Monday 30 November 2009

Bizz Awards - yet more lies

Yet more lies from the Bizz Awards people.  Their claim that various important companies are "members" has already been shown to be untrue when it comes to Microsoft and PriceWaterhouseCoopers.

Today I got an email from Lufthansa which said:
We can confirm that Lufthansa is not aware of, does not participate and is not a member of the "Bizz Awards".
Is ANYONE actually a member of the "World Confederation of Businesses"?

Friday 27 November 2009

Good news from Ministry of Health

A news story in Mmegi on some action on standards at the Princess Marina Hospital?

It begins:
"The permanent secretary (PS) in the Ministry of Health, Newman Kahiya has given an ultimatum to Princess Marina Hospital staff to deliver or get sacked. "There is no question about it. If you don't deliver there is no reason for us to keep you," he told the staff yesterday."

The law is ours!

Too many things have happened in the last week. Too many to ignore so please forgive me for covering several of them.

Firstly some good news. Correction. Some excellent news. So good in fact that I’m going to break one of my personal rules and use one of the words that I forbid myself from using. This event is (take a deep breath)… empowering.

Our laws are online.

Yes we the people of Botswana now have entirely free, 24/7 online access to our laws. OUR laws. Go to and you can browse every law enacted up until 2008, download them onto your PC and read them at your leisure. If you have a fancy smartphone or a laptop that travels around with you the laws can go with you.

We’ve been campaigning for the laws to be online for a few years and it’s truly wonderful that this has now happened.

This is truly important. Normally there is a huge gap between people and the laws that govern them. There’s a perception that laws are for lawyers, judges and politicians. In fact at the launch of the new web site last week I suspect I was one of the few people who wasn’t a lawyer. I was surrounded by members of the legal profession, as well as judges, MPs and Ministers, even the Vice President was there to mark the occasion.

But this misses the point. While these people were important, some very important, they aren’t actually the people that matter the most. I firmly believe that the laws of Botswana belong to you and me, not the bigwigs. Yes, politicians make the laws, judges enforce them and lawyers make a fortune from understanding them but it’s you and I that actually have the greatest interest in them. It is, after all, you or I that will end up in court if we break one of them. It’s also you and I that benefit from the protections these laws offer.

That’s why I think it’s so important that we can see these laws, read them, understand them and know what they offer. That’s why we’ve been campaigning for them to be online for so long.

So go to their web site, have a look and let the AG’s Chambers know what you think. At the moment it’s fairly simple and there are a few technical issues but the basic service is there.

Take a look also at the Consumer Watchdog blog and I’ll post links to the laws I think are the first you should read.

That’s the good news. Now for an update.

A few weeks ago I wrote about the ridiculous “Bizz Awards”, a scam award scheme that gives your business a prize, so long as you pay them P25,000 first. Then you can go to their awards ceremony in Texas, once you’ve paid your air fares and hotel bills as well of course. You may remember that they didn’t like our comments but instead of threatening us they very generously tried to bribe me with a fully-paid trip to Texas and attendance at their awards ceremony. Sadly I decided that my principles were worth more than a free trip to cowboy country.

Anyway, I was at their web site looking at the various companies that the Bizz Awards people CLAIM are “members” of their scheme. Companies like Microsoft, Price Waterhouse Coopers, Toyota, British Airways, Coca-Cola, Fedex and DHL.

This seemed unbelievable. I couldn’t believe that respectable companies like these could have fallen for the Bizz Awards scam so I contacted them asking them to confirm it. So far I’ve heard back from Microsoft, Price Waterhouse Coopers and Coca-Cola. Each one said they have NOTHING to do with the Bizz Awards.

I think we all knew this was a scam to begin with but isn’t it nice to have more evidence?

Finally two celebrations of people from the same service provider.

We heard from a reader suffering from some noisy neighbours who partied every night, kept the neighbourhood awake and generally made his life miserable. He called the Police several times but as soon as they’d visited, warned the noisy neighbours and left the party would start again.

We alerted him to Section 176 of the Penal Code which outlaws being a “common nuisance”. He forwarded this advice to the Station Commander at the local Police Station and 3 hours later the cops were round at the noisy neighbour’s house, confiscated his sound system and now want a statement from our reader so they can press charges against the offender. There’s a lesson for you. Give the Police a hand doing their job and you’re more likely to get results.

Many people have commented on the “Fighting crime in Gaborone” Facebook site about a particular police officer who manages the Falcon Crest intersection in Gaborone. One said “This officer is excellent … he is really efficient and it makes it a pleasure to use that intersection!” Another said “what a shining example of an officer doing his job with passion, enthusiasm and PRIDE.”

Evidence, unnecessary evidence of course, that there are Police Officers who are examples of everything we would expect from the emergency services.

His name is Inspector Mojalemotho from Central Police Station in Gaborone. He is clearly a service star and tribute to the Police Service. We’ll be writing a letter of commendation to the Commissioner of Police commending him. If you know him, give him a pat on the back.

This week’s stars
  • Dr Atalliah Molokomme, the Attorney General and her team for publishing the laws online.
  • Inspector Boiki Mojalemotho from Central Police Station for being a star.
  • The team at Gaborone West Police Station for their action in silencing a noisy neighbour.

The Voice - Dear Consumer's Voice

Dear Consumer’s Voice #1 

I have a question about the rules a landlord can impose when I rent a house.

I finally found a place in Tlokweng but the landlord told us there were several rules if we took the place.

Rule No.1. Girls not allowed as our visitors. I thought this was difficult because I knew that our class mates would love to visit us for revision purposes. He also warned us about male visitors.

Rule No.2. Cars not allowed in the yard.

Rule No.3. Visitors not allowed to stay more than a week. This one is so heart aching because our younger brothers and sisters had to suffer as we did while starting their tertiary education though we thought we had accommodations, and they are suffering because of the so called rules and regulations for leasing a house.

My concern is how these rules are set. Isn’t the law involved in this issue or can each citizen running this kind of business set his own laws in his yard? If not, how can we as citizens tackle this because these people are abusing and violating our rights as their tenants.

What can I do?

I think you have to be reasonable here. When you sign a lease to rent a house, or even just a room in a house, both parties, the landlord and the tenant, must respect each other’s wishes and requirements. Nobody is forcing you to rent this property from this landlord, just as nobody is forcing the landlord to rent the property to you.

What’s more, this is actually HIS house. He IS entitled to set the rules. Of course these rules can’t contravene the law but as long as he respects your legal rights he IS entitled to set rules. Yes, you might think his rules are silly, out-dated and impractical. I agree with you, I think they are too. But he IS entitled to set them. Remember that you have no right to rent this particular property, just as you have no right to buy a particular product from a store and no right to get a loan from a particular bank. The company or person providing the product or service can decide who they want to sell it to.

The answer, of course, is to shop around. Most landlords will impose certain rules to do with your conduct while you’re a tenant but shop around until you find one that suits you best. If you don’t like his silly rules move on and find a more accommodating landlord.

Dear Consumer’s Voice #2 

Some months ago I visited a web site that offered me a free astrological reading. I got an email from the site from someone called Sara Freder. She sent me a long email but at the end it wanted me to spend money to get the full report which I ignored. Since then I received many emails asking for money and warning me about both good and bad events in my life that only she can tell me about if I give her money.

Do you think I should send her the money?

Absolutely NOT. Please don’t even think of sending this crook a thing. Two reasons why.

First, you do realise, don’t you, that astrology is hogwash? This is one of those ideas that needs to be consigned to history’s dustbin. There is simply no sense to astrology. Every time real scientific research has been done into the relationship between your birth date or your star-sign and your life events or personality it has shown there is simply nothing to it. It’s all rubbish.

Then there’s the web site you visited. Let’s get straight to the point. Firstly, this “woman” called Sara Freder is really a man called “Jean Christopher Maires” who lives in France. Are you suspicious yet? (More links here 1, 2, 3)

In the interests of research I did a little experiment. I went to the web site and completed the form asking for basic personal details twice, once as a man, once as a woman but both times giving the same date of birth. I gave two different email addresses and waited to see how similar the “readings” would be. When they arrived it was clear how this worked. The two readings were, on first glance, different but as I read them it became clear that they had been constructed from basically the same text, it was just the order that was different. Both emails talked in the vaguest possible terms about my future but the message was very simple. I get more when I pay for it.

That’s all there is to this scam. The Frenchman just wants your money. Once you’ve paid you can be assured that there would be more and more emails sent your way, encouraging you to spend more money for more readings.

I’ll make an astrological prediction for free. If you send this crook money for a reading, he will get richer and you’ll get poorer. Guaranteed.


Still no legal action from the fraudulent, scamming, crooked “University of SouthCentral Los Angeles” who got all shirty and threatened us with legal action when we exposed their fake degrees business. Shame, I was so looking forward to a fight with a scammer!

Another update

This is important and it’s wonderful. It’s taken a while but the laws of Botswana, OUR laws are now online for free, courtesy of the Attorney General’s Chambers. Go to and see for yourself.

We’ve been campaigning for this for years and it’s brilliant that it’s now happened. Good for them!

Friday 20 November 2009

More lies from the Bizz Awards?

Yes, we now know that they lie when they say Microsoft are "members" but now it appears PriceWaterhouseCoopers know nothing about the World Confederation of Businesses either.

Just how many of these so-called member are, in fact, members and how many are actually being exploited?

It's not cricket!

I’m not a huge sports fan.

Football is for girls. Rugby is for people who enjoy broken bones. Boxing is for people who get a kick out of brain damage. Athletics is for people who prefer steroids to beer. Golf is for people with enormous egos and no dress sense. Is there any sporting group I haven’t offended yet?

Ah yes, cricket fans.

Cricket, in fact, is the only sport that has ever appealed to me. It seems to be rather cultured, gentle and polite. I can go for any sport where you can sit in the shade on a hot day with an icy cold beer and nod off and you won’t miss very much.

It’s also a sport where you see gentlemanly, responsible behaviour. OK, apart from some organised crime-related match-fixing. Apart from that cricket players and managers seem a fairly responsible bunch to me.

Not always though. There was an example recently of an almost catastrophic failure of cricketing responsibility.

I’m talking about the Fireworks Night celebration at the Cricket club a couple of weeks ago. That was a very good example of a complete lack of responsibility. Not one that just led to customer dissatisfaction, complaints and anger but one that could easily have killed people.

As most people in Gaborone must know, every year during the weekend closest to November 5th there is a fireworks display at the Gaborone Cricket Club. Like many people I’ve been several times and despite a few minor issues it’s always been a good evening out. It’s at the weekend so the kids can come along, they’ll see their friends and leave their parents alone for an evening. Loads of people from every background are there, in general it’s a great occasion.

Well, it was until this year. This year things were different. This year it all went horribly wrong. I don’t know what exactly caused it but a firework was released into the crowd. I was sitting directly behind a family whose clothes were hit by burning fragments. Luckily we had water to hand and that helped put out the fire. OK, perhaps you think this was one of those frightening but very rare occurrences?

Perhaps, but it wasn’t so rare. Moments later the same thing happened again and then yet again. Fireworks were hurtling into the crowd in all directions and even into a neighbouring plot where they started a serious bush fire. Then, just to make things even worse, the idiotic organisers seemed to take the idiotic decision to turn off the idiotic lights, leaving an already frightened crowd in darkness. I really did feel that we were a moment away from mass panic. Given the tiny exit from the grounds there could very easily have been a massive crush and perhaps even deaths.

By this stage my family and I thought it was time to leave and once the rush had settled down we were out of there. I only found out a couple of days later that shortly after we left the entire fiasco started over again but with perhaps even worse results. More fireworks hit the crowd, people’s clothes were set alight and some people were badly burned. Yet again it’s amazing nobody was seriously hurt or killed.

If you want to see pictures of this chaos and you’re already a member of Facebook search for the “Gaborone Fireworks Complaints Forum” page and you’ll see evidence of the danger.

On top of all this ineptitude with the fireworks was the level of crime present at the display. I’ve heard of at least two people who were mugged in the car park, despite the presence of guards from a particularly useless security company. One of the few uplifting moments apparently was when someone was caught in the club bar with pockets fill of stolen cellphones. Apparently a minor amount of immediate “citizen justice” was delivered to the possessor of all these phones. Of course I don’t approve of vigilantism but if someone has to be smacked in the face I’m happy if it’s a mugger.

So what level of responsibility should the organisers of this public safety hazard take? Complete responsibility. The organisers from the Cricket Club need to take full responsibility for having absolutely no ambulance or first aid service available at the event. I’m told that they asked one of the private ambulance companies to be there but weren’t prepared to pay them for their time. Where were the effective security guards? No I don’t mean the inept ones in red “sting in their tail” uniforms mincing around like a bunch of nancy boys, I mean the real thing. They were nowhere to be seen when they were needed.

Where were the fire marshals ready for an event like this to happen?

Finally, where was the permit that the Cricket Club required for such a public gathering? I’ll tell you where it was. It didn’t exist. According to one person who attended who called the City Council, the Cricket Club’s application for a permit was denied. DENIED!

Of course that means that any Public Liability Insurance they might have had for the event is void.

I call that an utter lack of responsibility and criminal recklessness. The subsequent lack of any response from the Cricket Club is irresponsible and cowardly. Clearly the Cricket Club hasn’t got any (cricket) balls.

Our advice to people who might consider going there next year is this. Don’t.

It’s just not cricket.

This week’s stars
  • Yet again, the Beekeeping Unit in the Ministry of Agriculture for being passionate, enthusiastic and obviously loving their jobs.
  • Gadifele from FNB Kgale Branch for being “brilliant”.
  • Terry and Ruth from Leskar in Fairgrounds in Gaborone for being extra-helpful.
  • Botshamekelo from National Foods Technology Research Centre in Kanye for being so enthusiastic and welcoming.

The Voice - Dear Consumer's Voice

Dear Consumer’s Voice #1 

I do trust you help me on the one. I met this guy in town on Saturday and he introduced me to a marketing company by the name of WINALITE which he says is new in Botswana. This guy managed to convince me to join this company but I want to confirm from the ever scrutinising Watchdog if this is safe to deal with looking at the benefits that they say you get when using their products. I went into their website but I fail to understand how a sanitary pad can do things like relieving stress, improving immunity, healing fibroids, increase of oxygen in the womb and lungs.

Hope you will help me before I jump into any decision that I may end up regretting?

This sounds very suspicious to me. How were you approached and what did the guy offer you? Was it a pyramid-style structure or something else?

The sanitary towel that they offer seems to be based on utter pseudoscience. Take this for instance:
"The new anion-chip is proved to launch anions and far infra-red function by detection, hastens human microcirculation, inhibits reproduction of anaerobic bacteria, while hastens women`s partial micro-circulation, raise the growth of bio-enzyme and improve women`s self-protection ability."
You don't need to be a gynaecologist to know that they're talking complete hogwash. I would steer way clear of this. It way too risky. 


[The consumer got back in touch as follows. I’ve quoted the whole message because I think it’s interesting to hear how pyramid-style selling schemes work. Be warned!]

I was in a restaurant and this gentleman came to sit next to me waiting to be served. He greeted me in a Zambian accent and we ended up having a chat during which he asked me what I am doing for a living. I told him I have a job and he asked if am satisfied with my earnings because he had something that could change my life instantly and which would enable me to quit my job. That’s when he showed me the Winalite product quide and business opportunity book. The joining fee is $90 which comes to P700. I understood this is a pyramid style business when he told me that the more people I recruit the more cash I make from the points i accumulate from the new recruit’s sales. He gave me his business (WINALITE) website and we were to meet after I have read the documents he gave me so he could explain further anything I haven't understood.

I am not going to continue with this business. Immediately I received your email I called this man to tell him I have changed my mind because I confirmed with Consumer Watchdog if the business is safe and he promised to call me back. Thanks for your quick response and for your advice. Thanks very much. 

Dear Consumer’s Voice #2 

On 4th August I purchased a queen bed from Style for P3039.95. I paid a deposit of P760 and gave them 5 post-dated cheques to cover the payments from August to December. In mid-August I realised that the bed was not in a good condition, it was creaking and uneven. I called the owner of the shop to let him know about this. He promised he would replace it. By the end of September there was still no replacement and no communication from the shop. I then returned the bed and asked for my refund since they didn't have a replacement in the shop.

When I returned the bed the owner’s wife told me that the owner is the only one who can do refunds. She also told me that he was in South Africa and that she was unsure when he will be back. I kept calling every week to check if he was back. On 30th October I called, he was in and I spoke to him. He was so rude to me, telling me that I have been harassing his wife and that I should stop doing that and all kinds of stories. He went on to say that he has not even inspected the bed. I have waited for this gentleman for over a month and what I get is him disrespecting me.

Please assist me, all that I need is my refund.

Where do some furniture stores get their owners and managers? Like so many of their products the owners themselves are simply not “fit for the purpose”.

We called the owner and he told us a sob-story about how busy he was, how much he was travelling and he confirmed that he hadn’t had a chance to inspect the bed. More worryingly he told us that his trading licence had expired so he couldn’t go to the office at the moment. Of course that’s utter rubbish, of course he can go there, he just can’t trade. There’s nothing stopping him honouring his legal obligations to you. There’s nothing stopping him from giving you the refund you deserve. We’ve been trying to call ever since and now he’s not taking our calls either.

Please let us know if you hear from him. Particularly if he comes up with any more excuses about why he can’t honour his legal obligations!

We’ll keep hassling him as well.

Wednesday 18 November 2009

Botswana Laws on-line

Our laws are now online "open to the public without any restriction".

See the announcement here and the laws themselves here.

Congratulations to the Attorney General's Chambers for giving the people of Botswana their laws!

Friday 13 November 2009

The Bizz Awards - More lies?

Hi again Franck

Just a brief response to one of your comments in your email of 9th November.  You said:
"I sent you information, there was a list of member companies of last years. I think the information was transparent, but why can´t you just contact them"
I followed your suggestion and I contacted just one of the companies who featured in your list.  The list included: "MICROSOFT DE GUATEMALA, S.A. Guatemala" and "MICROSOFT LATIN AMERICA".

Also the WorldCOB "Other members" web page includes the Microsoft logo as follows:

I received an email from Microsoft Latin America's PR Manager this morning which stated: "I can confirm that Microsoft Latin America is not a “member” nor support this organization in any way."

Franck, is this yet another "mistake" or is it in fact just a lie?



Thursday 12 November 2009

Cowboys calling...

I’ve never been to Texas. Given the events of this week it’s perhaps best if I cancel any ideas I ever had about visiting the place. I might not be welcome.

I don’t mean that all of Texas is out to get me. Despite having said an enormous number of rude things about George W Bush over the years I don’t think I feature on his hit list. I also sometimes use the word “cowboy” as an insult but again I don’t think that really causes too much disruption.

It’s just a small number of Texans that I’ve irritated recently. In fact, I should correct myself. I’m not actually sure they were Texans at all, I think South America might be the place for me to avoid at the moment.

This all relates to the “Bizz Awards", a fake prize scheme that we’ve been covering for the last few weeks. This bizarre award scheme seems to work in a rather back-to-front manner. Instead of recognising a real, tangible, measurable achievement, the Bizz Awards are awarded to people who are approached entirely at random and who then cough up $3,530 to “join”.

I know this is true because the owners of the Bizz Awards, the grandly titled “World Confederation of Businesses”, have approached three different companies in Botswana alone congratulating them on winning an award. No initial research, no discreet enquiries, just an email from a total stranger that says they’ve won the award.

I also know this because elsewhere in the world companies that have never actually traded have been contacted in the same way as well as companies that are dormant. Better still, totally non-existent companies have been selected, including one that I set up myself. That’s right, my totally fictitious company that was nothing more than a free email address was invited to buy one of their silly awards.

Let’s face a basic fact. No genuine award requires the winner to pay for it. Nobel Prizes, Olympic medals and even the occasional Consumer Watchdog awards are awarded entirely for free.

Anyway, those of you who’ve read this column recently will ask why I’m reporting on it again.

Because they phoned me. The World Confederation of Businesses called me last week, all the way from Texas. Their representative, Franck, was very upset that I appear to have exposed their scheme. Apparently we’ve caused him a lot of trouble and he was keen to explain how legitimate they are but his arguments weren’t very persuasive. One of his best was that they wouldn’t still be in business if they were crooked, would they? I couldn’t help think that it works for the Mafia, Nigerian scammers and various foreign Governments I won’t name.

But then the call got better. My new friend Franck made me a fascinating offer.

He said that if I remove all references to the Bizz Awards from our web site and from the Consumer Watchdog blog and if I promise not to publish anything more about them they will fly me, entirely at their expense, all the way from Botswana to Texas, they’ll put me up in a hotel for a few days, they’ll invite me to attend the prize ceremony and they’ll generally show me a very good time. All for free.

I haven’t done the maths but I suspect that this would cost them at least P30,000 once they’ve included everything. Now of course I have to make this clear. They’re not offering me cash, it’s just an expenses-paid trip, but I think you’ll agree this is quite a generous offer. However, I think you’ll agree that if I accepted anything from these people I would be a shameless, loathsome hypocrite, particularly shameless and loathsome if I retracted all the bad things I said about them in order to get this obvious bribe.

There’s also the issue of how this offer would be portrayed by the Bizz Awards people once I had accepted it. I know for sure that there would be photos of me there at the ceremony with captions illustrating how I had accepted their hospitality, how Consumer Watchdog from Botswana endorsed their fake awards scheme and no doubt pictures showing me with a stiff drink in one hand and a loose woman in the other. How could I then continue to criticise them?

You might wonder, like I did, why these people were feeling so generous? Why would they want to stifle criticism from a little consumer rights advocacy group in a country a long way away? Why are they so afraid of what we’re saying? Try this little test to find out. Go to Google and search for “Bizz Awards” and you’ll see why I think they are so desperate to shut us up.

The first 4 hits from Google are all links to web sites owned by the World Confederation of Businesses. Then you’ll see the fifth. It’s us. It’s a link to a page on the Consumer Watchdog blog page entitled "Bizz Awards 2009 - a scam?” [Note: our ranking may change over time!]

That’s why they are trying to silence us. Anyone with a brain who receives one of their emails from the blue announcing that they have won an award is likely to go to Google before doing anything else. Three of the top ten hits are skeptical of the Bizz Awards and your friendly neighbourhood Consumer Watchdog is top of that list. That’s why they need to silence us.

I have, of course, politely rejected their bribe but I wonder what will come next? Threats? Mmegi readers will be the first to hear.

This week’s stars
  • Keneilwe at Pick N Pay at Molapo Crossing for “exceptionally good service”.
  • Naledi at FNB Kgale Branch for consistently good service, knowing her customer and always being helpful.
  • The entire car loan team at Bank Gaborone for quick, pleasant service.

The Voice - Dear Consumer's Voice

Dear Consumer’s Voice 

I bought a laptop from [Store X] on the 29 October 2009 and the last time I used it was Saturday. This morning when I switched it on I noticed a crack on the screen and took it to them and they are saying their company doesn't cover physical damages but it is not clearly specified on the invoice. Right now they are saying they are sending it to South Africa to check if the crack on the screen is a factory fault or my fault but if the report doesn't show its a factory fault I will have to cover the cost repairs.

Can you help?

[We’ve not named the store because we haven’t been able to speak to them yet to get their side of the story.]

This all depends on how that crack got there. Let’s take the store’s side for a moment. If you mistreated your brand new laptop and caused the crack then obviously it should be your responsibility to pay for fixing it. Although laptops are designed to be compact and portable they aren’t indestructible and they do have to be treated with great care. Our free tip for the week is not to forget to buy yourself a good-quality carry case for a laptop. Spending a bit extra for one that is designed for exactly the size and shape of your laptop will be money well-spent. Also, don’t make the mistake I once made of buying a rucksack-style laptop case that didn’t entirely cover the laptop. It was a real risk being outside in the rain. Get one that fits your laptop snugly and protects it against everything nature is likely to throw at it.

The interesting question is what motivation is there for the South Africans to say that it’s their fault? Surely it’s in their interest to say that it’s your fault? That way they don’t have to pay for the repair themselves.

Was there any other damage to the screen? If you had dropped or mistreated the laptop wouldn’t there be other damage as well to the casing surrounding the screen?

The warranty that you got at the bottom of your invoice is curious.

The way it’s phrased is difficult to understand but it almost says that there is no warranty on physical damages but it doesn’t actually say it clearly enough. Also the major flaw in the warranty is that you haven’t actually “specifically consented” to each exclusion. If they insist on applying each of those terms it will be, according to Section 17 (1) (f) of the Consumer Protection Regulations, both a “deceptive practice” and an “unfair business practice”.

We look forward to hearing what their investigation says. Let us know and we can take it from there.

Carnival - An Update

Last week we published a story about a consumer who paid a P400 deposit for a bedroom suite from Carnival. It later transpired that the suite wasn’t in stock so the customer exercised her right to cancel the order. That’s when things allegedly went wrong and she had trouble getting her deposit back. However the good news is that at the last minute before submitting the article we heard that her deposit had been returned to her so she was happy again.

However we later received an email from someone at Carnival who didn’t identify him or herself. Just so you all know that there can be two sides to a story, this is what the email said. I’ve not changed anything in the email except to remove the name of the customer. I’ve also not changed the spelling, the grammar or the punctuation.
“This is referring to the article published on the voice news paper dated the 06/november/2009 carnival records shows that this reciept is for Mrs XXX even if the name on the published reciept was black highlighted and this is the only Mrs XXX the company dealt with for the wembley bedroom suite i would like to let you know that the information published is not the truth at all and would like to meet with the people who published this in the news paper before the company takes this matter up
i have called the telephone no 3904582 15 times  and received no answer
carnival manager”
Several points arise.
  1. You can’t tell us that we’ve got a story wrong but not explain how it was wrong. Please give us some details and we’ll be happy to put it right. 
  2. We have no idea who you are. 
  3. I’m very sorry about the phone problems. We did indeed have a problem on the day you emailed us but the lines were working again very quickly. 
  4. Finally, please have a look at your computer keyboard. Towards the bottom right corner you’ll find a key with a full stop on it. Is yours broken?
Anyway, we thought this problem was fixed? We had already spoken to the Managing Director of Carnival before you sent your email. He was very helpful and he ensured that the problem was sorted out. Anyway if you have a correction to our story please give us the details and we’ll be happy to publish it.

Monday 9 November 2009

I get an email from the Bizz Awards people

In response to my email on 7th November, quoted verbatim:
Hi Rchard,

Ok sir, I respect your decision, therefore, I think in an investigation work, as you do, it´s important to have proves, and going to Houston was for you the opportunity to see what we do, and tell your public with proves what we do, as a good investigator, cos until now all what you say it´s according to what you think and according to companies who didn´t  trust us in a first place, but as you know, trust is really hard to get nowadays, don’t you think?

Then, if you remember, when I sent you information, there was a list of member companies of last years. I think the information was transparent, but why can´t you just contact them?

Finally, the real doubt you have about us is the selection process, but what about all the benefits we provide? I mean everything is negative in your blog when you talk about us. You actually kind of hide what we do avoiding talking about the benefits that we provide. Doing this is pretty close to defamation, right?

I mean there´s so much injustice in the world, so why don´t you  focus on them to really help people? Especially from your country.

You know, you make me think of the police when they arrest you for nothing, and when you need them they´re never around.
Well, i´m sorry to see that you don’t give me the chance to talk to you, it´s like you´re the judge and im the guilty one who can´t say a word cos you closed the case, this is a king of injustice, don’t you think?
Well, thank you anyway, I learn everyday, like now thanks to you, people who pretend to defend injustice are sometimes themselves part of it.

Saturday 7 November 2009

Email to WorldCOB about the Bizz Awards 2009

Hi Franck

Thanks for calling over the last couple of days to talk further about the Bizz Awards and your response to our coverage.

Unfortunately I remain unconvinced that I am wrong about the nature of the Bizz Awards.  As far as I can tell, and you haven't given me any evidence to the contrary, these "awards" are not genuine.  They are not based on any true assessment of the companies in question prior to their notification.  They appear not to be based on any objective criteria.  They genuinely seem to be nothing more than awards that companies pay to receive.

I am not the only person who feels this way and despite the attendance each year of a number of paying companies and despite the existence of the "award" scheme for a few years, I find your critics more persuasive than people self-justifying their payments for attendance at an award ceremony.

I'm also concerned at your attempt to reward me if I stopped criticising the Bizz Awards and removed my comments from the Consumer Watchdog blog.  Your offer of international flights from Botswana to Texas, accommodation and entertainment as well as attendance at the Bizz Awards 2009 ceremony in Houston, Texas in return for removing all my commentary about the awards was, I believe, an attempt to bribe me into silence.

I will, of course, NOT be accepting your offer.


Richard Harriman

Friday 6 November 2009

Good news or bad news? (yet again)

It’s been a mixed bag this week. A week of frustrations, successes and did I mention frustrations?

Let’s start with some bad news. We got a phone call, an abusive one unfortunately. A consumer called in to insult us. She was very upset because we hadn’t responded to an email she sent us some while ago. She referred to us as a bunch of clowns (I’m not sure I like that, I know I’m not the only one who thinks clowns are creepy, not funny) and accused us of being “a joke” and less use than the Consumer Protection Unit. Now that IS funny!

Well, here’s the problem. I did think of typing this in capital letters to get the message across clearly. I did think of writing it in italics or bold text so it’s easy to understand. Instead I’ll say this very calmly.

We never got your email. Not ever.

So please don’t shout at us because we didn’t respond. Perhaps you should have sent it again if you didn’t hear from us? Perhaps, more importantly, you can behave with a little courtesy? Perhaps, finally, you can print out your email and either fax it to us, or if you are still unhappy with the Consumer Watchdog bunch of clowns, you can put it somewhere where the sun doesn’t shine.

See, I told you I know everything about customer service, I do honestly.

Now for some good news. Yes, really good news.

For two long years we’ve been urging stores that sell on credit to obey the law. Yes, I know it’s asking a lot, it’s a bit like asking combi drivers not to be homicidal maniacs but I’m naturally an optimist. However, most stores have responded positively and have changed the way they advertise things on credit. The thing the others fail to do is disclose the total cost of an item when they advertise that you can buy it on credit. That’s all we’re asking for, that’s not too much to ask, is it?

We got an email this week from Game’s people in South Africa. After endless emails and phone calls over a couple of years we finally got a positive response. It said:
“After consideration of your communications and in light of the fact that it is both Game and RCS’s intention to always communicate in a fair and honest way with our customers, we have instituted […] enhancements to our credit in-store ticketing which will be operational 26 November 2009.”
They then promise that they will disclose the full credit price for every item valued at more than P1,000. For anything below P1,000 they say they “will utilize price matrix cards showing typical repayment terms across a range of purchase prices starting at P300. These cards will be placed throughout the store, and will also be available at the credit office.”

OK, it took a while but I always promised them this: that we would celebrate them for doing the right thing, no matter how long it took. Let’s all visit Game on the 27th November and check it out.

That just leaves Supreme and Furnmart who appear to have decided that Botswana law doesn’t apply to them. Do you think they’ll ever decide to abide by the law?

Then there were the disappointments. Curious disappointments but they weren’t what I hoped for.

Some weeks ago I described the so-called “University of SouthCentral Los Angeles” as a “bunch of crooks” and suggested that their educational qualities were roughly equivalent to those of my toilet. I said all of this because this “university” that is based in the British Virgin Islands and not, in fact, in LA, offers a variety of degrees for nothing more than money. $850 to be precise.

They got in touch and threatened us. I won’t quote their entire message but it went like this:
“We have come across your website and are in the process of taking legal counsel. Blah, blah blah, We aggressively pursue for damages those committing libel and defamation against us (including those located in Botswana). Blah, blah, blah. If this proceeds to court, and you did not heed the warning, it will be used as a means for us to obtain our legal fees from you as well as substantial damages.”
When we stopped laughing at the irony of being threatened with a defamation suit by a diploma mill we wrote back and told them that we thought they were silly and that they should go away.

Then they went quiet! I was so looking forward to a fight with some crooks. It’s one of my favourite pastimes.

We got another email from the World Confederation of Businesses who thought we should stop saying that their “Bizz Awards 2009” that you had to pay $3,530 to get were worthless junk. The fact that they’ve emailed everyone, including a fake company I created that in fact was no more than a free email address, telling them that they had won prestigious awards didn’t seem to undermine their confidence. They politely said:
“Please consider removing your posts.”
OK, I considered it. They’re still there. The Bizz Awards remains a worthless, fake award exercise. All our comments remain on our web site and on the blog.


This week’s stars
  • Thabo at Optical Centre for thoughtful, informed and friendly service.
  • Portia from FNB Main Branch for “fantastic follow up” with a customer and for being pleasant, helpful and very pro-active.
  • Game stores for promising to advertise credit sales in the legal way.

Thursday 5 November 2009

The Voice - Dear Consumer's Voice

Dear Consumer's Voice 

I would like to take this opportunity to share my experience of poor customer service that I received at Carnival Furniture. I was offered a 3 piece Wembley bedroom suite that comes with a base set as an optional extra on the 29th September 2009. I went to their office to view the set which was in stock at the time. I signed the relevant documents and gave them my confidential information as requested. On the 1st October I gave them a deposit of P400 at their shop and I was told that the items will be delivered to my place.

A week I made a follow up and I was told to come to the shop that afternoon. They told me that the Manager said the set is out of stock even though it was there. The price that was used for my purchase had been P1,999 . I accepted what I was told and asked for a refund as I had no interest in any of their other items. The sales person left the shop and I was left behind with the manager. I told him I needed my cash back immediately as it would be difficult to come back at another time.

He told me that I will not get my refund as I didn’t have any proof to claim my money but I still have my receipt. Is this the way that customers should be treated?

No, no, no, no, NO!!!!!!

This is simply unacceptable. This is NOT the way a customer should be treated. You are absolutely, 100% entitled to a refund. Of course the store can have rules about how refunds are given, that’s perfectly reasonable. It might be too much to demand cash back from them if you had paid them the full price, it’s probably reasonable for them not to keep that sort of money on the premises. However you only paid them P400, surely they must have that sort of money available?

The Consumer Protection Regulations are perfectly clear. Section 15 (1) (e) says the store has failed “to meet minimum standards of performance if”:
“in a consumer transaction that is rescinded, cancelled, or otherwise terminated in accordance with the terms of an agreement, advertisement, representation, or provision of law, failing to promptly restore to the consumer entitled to it a deposit”
It’s quite simple. Carnival failed to deliver you the goods you had ordered and for which you had paid a deposit. The deal is therefore over, concluded, finished, completed, DEAD! They have your money and they have no choice but to give it back.

We called the branch you visited and spoke to the manager. He claimed to know nothing about the case and promised he’d call us back. Unfortunately he didn’t so we called another branch and asked to speak to the Managing Director. That wasn’t possible so we spoke to the other branch manager. He was very helpful and told us that he thought this was a simple case and the customer should get their deposit back immediately. He said he’d call the first manager and that it should be arranged.

However we’ve not heard anything back from anyone yet. We’ll keep you informed! 

[Last minute update. As I’m sitting here writing this we got a text message from the consumer telling us that she has received a full refund. Result!]