Sunday, 25 July 2010

Take revenge

Sometimes it’s right to be Mr or Ms Nice Guy. When something goes wrong, when the service you get isn’t quite good enough, when a product isn’t up to the required standard it’s the normal thing to raise the issue in calm, measured and reasonable terms. You speak to the restaurant or store manager and you calmly discuss your problem. Most of the time the manager will talk to you in the same tone, will be just as reasonable as you and will do his or her best to fix the problem and everyone will be reasonably happy. That because most of us are reasonable people. Most consumers, most suppliers are reasonable people who care about their fellow human beings.

But not all of us.

There are, I’m sure you’ll agree, some consumers who are psychopaths. We’ve all seen them. The person in the queue ahead of us complaining about nothing, something deeply trivial but which they think is up there on a par with war crimes. A friend who runs a restaurant once told me about a particular regular customer who would always order a meal, eat three-quarters of it and then would, without fail, complain that it wasn’t good enough and say that she didn’t feel she should be forced to pay for it. A few times he let her get away with it, just in case he was in the wrong, but eventually he was forced to take the customer aside and very politely ask her not to come to his restaurant again.

Another case. A few months ago we got a complaint from a consumer who had failed to make her payments on a 2-year store credit purchase. As a result her account had been sent to a debt collector and she was outraged. How, she asked, could they be so nasty to her? Surely she had 2 years to make the payments? Shouldn’t they only send in the heavy mob when the 2 years was up? Reasonable? I think not.

On the other side, there are also suppliers who are unreasonable.

A reader contacted us recently with a long story about her Hyundai that broke down in Rustenberg in October last year. Quite sensibly she had the car towed to the Rustenberg Hyundai dealership for repairs but that’s when things started to go wrong. Instead of fixing the car they proceeded to claim to repair it and allow her to drive it away on TWO separate occasions, only to have it break down both times within 10km of the dealership, helped her run up an enormous phone bill and took a total of P20,000 from her for the repairs. When we first got involved they even claimed never to have heard of this customer and it was only when we forwarded them the 4,000 words of email correspondence between them and her that they remembered. Since then they’ve claimed to fix the car yet again but they say they will only give it back to her if she gives them another R6,500 for the latest repairs. It really does look like they are planning to repair or replace every part of the car until it works again.

Then there are the crooks rather than those who are just inept. Of course there are the traditional online scammers, the “419” type who claim to be trapped somewhere and need you help either in liberating a hidden fortune or the type who need an urgent loan to help them get home from the country they’re stranded in.

However some are more organised. I got an email from someone very recently who had seen our coverage last year of the Bizz Awards. This is a fake award scheme that begins with you getting an email claiming that you’ve won a prestigious business award. All you have to do is give them about US$3,500, pay your airfare and hotel bills and you’ll get an invitation to their ridiculous ceremony. Curiously, only those people who pay the money are entitled to attend the bogus ceremony to receive their worthless prize. Of course it’s a scam. On their web site they claim that companies like Microsoft, Lufthansa, British Airways, Toyota and Coca-Cola are all “members” of their fraudulent award scheme. Curiously both the person who emailed us and Consumer Watchdog both found out independently is that it’s all lies. None of these companies have even heard of the Bizz Awards.

So here’s my new approach. Revenge. I don’t mean anything illegal, nothing threatening, nothing at all improper. In fact I think it’s ONLY proper that you and I, the consumer of Botswana, make these people’s lives difficult, and send them a message that the people of Botswana are not credulous fools who are likely to fall for their nonsense.

My plan in future is to do two things. Firstly to waste their time. If I can engage them in a lengthy email correspondence, pretending to fall for their scumbaggish scam, occupying their time and energy perhaps it will prevent them scamming someone less skeptical. Every minute they spend writing to me is a minute they can no longer spend abusing a victim.

If you have the time I suggest you do the same. Of course there are some warnings. Don’t do this from your company or personal email address, you should set up a free email account using an assumed name, that way you can keep your identity secret.

Then, when you’ve wasted their time for long enough, go to stage 2. Reveal yourself and tell them in very simple and direct terms what you think of them. You don’t need to be polite to crooks, do you?

P.S. The Managing Director of Hyundai South Africa is called Alan Ross. He doesn’t respond to emailed complaints. He doesn’t seem to care. This is not revenge, it’s just a fact.

This weeks stars

  • Ronald at Fedex for “great service with a smile every time”.

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