Friday 12 September 2008

The gloves are off

Honestly, I DO try to be nice.  We all do.  The entire Consumer Watchdog team are good, generous, well-meaning people.  We are kind to children, the elderly and small harmless animals.  We run Consumer Watchdog entirely for free, charge nobody for the time we spend investigating scandals and take nothing from it other than a sense of satisfaction when we fix something.

We are fairly tolerant when we hear of the mistakes, cock-ups and accidents that happen sometimes.  We always give stores and suppliers an opportunity to fix things when we alert them to problems we’ve heard about.  Luckily the majority of stores do this.  Need an example?

Last year we reported widely on the Control of Goods (Marking of Goods) Regulations that demand that a store states the full credit price of an item when it’s advertised.  Alongside the cash price they are required to give the full credit price as well.

We wrote to all the stores who sell on credit and almost instantly we got a call from Ellerines.  Their manager was superb, truly superb.  He genuinely seemed upset that they weren’t sticking to the law.  He promised to fix is as soon as possible and he did.  Ellerines and their partner company Beares now advertise the full credit price in all their advertisements.

Good for you Ellerines.  Good for you Beares.  We couldn’t have asked for more.

But what about the others?  What about all the other furniture stores?  Have they come back to us and done the same?  Have they even done it without telling us because they were embarrassed to be caught out?


Every other store has ignored us.  Well that’s no surprise is it?  Who are we after all?  We’re just a voluntary group with a newspaper column or two.  We have no legal power or authority.  It really doesn’t matter if they ignore us.

However it DOES matter if they ignore the law.  It matters even more if they ignore the people and their rights.  It demonstrates what they think about us.  It shows very clearly that they don’t consider us worthy of respect.  They disrespect us and they don’t care that we know it.

So what can we do about it?

In the past we were restrained, ever so reasonable and incredibly courteous.  Not any more.  Every so often there comes a time when the gloves have to come off.  No more Mr Nice Guy.  

We’ll be writing one more time to the stores that haven’t changed their advertising.  We’ll explain, in simple terms, what the law demands of them.  We’ll explain what they need to do to abide by the law.  We’ll explain, just one more time, that the public deserves their respect.  If, after this last reminder, they fail to do the right thing we will name them.

On Wednesday 1st October we will post on our web site the names and contact details of every chain of stores that has either not responded or has responded but has failed to come up with a solution to their disrespect.  We’ll post copies of the letters we’ve sent, the dates they were delivered and every response we’ve received.  Then you, the readers of Mmegi, will know everything we know.  You can then make a decision, next time you are shopping for furniture, which store has earned your respect, your consideration and your money.

This is just the beginning.  The time has come for more openness.  We’ll also be starting to report in the details of problems we see.  The starting point is contracts.  Contracts are obviously an essential part of business.  They explain who has to do what, how they have to do it and when.  Business can’t exist without them.  We have a series of contracts with our customers that explain what we have to do, what they have to do and how we’re all going to get along.  This is how business works.

So why do so many stores use contracts to deceive their customers?  Why do they go out of their way to use terminology that confuses, confounds and deceives their customers rather than making things clear?  Is it perhaps because they actually don’t want us to understand them?  Could be.

Why would a company include a section in their contract that talks about the consumer making an “irrevocable offer” to join their scheme when what they actually mean is “lifetime contract”?  Why would another company include a section that says you agree that you have inspected the goods you’ve bought when in fact they haven’t even been shipped yet?  Why would yet another company have a bit in their contract that says that when you sign it you confirm you understood every word and that you promise never to say you didn’t?

I’ll tell you why.  Because they want to deceive you.  They want your money and they don’t really care how they get it from you.  They want you caught in a contract so they can drag every last thebe out of you.

Like I said, no more My Nice Guy.  Obviously we’ll continue to praise the many companies, in fact the majority of companies, that DO care, that WILL treat you fairly, the ones that DO respect the law and their customer.  These guys will bask in the radiance of our benign gaze.  The others?  They can go to Hell.


Good News.  Or Bad News.  You decide.  Consumer Watchdog is back on air.  Every Thursday morning between 7:15am and 8:00am listen to DumaFM to the all new, improved, No more Mr Nice Guy, Consumer Watchdog program.  


This week’s stars!
  • Khumo from Air Botswana for being terrific, helpful, friendly and a great ambassador for our national airline.
  • Kgomotso Molefe from BURS for excellent service while helping a customer.

No comments: