprise 82% of the people who made money, their average annual income from WorldVentures was a measly $102. That's roughly P85 per month. And remember that's income, not profits. It's not money you can spend.

The next group up the pyramid were "Qualified Representatives" who comprise 14% of the people who make money. They made an average of $614 per year, P500 per month, again income, not profit.

The most important figures are about the high earners. Like all pyramid schemes the lesson is to be at the top. The top 3.5% of the people earning money from WorldVentures made 84% of all the money. Worse still, if you include the people who made no money at all you get the real figure. 84% of all the money flowing through the WorldVentures is taken by the top 0.8%.

And those lowest level earners, the "Active Representatives"? They're 82% of the earners but between them they only earn 7.8% of all the money.

The lesson is simple. If you own WorldVentures then you're rolling in money. Otherwise all you're doing is handing over your cash to those people and not seeing anything in return.

This is how pyramid schemes work. Don't be fooled.

Poison

No, this isn’t anything to do with food poisoning although that seems to be an on-going risk due to the often lamentable state of hygiene in certain stores and restaurants.

No, I mean organizational poison. Some organizations are toxic, both to their customers and to their staff.

A couple of years ago we ran a workshop for a company involved in healthcare and the people who attended were fantastic. They were energetic, fun and full of ideas on how to make their company better. The next week we did the same thing for another company, this time in the media business and they were even better. I have film of them dancing in the workshop, they were having that much fun. Then in the third week we did the same thing again with, this time with the employees of a parastatal.

What a disaster. It was like being at a funeral. People just sat there looking miserable, they hardly spoke and getting them to suggest ideas for improvement was like pulling teeth. And why should It have been any different? Why on earth should these people have invested their time, energy and imagination helping their employer improve when the organization was sick from top to bottom?

I take the blame. It was my idea to run the workshop and I knew what this organization was like, I’d worked with them before and it had been painful. All the people I grew to knew and respect there either left or did their best to do so and the ones left were miserable and unmotivated.

The problem was a mixture of management who didn’t give a damn and a resulting atmosphere that discouraged all the things that make a business thrive, things like energy, passion and imagination.

It’s not just companies, there are even some people who are poisonous.

Unfortunately some people are just naturally nasty. I know the more optimistic among us (and that usually includes me) think that people are fundamentally good but are corrupted by bad influences and experiences but whether or not that’s true there remain some people who are toxic to their customers and to their colleagues.

Many years ago I worked in a company that employed an American woman who’s name came from the word “Devil” in her ancestor’s language and I’ve never met anyone quite so well named. She was a truly horrible, vindictive person who rejoiced in other people’s misfortune. She only kept her job because she could briefly switch those attributes off when dealing with our customers. However, as soon as they’d left the building she returned to her normal nasty self.

Maybe you know someone like this as well? I know that I’ve met two in the last year, people whose approach to dealing with their colleagues was so unpleasant that the people working with them were desperate to leave, just because of that particular coworker.

One of these people had no idea, and what’s worse, no interest in the effect he was having on his colleagues. He had spread rumors about them, alleging all sorts of scandalous misdeeds, none of which were true, just to give himself an advantage over them. He conveniently overlooked his own shortcomings and was in complete denial about certain things he’d done which had damaged his employer’s business. I think he was a borderline sociopath and the report I sent in to his employer said so. My recommendation was very simple. He’s toxic. Fire him.

However reason prevailed and the person in question submitted his resignation a few days later, presumably knowing that if he stuck around long enough they’d do it for him.

Luckily in this case the management of the organization had the courage to take action but that’s not always the case. Managers often hide their heads in the sand and hope problems will sort themselves out. Unfortunately they rarely do. That’s what good management is all about: taking decisions for the best of the organization and, just as importantly, its customers.

There are even attitudes that are poisonous.

The one I despise the most is the view that somehow good service isn’t possible “in our culture”. A variety of people, and not only foreigners with old-fashioned views on race, believe this. I’ve heard it from politicians, business leaders, managers and staff of organizations from across the business spectrum. They feel that there is something in our national bloodstream that prevents us from being attentive, from being business-like and from being successful. They say it’s our attitude or our absence of a work ethic or entrepreneurial spirit.

I genuinely think that this view is not only wrong, it is the opposite of the truth.

Firstly because I know a large number of people who have started businesses here in Botswana that have become successful through those old-fashioned values of hard-work, commitment and flair. We’ve seen parastatals revolutionized, supermarket chains go international and a number of locally formed companies become hugely successful. Who says we can’t do it?

I also think it’s true that our culture actually allows us potentially to deliver better than average service. Ask people what they think are our national cultural values and you’ll hear them talk about respect, courtesy and community spirit, three of the most important factors upon which excellent service is based.

So why aren’t we exploiting these things? Why aren’t we making a point of them? Why aren’t we advertising ourselves as a nation that is friendly but in our own, slightly reserved way? Why aren’t we demonstrating real pride in our culture at the point where is matters most, doing business?

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

Can I get a settlement?

Please help me here. I want a loan from this other Bank. Let's call it Bank B. But I still owe another Bank. I went to this Bank I owe and asked for settlement but they say I must first write a letter that I want to settle the loan and wait for 2 days before I can get the settlement amount. Is that really necessary or am just being punished? Surprisingly they r the only bank with such demands.


I don’t think the bank are “punishing” you, they’re probably just taking their sweet time calculating how much money you owe them. Maybe they’re not very good at maths?

Remember why banks lend people money. They certainly don’t do it because they’re generous and kind. They do it so they can make money from you in interest. If you decide to pay off the debt early they will potentially lose some of that interest so they calculate an amount somewhere between the amount you borrowed and the total amount they anticipated earning from you if you’d paid over the agreed time.

I think you should check the terms and condition of the loan agreement to see what it says about early settlement. You should of course have read this BEFORE you signed it and accepted the money but you should also do it now so you know what you agreed.

I’m not sure why the need you to write them a letter at this stage but I suppose if that’s what it says in the agreement then that’s what you should do. It seems a little old-fashioned but, well, some banks ARE old-fashioned.

When you get the settlement amount you need to sit down with a calculator to make sure they’ve given you a reasonable value. And you should also look very carefully at the loan agreement from the new bank so you don’t get into trouble with them later.

Does a discount nullify a warranty?

Last week I went purchase some office chairs. I was helped by one of the staff and we selected three chairs to purchase. I asked the lady helping me if she could call one of the floor who had helped me on my previous visit to see about discounts.

He came across and offered a P600 discount on a total purchase of P4000 so it would have been P3400 for the 3 chairs. We agreed and as we were walking to make the payment, I was very taken aback when he said that I should know I'm forfeiting the warranty on the products. I told him that was not my understanding at all and that a discount was a discount and to my knowledge it didn't assume the loss of warranty! He said I should meet him halfway and I simply walked out the store! I was really not impressed by the manner in which he conducted the deal and I was sorry for the time I ended up wasting in the store! Subsequently, I bought three chairs elsewhere with a discount and a 1 year warranty for each product!

Could you just clarify for me that offering a discount doesn't necessarily mean you lose the warranty? And if it does come at the cost of the warranty, then the merchant should inform you of that from the start of negotiations not at the end when you are about to make payment?


You are now officially my favorite consumer. You did exactly the right thing when you walked out of that store. I wish more people would do that when they’re told something as silly as this. Any company that makes that sort of claim doesn’t deserve our money.

You are also correct about the warranty. The Consumer Protection Regulations make it very clear that a store can only disclaim a warranty if you specifically agree to that and they are not allowed to cause even a probability of confusion about your legal rights. The only way they can say the warranty doesn’t apply to you is if you signed a document agreeing to that. Otherwise the warranty stays.

Wednesday, 20 May 2015

Consumer Alert: Romance scams

PRESS RELEASE

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

19th May 2015
Consumer Alert: Romance scams

Following our recent Consumer Alert regarding recruitment scams we would like to warn the public about the rise in “romance scams” that are affecting the women of Botswana.

These scams involve an approach from a man on Facebook who claims to be based in Europe or the USA or sometimes claims to be a soldier serving in the US forces in the Middle East. Over several weeks he will befriend the woman, finally offering her romance, perhaps even the prospect of marriage.

All of these “relationships” then involve the man sending the woman a package that he claims contains valuable items such as jewelry, iPads, laptops and money. Someone claiming to be a customs agent, police officer or representative of a courier company then contacts the woman saying that the package has been detained and that it will only be released if the woman pays a fee.

In reality there is no package and no boyfriend. This is a scam. All the scammers want is the “fee” they claim is needed to release the package. In the last few months we have heard from several women in Botswana who have fallen for these scams and who have lost large sums of money as a result. However these women lose more than just money, they lose the affection and love they felt towards their fake boyfriend.

Consumer Watchdog urges anybody who is befriended by a stranger on Facebook to be skeptical and never to pay anyone for a package sent by such a person. If consumers are in any doubt they should contact Consumer Watchdog for free advice. We can be reached by phone on 3904582, by email at watchdog@bes.bw or by joining our Facebook group, Consumer Watchdog Botswana.


Richard Harriman

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Consumer Watchdog is a consumer support, advocacy and education service that offers advice to anyone in Botswana on their rights and how to resolve problems.

Everything Consumer Watchdog does for the consumers of Botswana is free and always will be.

Consumers can contact us by phone on 3904582, by email to watchdog@bes.bw or by joining our Facebook group, Consumer Watchdog Botswana.

Monday, 18 May 2015

How to recover from a cockup

Last week in The Voice I reported the following complaint:
I bought a funeral policy in 2013 deducting P181.90 per month. The agent was Mr A who is stationed at Maun. Around February I told Mr A that I want to terminate my policy with effect from March 2015 he then advised me to right a letter which I wrote on the 24 February and faxed it to him and he confirmed to have received it. I was surprised to find that they have deducted money for the month of March 2015 after telling them that I am terminating. I called Mr A and informed him that they have deducted money he then advised me to go to the nearest office for refund. I then went to Francistown branch and I was assisted by Ms B who told me that my policy was not cancelled. She then asked me to write another letter that shows that I have written a letter before and also to request for refund. She told me that she will send my letter to Maun and told me that I will be assisted by Mr C. I called Mr C after they have deducted money for the month of April and he did not assist me until I called their headquarters where I was assisted by Mr D. Mr D advised me to call Mr E who is the manager for Maun branch. I called Mr E and he told me that I am talking to the wrong person I should go back and talk to Mr C since he is the right person who can assist me. Until today I have not been assisted and I am afraid that they will continue deducting money even after cancelling my policy.
I even published a little diagram of the company's response.

Today we heard from the company. This is what they said:
"I acknowledge receipt of the e-mail, thanks a lot Richard for forwarding the e-mail through to us.

I have just called the client and have expressed our sincere apologies for the service lapse. It is clear from the customers complaint that she submitted a cancellation letter in February and has been tossed around ever since. I have as a result committed to the client that we will refund all the premiums from March to date.

We will have an internal investigation into the matter.

We really appreciate the feedback as it helps us improve."
That's how you do it.
  1. Thank the person who told you there was a problem.
  2. Immediately call the customer and apologise and sound like you really mean it. Use words like "sincerely".
  3. Acknowledge the situation.
  4. Acknowledge your company's responsibility.
  5. Fix it.
  6. Find out how it happened.
  7. Make sure it's not likely to happen again.
Congratulations to the company involved. If only more companies behaved like this.

Sunday, 17 May 2015

Will I be joining WorldVentures? No.

No, despite the efforts of someone on Facebook trying to recruit me, I won't be joining this particular pyramid scheme. Or any other.

Even though there no chance of me joining this pyramid scheme it's interesting to see the language they use when trying to recruit people and their reluctance to admit which company they're actually selling. In comes a message on Facebook.
Morning Richard, I trust that you are well and thank you for accepting my invite as well as adding me to your network. I would also like to share a concept that I am currently busy with; this concept is a combination of patented travel technology, a foundation endorsed by OPRAH WINFREY, as well as a financial growth option using a business model that has been endorsed by Mr.Donald Trump. If this does interest you and you would like to increase your financial portfolio as well as make more memories in 2015, you welcome message me and we can discuss further.
Looking forward to your response.
Kind Regards
Mr. Heeran Manilal
I asked him to tell me more.
Morning, I am glad that this interests you but before we go any further regarding this concept, I would like to know if you are the type of individual that are self-driven, has amazing leadership qualities but most of all, loves to travel and have fun.
My reason for the above requirements is that I would like to team up with you and expand this concept in Botswana as well as on a global scale. So basically I am looking to pioneer this concept with a selected group of individuals who share the same dream and desire to achieve a lifestyle that allows one to truly live instead of just existing. Seeing that you are a business man, the leadership and entrepreneurial qualities is a must and I am sure that you will see the amazing potential of such a platform.
Due to the nature of this concept being 100% visual which is impossible to explain in any other way except via a meeting or a link, I will however give you a brief explanation that will assist you in formulating an idea of this concept. The concept is solely technology based and it is tapped entirely into the largest industry in the world which is travel, this technology provides unmatched benefits in the travel industry via a networking growth system and via this kind of system, the concept is built on a sustainable platform, this system also provides an optional business platform should that interest you. The concept is the world’s 1st to embrace a free optional volunteerism foundation on a global scale and has been featured by the queen of giving back, OPRAH WINFREY as well as SABC new is South Africa.
Kindly provide your email address as well as contact number so we can schedule a meeting or proceed with the info.
Looking forward to your response.
Kind Regards.
Mr. Heeran Manilal
426 words so far but not a single clue as to the type or even name of the business he's selling.

Eventually he admitted it.
Richard Harriman: But what actually IS the business?
Heeran Manilal: Do you have a laptop or pc to view the business model via my website?
Richard Harriman: Yes, but what actually IS the business? Does it have a name?
Heeran Manilal: The company name is worldventures. Have you herd of us?
Why the secrecy? Is it because WorldVentures is actually a pyramid scheme that has been declared illegal in Norway? Is it because they have something to hide?

Also. for the record, WorldVentures has never been "endorsed" by Oprah Winfrey. The only connection is that there was once an article in her magazine about a glass recycling project that was apparently funded by WorldVentures. That is NOT the same thing.