Friday, 24 July 2015

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

Hotel Express again

I need your assistance, there is a company called Hotel Express that called my dad and took money from his card. The lady who called never explained that she was selling membership and my dad never agreed nor was he aware that they will withdraw money from his account.

We have been trying to call them and they don't pick up our calls, It seem to me they screen numbers for complaints, your first time call it will be answered immediately there after they will never ever pick up your calls.

First things first. Hotel Express International is a legitimate company that offers discounts on hotel stays and other vacation experiences in return for an annual membership fee. However it’s not quite as simple as that sounds. Firstly not all hotels offer these discounts and those that do only have limited rooms available so it’s perfectly possible that the hotel you want won’t offer you the discount. Also the discount is from the hotel’s “rack rate” which is the often-inflated price a hotel will quote, solely so they can offer “discounts”.

My biggest objection to their scheme is that I don’t see why anyone should pay for a discounted hotel stay when hotels often give these discounts away for free. One of my colleagues recently stayed in a hotel in Francistown for almost half the normal price just by booking the room online rather than by phone. I’m writing this column from a hotel in South Africa that I booked using Bid2Stay where you are allowed to offer that hotel chain what you would like to pay. On this occasion I got a 40% discount, just by using their web site. I didn’t need to pay anything to get the discount.

More importantly there seems to be a problem with the way Hotel Express International sell their membership scheme.

We’ve heard many times from consumers who have been “cold called” by them and who have been asked for their credit or debit card details, to “check your eligibility”, or to check “if you’re eligible for Gold membership”. If asked, they assure them that they won’t actually be charged but within minutes of giving out their card number and hanging up the phone, their cellphone beeps and they see they’ve charged the full amount, anything from about P1,600 up to P3,500.

The lessons are simple. Please don’t EVER give out your card numbers to strangers over the phone whatever they promise you. Secondly don’t waste money joining discount schemes when you can get the same discounts elsewhere for free. Why waste your money?

Meanwhile we’ll contact Hotel Express International to find out what they can do for your dad.

Scammers don’t give refunds

I would like to enquire if it is possible for Watchdog to help me get back my money from Three Link Connections owned by Daisy Mogale. I have been expecting the payment since 2012. I went into a business transaction whereby I partnered with Daisy Mogale, the director of Three Link Connections, to supposedly buy goods at China which Three Link Connection was to distribute and share the profit. I have copies of the contracts which I signed. I wrote them a letter in 2013 which I never got a response to. Hoping for a positive response.

Three Link Connection organisers meeting their victims
in April 2013. Nice office. (It's a branch of Wimpy.)
Unfortunately there is very little chance you’ll get your money back. Three Link Connection was a scam. They claimed that they were helping people to buy products in China and then import them to southern Africa to sell at twice the price and their contracts even promised to double people’s money within 30 days. You know what we say, that if something SEEMS too good to be true then it IS too good to be true. There are no schemes that can double your money in a month. They simply don’t exist.

Daisy Mogale, the woman behind TLC, has a long history in the scam industry having operated an identical scheme before TLC. I called her once and she was defiant. Her victims in Botswana were “all liars” she said. The lesson is a simple one. Anyone promising you quick and massive returns on an investment is a liar.

Update: I heard later that the person writing this letter had “invested” over P250,000 in the scam. There is no chance at all that she’ll get even a thebe back. Be warned and learn from her experience!

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