Friday, 2 March 2012

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

Dear Consumer’s Voice #1

I booked and paid for tickets for my nephews to travel to Botswana from Ghana but they were prevented from travelling because they lacked a transit visa to travel via South Africa. I had applied for a visa for them to enter Botswana but did not know about the transit visa. As it is, the adult accompanying them had a Botswana residence and work permit so apparently did not need a transit visa and he had to leave them behind in South Africa. They have applied for it and we expect it out in 5 working days but I now have to pay penalties for the tickets. This I feel is unfair because I think the ticket sales agents should have informed me of the need for a transit visa as she knew I was booking for kids who were travelling on a Botswana visa and not permits.

In addition, I have to pay extra for the children who are 12 and 3 years of age to be managed by the flight attendants as they travel alone.

Is this something I should have known and enquired with the South African High Commissioner or should the ticket sales lady have informed me?

This is tricky. My initial reaction was that I agree that the travel agent issuing the tickets should probably have told you this. Surely it’s one of the reasons you use a travel agent, to use their expertise and knowledge about all these bizarre technicalities? Aren’t they meant to be the experts?

However there is a dual responsibility here. Both the buyer and the seller in a deal have to protect their own interests. Perhaps you also should have done some checking about these things although it’s understandable why you wouldn’t think to do so. I know it’s no comfort to know that your experience will help educate readers of The Voice about these issues.

The lesson is to do some research before these things happen. If you search on Google for “south africa visa exempt countries” you’ll find that Batswana and citizens of many other countries don’t require transit visas when they’re going through SA but for some reason Ghana is excluded.

Whenever you undertake a journey you’ve never done it’s worth spending a little time beforehand doing a bit of research to prevent problems like this occurring.

Investment scheme warnings

I’ve heard of several so-called investment schemes over the last year that you really need to avoid. Each of them has been presented to potential victims as a fail-safe way of making money with minimal risk. However they are ALL cons. They are all scams.

The common link is that they all offer returns on your ”investment” that are too good to believe. TVI Express is a good example although I think the word has finally spread that this is a pyramid scheme. Unlike a normal multi-level marketing scheme there is no real product with TVI Express. Instead we’ve heard of people promised massive profits on modest investment. One reader was asked to invest P30,000 and was promised, in writing, a total return of P168,000 within a mere 3 months. Needless to say this money never materialized. It was a scam. She had to go to court to get her money back.

More recently we heard about a bunch of South Africans calling themselves Cashflow Pro who were under investigation by the SA authorities, who came here seeking our money. Again the profits they offered were remarkable. Remarkably unbelievable.

Recently we heard from a reader who had been invited to join another Get Rich Quick scheme calling itself ”Three Link Connection”. They require “investors” to give them P11,800 and they apparently promise that this will double within 4 weeks. As you can imagine this is yet another scam. In fact, it seems that it’s actually a reincarnation of an earlier scam that was called “Young Stars Investments”. The founder of that particular scam, Daisy Mogale, was prosecuted in South Africa but it seems like she’s back again.

The lesson is simple, so simple that it should really need to be said. There is no way you can make money as fast as these scammers will suggest. Surely if it was possible banks would be doing it all the time? The only people to get right from Get Rich Quick schemes are the scammers who invent them.

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