Thursday, 31 March 2011

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

Dear Consumer’s Voice #1

I received an email from someone offering me the Global Gas Card saying that I can earn $1 million. Can this be true?

No, it can’t be.

This is a pyramid scheme. It didn’t take long to confirm that this is the latest scheme invented by an American serial pyramid scheme architect called Eric Dalius. He’s created a number of these schemes that promise you a fortune but actually offer you nothing. However they all make him lots of money, you can rest assured of that.

This latest scheme that you heard about is no different to any other pyramid scheme. You are required to pay $125 to join a scheme which requires you to buy further discount cards for buying petrol (“Gas” in the USA). Like all pyramid schemes the maths doesn’t work out correctly, it can’t last for long. Finally there’s the usual question you need to ask about any business scheme you are invited to join. If the business idea is so wonderful why do they need new members? Why don’t they keep the idea to themselves? Is it perhaps because the scheme only survives by recruiting new members?

Stay away from anything like this. You won’t make a thebe from it.

Dear Consumer’s Voice #2

I noticed with alarming dismay that the All Gold 750ml Tomato Sauce bottle has been replaced with the new 700ml bottle in the same type of bottle yet the price has soared up from P9.95 to P12.95. Nothing was communicated to the consumer, or maybe its just me who hasn’t seen anything being communicated to us consumers. Are we being cheated? Because if we weren’t being cheated, there would have been some form of communication for example when soft drinks were being reduced by 10ml from 340ml to 330ml all was communicated well. Are the All Gold Tomato Sauce manufactures preying on the consumer’s ignorance and what can be done about it? How can I as a consumer protect myself??

I think you might be asking a bit much from stores if you want an announcement every time they put a price up. There’d be no room left in the newspapers for news, gossip and scandal. Do you really expect a manufacturer to actually advertise that they’ve put up their prices? A few might do so but that doesn’t mean we can expect it from everyone.

I strongly believe that it’s within a store’s rights to increases prices as they see fit. Just like we as consumers have the right not to buy their products as we see fit if we think we’re being ripped off. That’s the nature of the free market.

It’s perhaps one of those truisms that like death and taxation, price increases are one of those inevitable things in life.

My only concern here is if the size of the bottle has decreased. That would be a bit sneaky. However I haven’t checked to confirm this. [Update: I have now and the bottle I saw is now indeed only 700ml.]

However the good news is that we have consumers like you who have an eye for the detail. Have you considered a career in the police? We need cops who spot details like this.

Unknown courier companies

A reader contacted us asking about a demand she received from a shipping company based in Malaysia. She said:
“A friend of mine wanted to transport something through them and they want money from me but my friend already paid for all the transactions.”
Before I even heard more details my first suspicion was that this was part of a scam. We’ve heard from several victims of the “romantic advance fee scams”. This involves a growing romance that usually begins via a dating site on the internet or a traditional email out of the blue. Instead of offering shares in inheritances or stolen money locked in a foreign bank account these are more disturbing. Very gradually, using email and occasional phone calls the scammer seduces the victim into forming a romantic attachment. I know it sounds unbelievable but I’ve spoken to several genuinely heartbroken women who’ve been victims of this.

The essence of the scam comes later. Once love has blossomed the lover overseas promises a shipment of goodies. Sometimes it’s money, other times jewellery or electronics, sometimes it’s all of these things. Just before the presents arrive there’ll be a hitch. So far every time it’s been a shipping company who want a fee before the goods can be delivered. However when you start digging you find that the shipping company is not quite as real as you would hope. Operating from a free email address and a cellphone number this fake shipping company will, of course, demand the payment via Western Union, not a transfer to their bank account as a real company would require.

I suspect that this is the case here. Don’t worry, I’ve warned her not to send a single thebe.

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