Friday 27 June 2014

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

Dear Consumer’s Voice #1

Good day, could you please assist me with this. I put some shoes on lay-bye at a store last month, yesterday I went there to pay the balance and collect the shoes. The sales lady went to the back and spent a good 20 minutes looking for the shoes. She came back and told me that she couldn't find them and took my number saying they will call me when they find the shoes.

Today I get a call and I am told that the shoes are not there and I should come and get my money. My question is this- since they have a certain percentage that they keep if I cancel a lay-bye am I not entitled to get interest when I get my money back? What does the law say about this? Thanking you in advance for your assistance.

This is really rather bad. Lay-byes can be a very good way of buying something you can’t afford to pay for in one go and it’s certainly better than buying on store credit or hire purchase but we frequently hear from people who’ve had problems like yours.

I think the very least the store could have done is invite you to find a similar (or perhaps even slightly better) pair of shoes to say sorry for the inconvenience. Just telling you to come and pick up your money and go away is very inconsiderate.

Yes, you’re right that if you cancel the lay-bye they often keep a small proportion of the money but in return you get to pay for something over an extended period. So I’m not sure how the law could help you so long as they offer you a full refund of everything you paid them.

What you CAN do is to spread the word among your friends, family and colleagues that this is a store that disrespects its customers like this.

Dear Consumer’s Voice #2
I bought cellphones online and paid using western union. The package was from the UK, but I have been communicating with some guy in Nigeria since I was told they have another branch there. I received a tracking number and was able to see how far the package was until it got to Zambia. I was asked to pay the balance for all the phones which I did but initially when we started I had an agreement with them that I'll pay the balance when I get the package.

It took me 2 days to pay the balance and was told the shipping company was asking for money for the delay which I paid. Then after that I got an email from the shipping company telling me they were at customs offices and that I had to pay some money to declare the goods and I sent them money for that. But now it seems like its a problem for me to get the package I have been paying money for. I was told I would get them yesterday but that didn't happen.

This certainly sounds like a scam to me. Many of the usual clues are there. The first is that they are doing business using Western Union. You might have thought that you were sending money to the UK but with Western Union you never know where the money will be withdrawn. I suspect the Nigerian connection.

It’s also suspicious that they changed the conditions for payment. Any company that starts by saying you can pay on delivery and changes later to demanding cash up front sounds untrustworthy to me. Then there’s the customs angle. Surely a real company would have known that this money would have been needed?

And then there are these last-minute promises (“You’ll get your phones tomorrow”) that are never honoured. They’re an technique used all the time by scammers. They lure you into paying them more and more money by making a series of promises about how soon you’ll get the fictitious items you’ve bought.

Let me make a guess. Did they email you from a Gmail, Yahoo or Hotmail account? I bet they did.

I’m sorry but I suspect your money has gone and will never been seen again.

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