Friday 16 May 2008

It’s wrong to lie

My mother taught me that lying is wrong. More than that, she would draw my attention to the perils of lying (on the occasions she caught me doing it) with a smack to the back of whichever part of me was within reach.

Your mother probably did the same. Chances are that every mother in the world does this, regardless of race, creed or religion.

Didn’t cellphone store owners have mothers?

I used to think that it was used car salesmen, taxi drivers and builders that couldn’t be trusted but I’ve changed my mind. I HAVE found honest, reliable car salesmen. I’ve even found builders that tell the truth. I’m still not sure about the taxi drivers.

However I’m having little luck finding an honest cellphone salesman. I‘ve asked almost everyone I know if they can recommend an honest one but they just laugh at me.

We’ve recently been overwhelmed by consumers contacting us with stories of deception by cellphone stores. We’ve had reports of fake cellphones that simply don’t work and when you take them back to the store they tell you that there’s no warranty at all (which of course is true) and that your money has disappeared never to be seen again. There’s not much you can do, particularly as the authorities don’t really seem to care a bit about the problem.

We also heard from someone who bought a phone from Cell City in the Old Lobatse Road in Gaborone. It worked briefly but very quickly stopped working. Every time she replied to a text message it would power off. She also noticed that the screen was broken. Of course she took it back and they kept it to “reprogram it” and to see what they could do with the screen. When she eventually picked it up nothing had changed, it still kept powering off and the screen was still damaged. They’d done nothing at all.

She contacted us and we phoned Cell City to see if we could help. That was at the end of March. Now, 6 weeks later, nothing has changed. We’ve called various people at Cell City but no luck. They promised to give her a refund but that never materialised. Now they seem to be refusing to take our calls. She still doesn’t have a working cellphone.

Let’s explain this to them in simple terms. They sold a product that was not of merchantable quality. That’s Section 13 (1) (a) of the Consumer Protection Regulations that’s been broken. They failed to repair the phone which is a breach of Section 15 (1) (a) which talks about rendering services with reasonable care and skill. Finally they broke Section 19 (1) which forbids ignoring phone calls from Consumer Watchdog. Trust me, it does say that, honest, it’s the same section that says we’re always right and they’re always wrong.

Another customer bought a new phone from Davkom that wouldn’t charge. Davkom’s initial response was that chargers aren’t covered by the warranty. Sorry but no. Unless there is a sign 3 metres high at the entrance saying that power supplies aren’t covered by the warranty then they ARE covered. The sign should be in every language spoken in Botswana and in Braille for the blind. That’s also in the law. I think. Luckily Davkom saw sense and the customer got her problem solved.

Sometimes the stories we hear aren’t beyond a joke, they ARE a joke. We were told by a cellphone store owner that customers breach the phone’s warranty if they keep them in their bras. Yes, cleavages break warranties.

Last weekend we did a very unscientific warranty survey in some cellphone stores. The good news is that those that are linked directly to either Orange or Mascom or to a specific cellphone manufacturer like Nokia or Sony Ericsson seem to be honest about the warranties on offer. They said that their phones come with one-year warranties. However every one of the other stores was more, shall we say, “imaginative”. One store said phones came with warranties that lasted 6 months, others 3, some said only one month and we’ve heard of stores that offer no warranty at all.

All of this is clearly nonsense. If you are an honest store you will buy new phones through legitimate channels and they will all come with a manufacturer’s warranty. The manufacturer will give the phone at least a year’s warranty. It’s distinctly possible that these stores are not selling the real thing. Either fakes or, more likely, second-hand phones they’ve imported from overseas.

Or they just can’t be bothered to respect their customers.

So here’s a challenge. If you know an honest cellphone store owner, or if YOU are one of these rare, endangered species get in touch. If you will give us a commitment that you will sell legitimate products, treat your customers with respect, abide by the Consumer Protection Regulations and, above all, tell the truth then we’ll mention you in this column. We’ll publish your commitment to honesty and just watch how the customers come flocking to you.

On the other hand if you don’t want to be seen as honest then that’s up to you. But remember that shoppers are like your mother. Sooner or later you’ll get a firm slap on the bum either from her or your customers.

This week’s stars!

  • Nancy at Tyre Services for listening patiently and taking a complaint seriously.
  • Onkabele Chere at BTC Corporate for really quick, polite, pleasant, helpful service. Apparently he “is a gentleman”.
  • Geoff at the Sunday Standard Advertising Department for really going out of his way to help a customer meet a deadline.
  • Pinkie, Kebonyetsala and Orabile at Metcourt Inn for problem solving and finding an easy solution to a customer problem.

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