Thursday, 24 December 2009

The Voice - Dear Consumer's Voice

Dear Consumer’s Voice

Help!! I was introduced to The Explorer Academy in January and went for a presentation at Gaborone Sun Hotel where I paid a membership fee of P395 and received various brochures, booklets and a DVD.

My problem is that within a month of joining I realized that I could not afford the monthly contributions of P395.

On several occasions I visited their office in Gaborone West and could never find anyone who could take my request to withdraw. The person who originally invited me to join has apparently relocated to Lesotho. In April, I finally met one of the team who advised me to write a withdrawal letter which I instantly wrote at the office, to be sent to head office in South Africa.

2-3 weeks later I received a call from someone in SA acknowledging receipt of my withdrawal letter but advising me to take up a cheaper option of P100 per month but I still insisted that it was impossible. In our conversation she read out a text from some contract which I do not recall signing. She stated that I could not withdraw within a year, and that legal action would be taken against me if I stopped paying. However I never received a copy of the contract, even to this day. At the end of our talk she threatened to take legal action for breach of a contract which I don’t believe I signed.

In May they made an appointment for me to meet their CEO at the Gaborone Sun. I went to meet her but because of some delays I couldn’t see her properly.

I finally met the CEO later but all they came up with was an option of me joining as a partner with TEA so I can get my some exposure in the TEA magazines all over Southern Africa. Since then I’ve sent numerous emails to TEA marketing asking to withdraw but to date nothing has been done yet deductions still continue from my bank account. Their local office appears now to be closed for more than 2 months and nobody seems to have a clue of what is going on!

What do you think I can do?

Firstly you can tell all your friends that you’ve learned a valuable lesson. The Explorer Academy is yet another of those ridiculous self-improvement, motivational, pyramid-structured selling schemes that abound at the moment. The only people who “improve” themselves from these silly schemes are the founders who laugh all the way to the bank.

We looked at the material they gave you and it shows all the warning signs. Here’s the last Consumer Watchdog lesson for the year.

Always be slightly suspicious of any company that offers “lifestyle benefits”. Be moderately suspicious of companies that offer “coaching”, “personal achievement” and “personal growth”. Be VERY suspicious of companies that offer “passive income”. Be hugely suspicious of anyone who offers you the “opportunity” to make lots of money by recruiting other people beneath you and then encouraging them to recruit others lower down. If a company mentions all of these things at the same time (like The Explorer Academy does), then run as fast as your legs can carry you because they going to try and take lots of money away from you.

The Explorer Academy does all of these things and then a lot more. We’ve seen some of their motivational hogwash and it’s really very poor. Their booklet on “Attitude” is laughably. It is almost all copied, without attribution, from various web sites so they are plagiarists as well as nonsense-peddlers.

Then there is the pyramid element to their business model. In their literature they even have the cheek to have a diagram that displays their pyramid structure. It shows how if each victim recruits four others they can earn a lot of money. How much, you might ask. In fact not very much at all. If you recruit 4 people and each of them recruits 4 more and this goes on for 6 “generations” you will earn a total of R56,820.

But that’s only after a whopping total of 4,096 victims have signed up for this silliness. Where are you going to find over 4,000 people gullible enough to fall for it? And, to cap it all the organisers call this “a millionaire’s income”!

In your situation I think you should look at whatever paperwork they gave you when you signed. If, as you say, they didn’t give you a copy of the contract they expect you to abide by, then THEY have a problem. They cannot expect you to honour that agreement if you don’t know what you signed up to. Demand from them a copy of your original documents. Give them 14 days to deliver it to you or you’ll go to the Police and lay a charge of cheating against them.

We have tried contacting The Explorer Academy by email and by phone but nobody has responded yet. If they do we’ll post it to our website so you can all see what they say for themselves.


And finally. Please, all readers of The Voice and their families, friends and neighbours, have a fantastic Christmas break. Most of all have a peaceful, prosperous and scam-free New Year. Let’s try to spend an entire year without falling victim to scammers, store credit abuse and pyramid schemes!

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