Friday 25 February 2011

Blah blah blah

Many years ago, I worked for the European division of an American software company. We were one of five divisions, four of which were in the USA. Ours was called “ROW” which stood for “Rest of World”. ROW included the entire planet outside of the USA and Canada, we even included South America. That was a learning experience in my understanding of the US geopolitical world-view. For much of the US the rest of the world is a funny foreign place full of funny foreign people who eat and drink funny foreign things. They even talk funny foreign languages.

One year, my employer appointed a new very senior manager. The first time we met him was at our annual user conference where our customers could get hugely drunk at our expense and hear some boring things about new products.

The new guy’s first public appearance didn’t get off to a good start. He walked onto the stage and began an exceptionally boring Powerpoint presentation. The first three or four pages were that heart sinking, predictable crap that characterises almost all presentations. Business clich├ęs, fancy long words and an absolute absence of anything interesting. After perhaps the fourth slide he paused and took a breath. After a thoughtful moment he clicked the button and the next slide appeared. All it said was “Blah blah blah”.

He turned to the audience and said “It’s all s**t, isn’t it?”

We’d been fooled. This guy was actually something new. To begin with he was Dutch and I like the Dutch. They’re all a bit odd. This guy certainly was. The rest of his presentation was delivered without a projector, he just stood there and spoke about his approach. The customers were promised an absence of nonsense and in it’s place some honesty and plain-speaking. We all loved him.

He didn’t last.

The company I worked for, particularly as it grew and became more successful, became ever so slightly sneakier, more corporate and more full of blah blah blah.

The memory of being at that revolutionary presentation jumped back into my mind as I read an advertisement from BNPC last week.

I have to make my position clear. I like BNPC. It’s a very nice building. It’s got a very nice car park.

But what does it actually achieve? Yes, I know it conducts surveys and studies and hosts lots of conferences but what does it actually achieve regarding national productivity?

The advert announced the “Biennial Customer Service Convention” which, you’ll be delighted to hear, has a theme. “Delivering a Signature Customer Experience: A Winning Formula for Sustainable Competitive Advantage”. What’s more, you and I are invited to “Participate in the Application of Key Learnings to the Development of the Botswana National Service Experience Framework”.

BNPC are guilty of a Capital Crime.

It gets worse. Some of the advertised “learning points” included:

“How to strategically develop a customer experience strategy and deliver a unique customer experience that results in a differentiated brand”

“the tried and tested methodology in distilling your organisation’s ‘Customer Experience DNAs’ and develop a signature customer experience”

“uncover the magic of delivering a sustainable customer experience through the use of a powerful tool – the ‘Customer Experience Blueprint’”

Blah blah blah. “It’s all s**t, isn’t it?”

I’ve been around a bit and one thing I’ve developed after all these years is an absolute intolerance for business crap-speak and BNPC are experts at it.

Let me make it clear. I’m not against the idea of a national productivity centre. I’m honestly not. I just don’t think that running conventions with theoreticians talking crap are useful.

So what is? Here’s a present for BNPC. My idea for something I think they should do that might actually be useful.

I think that BNPC should make it known that in Botswana the “done thing” for visiting business leaders is to give something back when they visit us. Let’s make it a new bit of our culture. If a CEO or MD comes to Botswana to do a deal, to visit partners, or to sign a contract on behalf of their multinational company then they must let BNPC know first and let them arrange a masterclass. BNPC can lay on a few drinks and snacks and we’d all be delighted to pay a little something to interact with the guru and perhaps even pick up a few ideas. Make it known that failure to leave some knowledge behind is insulting to us.

Wouldn’t you pay a little for that?

Maybe this might actually transform BNPC into something new, something useful, something that actually helps improve our productivity.

Here’s another idea. Instead of wasting your time going to silly, pompous and portentous conferences and conventions full of terminally boring presentations and verbal diarrhoea do something cheaper and more effective.

Take a customer out for breakfast and listen to them. Prompt them with questions. What are their long-term plans? What are their short-term plans? What are the problems they face? What will stop them from succeeding? HOW CAN YOU HELP THEM?

You’ll get some fascinating information, some business ideas and maybe even a deal out of the experience AND you’ll get breakfast.

This week’s stars
  • The Plascon guys at Game for remembering a customer and going out of their way to sell stuff! Please don’t sent them to any conventions, they don’t need to learn things, they just need to continue being productive!

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

Dear Consumer’s Voice #1

I bought a plot from another guy last year. I paid all the monies and we agreed that since the plot was just allocated, we will wait for the certificate to be ready. I kept on calling him to ask him about the certificate and all the time he tells me he does not really have time to go and collect it but its ready. So this year I decided to follow up with him and see his intentions. The first week in January he told me he went to the Land Board and he wasn’t able to get it because the Land Board authorities are suspecting that some people have sold the empty plot, so I decided to go to to see the plot myself. And to my surprise, there is a building there almost finished.

So I asked the guy (the one i have been dealing with) and he told me its his mum who is building there but my gut feeling telling me that he managed to get the certificate and sold the plot to someone else who is now developing it.

In short I want to know from your point of view, what can I do to get my money back since its clear that I will never get the plot and is there a court or somewhere I can go to sue this guy coz the only thing I have from him is the letter of agreement that he signed after I paid him stating that he is giving me the plot, signed by two witnesses just at home. So I am afraid that I might loose my money for good coz I know that the Land Board does not allow someone to sell a plot without any developments, but in my case, I thought I trusted this guy coz I have known him for ages.

Please help!

1. Go to the cops and lay a charge against the crook who took your money.
2. Call the Land Board and ask them to investigate the situation.
3. Don’t forget to call the cops.
4. And the Land Board.

Dear Consumer’s Voice #2

I request your resourceful office to check and confirm the accreditation of the AIU-Atlantic International University. Furthermore, I request that you confirm whether the qualification (Doctorate in Economics) from AIU is/will be considered/acceptable in Botswana.

Atlantic International University is NOT a genuinely accredited university. On their web site they concede that they are “not accredited by the U.S. Department of Education”. They also claim to be accredited by the “Accrediting Commission International (ACI)” but later confess that this body is also “not regulated or approved by the US Department of Education”.

Even their own web site is a source for suspicious material. The profiles of some of their senior staff appear to be false and others can’t be traced at all. Some of them seem to have awarded themselves their only qualifications from their own non-accredited university.

If you’re thinking of getting a degree from this site, think again. If you meet someone with one of these degrees, you know not to take it seriously.

More and more employers are checking the validity of degrees and are taking action when they find someone with a fake. Remember that it’s illegal to claim to have a degree when you don’t have a real one. It’s one of the quickest ways to become unemployed!

Dear Consumer’s Voice #2

I need your help because I am about to loose R217. Please check the forwarded email and let me know if you think is a scam. Do you think this is a scam?

[The reader forwarded an email that began:]
“We at The Elite Work From Home Group hope you had a great day at work! If you did, you're a very lucky person. Most people dread their entire workday…

Why you too should become a home-based business owner:
Retire 10, 20, and even 30 years early
Making six figure incomes
Capitalizing on the explosive growth of the internet
Able to be there for their families whenever, without needing permission
Able to work spare-time, part-time, full-time, wherever and whenever
Average people experiencing extraordinary results and income
Enjoying life and doing the things they love to do
Earning stable residual incomes that grow year after year

[The reader forwarded an email that began:]

This is a yet another get-rich-quick pyramid scheme. The web site they give is full of the usual promises of untold riches and promises of financial independence, holidays and new cars. It also includes testimonials from supposedly previous recruits saying how much they have earned from the scheme. Curiously, these testimonials are identical to those shown on other pyramid scheme sites and they all seem to be fake.

As with any get-rich-quick scheme you have to ask yourself why they are trying to recruit other members rather than just making money themselves. Why are they being so generous in spreading the word? Is it perhaps because they only make money by recruiting others? Isn’t that the definition of a pyramid scheme?

Wednesday 23 February 2011

Someone doesn't like me

The "Northern Ireland Institute of Business and Technology (British)" (NIIBT) doesn't like me.

A reader approached them and asked them about the comments we made about them in the press and on this blog.

They responded by saying:
"For the interest of students worldwide, our Director-General had responded and posted it onto Consumer Watchdog in Botswana. Our Director-General informed us that the blogger called Richard dare not publish the write up and removed it from the Consumer Watchdog blog because Richard allegations were unfound and lying and misled the people of Botswana."
I assume they're referring to the rather incoherent comment I received from them and which I partially published here? So I "dare not publish the write up" and I have "removed it". Sorry, not true. My comments are still there.

They continued:
"NIIBT (British) is an accredited institution"
Actually that's true. However they are "accredited" by a fake accreditation body (the “International Accreditation and Recognition Council”) so that doesn't really count, does it?

They also claim that:
"The British Government would not tolerate any institutions in British Crown territory to sell the qualifications for profit. Therefore, it was very wrong for Richard to allege that NIIBT is selling their MBA degree."
The British Government has nothing to do with it. They might claim to be based in both the UK and Ireland but in fact they operate from Malaysia. And that business about "British Crown territory"? Try telling an Irish or Malaysian citizen that they're governed by the British Crown and see their reaction. Stand back first.

And as for that bit about them not selling their degrees? In the same email they include this phrase:
"Kindly complete the admission form and send it with payment via T.T or demand draft payable to Victoria Business Centre, P.O. Box l48, 80710 Johor Bahru, Johor, West Malaysia."
Here are some simple facts about the NIIBT that they don't seem to deny.
  • They have no genuine accreditation.
  • They're not registered as a company in the UK.
  • They claim to have a campus in Dublin but they're not even registered as a company there.
  • The business name they use includes the word "British" but they don't exist in any part of the UK.
  • None of the people listed on their web site appear to really exist.
This is the same bunch that sent me an email which said:
"Richard. FBI is watching your uncorrectable behavior. You better watch out!!!"
and later:
"To avoid unforeseen serious consequence will come after you; you are urged to remove the slanderous comment on us from your consumer Watchdog blog.  You are warned not to use the slanderous article as the cover for your Watchdog blog."
Sorry NIIBT, my comments are still here and they're staying until you show a sign of becoming a legitimate educational establishment.

The US "Diversity Visa" scam

Several people have been in touch after receiving emails about the US "Diversity Visa" program.

Wikipedia describes the program as follows:
"The Diversity Immigrant Visa program is a United States congressionally-mandated lottery program for receiving a United States Permanent Resident Card. It is also known as the Green Card Lottery."
However, several people have contacted us after receiving emails allegedly from the US State Department saying things like:
Congratulations, you've won !
Dear [xxx],
Congratulations ! You are among those randomly selected and registered for further consideration in the diversity immigrant program. Selection guarantees that you will receive a United States Permanent Resident Card(also known as Green Card or Diversity Visa)
This is a scam. Firstly they want money up front, in these cases over $800. It then becomes unreal. The email offers you free accommodation, health care, education and a job. And guess what? They want to be paid using Western Union.


You can see warnings from the US State Department, the Federal Trade CommissionWikipedia (look at the "Frauds and scams" section) and Consumer Fraud Reporting.

Monday 21 February 2011

Atlantic International University

We received an email from a reader who said:
"I request your office to check and confirm the accreditation of the Atlantic International University. Furthermore, I request that you confirm whether the qualification (Doctoral in Economics) from AIU will be considered acceptable in Botswana."
It's actually quite simple. Atlantic International University (which is based in Hawaii) describes itself as "not accredited by the U.S. Department of Education". It later claims that it has:
"private accreditation through the Accrediting Commission International (ACI) which it obtained in 1999, the ACI is not regulated or approved by the US Department of Education. ATLANTIC INTERNATIONAL UNIVERSITY IS NOT ACCREDITED BY AN ACCREDITING AGENCY RECOGNIZED BY THE UNITED STATES SECRETARY OF EDUCATION"
However, the agency that they claim has accredited them is, in turn, not a real accreditation agency.

Roughly translated that means that AIU is a fake university accredited by a fake organisation. Simple as that.

Degrees from AIU are worthless and won't be recognised in Botswana, don't waste your money.

P.S. A final question. Why, if they are based in Hawaii do they call themselves "Atlantic International University"? Is it perhaps because the name "Pacific International University" has already been taken by another diploma mill?

Friday 18 February 2011

Books and covers

Can you judge a book by it’s cover? Is the first impression you make of something always a good indicator of quality?

For instance, can you judge a store by it’s appearance? I know plenty of companies (buy me a coffee and I’ll name them) that look and sound remarkably swish but when it comes to quality and service they suck.

I’m thinking of a certain car company that we criticised last year. There’s nothing wrong with their vehicles, I’ve even owned one myself in the past. In their case I think we got a glimpse of the real thing when I criticised one of their foreign dealers (who treated a customer from Botswana like dirt) only to receive a letter from their lawyers demanding that I apologise, beg forgiveness and promise always to say nice things about them in future.

Needless to say I told them where to stick their threats and we haven’t heard from them since. In case you’re interested the entire history of this saga can be seen on the Consumer Watchdog blog.

But it’s not just car companies.

What about colleges and universities? Can you judge them by their appearance? There are plenty of educational establishments that seem to be real universities and colleges but when you take a closer look you find that they’re just scams. Of course I don’t mean any here in Botswana, Oh No, heaven forbid.

A couple of weeks ago I wrote about the completely silly so-called “Belford University” that awards, sorry, sells degrees to anyone with a few hundred dollars. It was from this bunch of crooks, who have nothing more than web-site and telephone number, that I stole (yes, I confess) a doctorate degree certificate and made myself a Doctor of Medicine.

Incidentally you might think that Belford University isn’t relevant in Botswana? Not so. Last week I got an urgent email one afternoon from a manager in an organisation here who said he was interviewing a candidate for a job the following day and had just noticed in his qualifications a degree from Belford. He’d heard us speaking about them and could I confirm that degree was fake? I certainly could. Who knows how many other candidates for jobs are claiming to have fake degrees? Think about the doctor in SA last week who turned out to be a fake.

Here’s a free service from Consumer Watchdog to the business community. I’ve posted a link on our blog and web site to a Wikipedia site that lists all the commonly used non-accredited universities.

I’ve been pestered recently by another bunch of diploma printers calling themselves the “Northern Ireland Institute of Business and Technology (British)”.

It started a long time ago when a reader contacted us after receiving the following email:
“Dear Friend,
We are updating our record and found that you still have not yet enrolled for the Great British NIIBT degree programme. We will be removing and destroy your name from our record if we do not hear from you again. Please keep us inform if you are organising the enrolment and payment for your degree programme with NIIBT the Great British. We look forward to hearing from you soon.”
Shame that this “Great British” institution can’t string a sentence together in English.

That’s probably because they’re not even remotely British. I know, I checked. Their web site repeatedly refers to them as being “British” but claims their campus is in Dublin, in the Republic of Ireland. Strangely no such company is registered in either the UK or Ireland. Their contact details are in Malaysia which seems strangely un-British to me. These charlatans clearly shouldn’t offer fake degrees in Geography.

I originally reported on these crooks in April last year but it took them until this month to notice. That’s strange given that our report was one of the main hits on Google if you search for them. They eventually sent me a very long, rambling email that didn't actually address any of my criticisms so there's no point in repeating it all. However here are some highlights:
"Northern Ireland Institute of Business and Technology (British) is incorporated in British Crown Territory" (This means precisely nothing. What does "British Crown Territory" mean?)

"NIIBT intend to maintain the prestigious business campus in Ireland". (Rubbish, they don't have a campus in Ireland, they don't even EXIST in Ireland.)
I won’t bore you with the email I sent them pointing out their appalling English, their fake accreditation, their fake addresses, their lack of company registration anywhere they claimed to exist and politely told them to insert their email where the sun doesn’t shine.

That’s when it became amusing. Their response was simple. They said:
“FBI is watching your uncorrectable behavior. You better watch out!!!”
When I asked if they were serious they replied:
"It is serious. To avoid unforeseen serious consequence will come after you; you are urged to remove the slanderous comment on us from your consumer Watchdog blog. You are warned not to use the slanderous article as the cover for your Watchdog blog."
I’m not sure what these serious consequences might be, but I’ll let you know if I go bald or a tooth drops out.

Meanwhile you’ll notice that we haven’t stopped talking about them and nor will we.


We’ve had a web site for years and a Facebook page for a while but now we’re tweeting from @ConsumerWatchBW. Follow us for scam alerts and who knows what else!

This week’s stars
  • Standard Chartered Bank for not only offering customers evening opening at Game City but are also open on Sundays! Is this a first? A bank actually doing something to benefit their customers?

The Voice - homeopathic nonsense and a fake degree holder

Dear Consumer’s Voice #1

Hi. I had some sort of allergic reaction and my eyes were watering so I went to the pharmacy to get something to help. They sold me a bottle of Simalasan Allergy Eye Relief. When I got home I opened the packet and saw that it was a homeopathic remedy. Will this work?

You don’t need to be a doctor to understand that homeopathy, despite it’s popularity, is nonsense.

Homeopathy is based on the theory that “like may be cured by like”. In the case of your eye drops the theory seems to be that massively diluted honey-bee sting will stop your eyes watering. That alone is nonsense but homeopathic remedies go further. They are diluted to such a level that often not even a single molecule of the active ingredient is left. In your case each millilitre of the “remedy” you bought contains one 3-millionth part of bee sting extract, another 3-millionth of a herb and a final 3-millionth of lily extract. The rest is water.

The leaflet that came with your useless remedy contained a variety of interesting things. It described the contents as a “clear, colourless liquid without an odour or taste” and the potential overdose effects as “none known”. That is all very simple to explain. It’s water.

Given that this is presented as a treatment you are entitled to ask what evidence there is to support the claim that this water actually DOES anything. There isn’t any. But that’s true of ALL homeopathic remedies. Not one properly controlled scientific study has EVER shown that any homeopathic remedy has ANY effect at all. Not one.

Some of you might say that you’ve taken a homeopathic remedy and felt better later so it must work? Someone tried that with me some while ago when she had a cold. A week into her suffering she took a homeopathic “cure” and, amazingly, a few days later she felt much better. But that’s because a cold lasts no more than a week to 10 days. She could have swallowed milk, Coke or whiskey instead and she would have felt better after 10 days. It wasn’t the quack cure that made her better. It was her immune system that did it.

Likewise there is the massively impressive placebo effect where just doing something, almost anything, makes you feel a bit better.

Finally there’s a problem with homeopathic remedies, in fact any product where the supplier “quotes scientific or technical data in support of a claim unless the data can be readily substantiated” or “promises outcomes where those outcomes have no safe scientific, medical or performance basis”. They breach the Consumer Protection Regulations.

Maybe one day the people we pay to be in authority and to regulate these things will actually DO something about charlatans selling fake cures?

Dear Consumer’s Voice #2

[This email arrived shortly after we discussed the fake Belford University. You can see the details on the Consumer Watchdog blog site.]

I urgently need your assistance. I'm conducting job interviews tomorrow. One of the candidates submitted a degree certificate from Belford University. The gentleman is applying for the post of a Junior Accountant an d claims to have 8 yrs of teaching experience. In one of your talk shows you warned members of the public about fake individuals with fake qualifications from the mentioned University. Please advise me accordingly.

Yes, Belford University is definitely a fake university. It doesn't actually exist other than as a web site and phone number.

It’s impossible to get a degree from them and not understand that you're doing something wrong. It's so obviously a scam. Within hours of registering on their site your candidate would have received an email saying that if he pays them he'll get the degree "within 15 days". Nobody can misunderstand this.

Tuesday 15 February 2011

JB Sports - their response

I offered JB Sports a complete and uncensored right of reply to our recent reports. This is available to anyone we criticise. So long as you're as polite as we are to you, you can send us a comment, a criticism or better still a solution to a consumer's problem and we guarantee to publish it with equal prominence to whatever we've said.

This is what JB Sports said:
"We have displayed our company return policy on cash sale purchase at the main counter in every shop.

Customers must read this policy before they decide to buy anything in the shop. If they are not happy with the policy they should not buy. We do not force anybody to buy our products in the shop. The store manager behaved exactly like what is mentioned in the policy. According to the company policy any defective item will be replaced after getting the report on damage from the respective supplier and the item should be brought back to the shop within 10 days from the date of purchase.

To get the report we need to send the defective item to the supplier for verification and hence we request the customers to leave the damaged item with store manager. In this case customer refused to leave the item with the store manager.

If the customer brings the shoe back to the shop we will send it to the supplier and based on the recommendation from the supplier we will act on the matter.

In most cases we give customers new shoes or the customers can chose any other item for that money.

We sell only branded shoes and they are guaranteed but customers have to follow the procedure."
This should be in The Voice later this week. Tell me honestly, what's your reaction?

Another threat from JB Sports

Another threat from JB Sports, this time in an email. It said:
"We totally disagree with your article on this matter.I investigated this matter personally.According to the store Manager the customer bought a pair of levis fashion shoe but not a trainer as you wrote.The upper is made of pu and the sole is rubber.The picture you put in the news paper is a collection of levis canvas shoes and so not relevant to the matter rather it looks so distructive for the brand.We are not manufactures of the brand but stockist of the same.If the shoe is faulty or damaged by abuse or whatever be the reason we need to get the openion from the manufacturer.The store manager has no authority to take action on this matter.He has to get the consent from his superiors in the business.This is what he told the customer to leave the matter with him and will inform the decision from the management later.But the customer was very adament to get the money back on the spot.Then he decided to walk out with shoe.Without the physical sample how do we determine the defect.Any way as a man who stands for justice and integrity you should have discussed this matter with relevant authorities before you decided to publish.If there was a problem in getting people on line you should have waited until following Monday to hear from otherside.What you have done is injustice to our business and questioed the integrity and honesty of the store manager and directors of JB Sports,a well reputed company in Botswana.The store manager never refused to help the customer.You have tarnished the name of JB Sports and a world famous brand and will be answerable for this.
Thank you"
My answer went like this:
"A number of corrections are required before I answer your email.

1. I don't think that the precise term used to describe the shoes is an important issue. What matters is that items of footwear that the consumer had purchased just a couple of weeks earlier and had used on a very small number of occasions were disintegrating.

2. I put no picture in the newspaper. Any picture that was published was unconnected with me or Consumer Watchdog.

3. I do not understand which entities you refer to when you mention "relevant authorities" and what role they might play in solving the situation when you had been given the opportunity to respond as the entity that formed a contract with the consumer when you sold him these shoes.

4. JB Sports were given several opportunities to respond to the contact we made with your Francistown Store Manager and your Head Office representatives shortly before lunchtime on Thursday 3rd February 2011. Your colleague called my cellphone from an unknown cellphone number while it was switched off and presumably decided not to send me a text message announcing his identity. He also did not take the opportunity to leave a message on my home phone number (which I had given) or our office number (which is publicly available) and did not send either a fax (ditto) or an email (ditto again). Any of these would have afforded JB Sports an opportunity to respond before publication.

5. Your claim that we have done "injustice to (y)our business and questioed (sic) the integrity and honesty of the store manager and directors of JB Sports,a well reputed company in Botswana" is frankly absurd. At no point have we questioned the integrity or honesty of such people.

6. I maintain that any "tarnish" to the "name of JB Sports and a world famous brand" is as a result of the alleged and unanswered performance of your store in Francistown, not the result of anything said by Consumer Watchdog.

I cannot help but note that at no point during any telephone conversations or email correspondence has anyone from JB Sports expressed even the slightest regret that the customer feels, rightly or wrongly, aggrieved by the situation. You have also not responded to the allegation that your manager expressed the opinion that "he does not care" about the Consumer Protection Regulations and that they "mean nothing to him" as alleged by the consumer.

As far as I understand, at no point while he was purchasing the shoes was the consumer informed that there were restrictions on the ways in which he might reasonably use them. Nor was he required to give specific consent (as required by the Consumer Protection Regulations) to any waiver of his rights as a consumer.

I also note that you have regrettably chosen not to accept our offer of an uncensored right of reply. I mentioned this to your colleague on the phone on 11th February, later that day to you and confirmed this in my email of 12th February, I offered JB Sports an opportunity to respond to our criticisms in the same publication in which they were written, which I believe is a very reasonable offer.

Please note that your email and my reply have been published on the Consumer Watchdog blog site in the interests of openness and fairness to readers of The Voice and the consumers of Botswana.

Also in the interests of fairness I repeat my offer of an unrestricted right of reply that I have mentioned several times before. I will guarantee to send for publication, and without censorship, 150-200 words that you can write that explains your position regarding the issue and proposing a solution to remedy your customer's complaint.

This opportunity will remain open as long as is necessary and I still believe that this is the simplest solution that benefits all concerned parties, most notably the consumer in question.

Finally I would like to respectfully refer you to Sections 13(1)(a)(iii) and 17(1)(e) and (f) of the Consumer Protection Regulations 2001 and Sections 195(a), 197(d), (g) and (h) of the Penal Code of Botswana.

With best regards"
Watch this space...

Monday 14 February 2011

Fake doctor killed patients - Sowetan LIVE

"Fake doctor killed patients"

"Patients' families demand answers why bogus medico was allowed to operate on people

SHOCKING allegations have emerged about a bogus state doctor in the Eastern Cape farming area of Kareedouw."

Sunday 13 February 2011

Non-accredited universities

If ever you want to check if a qualification you've seen is from a fake, non-accredited university like Belford University or NIIBT, see here for a Wikipedia page that lists the common ones.

Friday 11 February 2011

Another threat

Two threats in a week? We're certainly achieving something…

This time it was JB Sports who were very unhappy about the story in The Voice this week. At the end of the piece I pointed out that they hadn't replied to the message I left on Thursday 3rd February at around midday, asking them to respond.

I got calls this morning from two managers at JB Sports who complained. And shouted at me. And threatened me. Essentially their problem was that they hadn't been given a right of reply. They claimed that they had indeed called me but I hadn't responded.

Here's why:

At the time they called I was away from home in an area with no cellphone coverage. They chose not to SMS me, to call me or fax me at the office or to email me. None of these things are difficult to achieve, all the contact details are easy to find.

Now they're angry that I didn't respond to that cellphone call when I was back in coverage. That's because I didn't see it.

So that call doesn't count, OK.

I offered both managers, one of them the MD of JB Sports, what we always offer: a complete right of reply. I promised that whatever they wrote I would publish verbatim (so long as it was polite and constructive) but while the first manager seemed willing, the later, more senior one ended up saying:
"My lawyer will talk to you, not me. I got a legal team here, they will talk to you. Thank you very much."
And then he hung up.

I know those were the exact words because I recorded all of the calls I made to JB Sports in Francistown, to their head office and the calls with both managers.

Any guesses how many times they said they were keen to help the consumer who contacted us?

Be CARful

A selection of recent reader’s complaints that have arrived.

Question 1 – the new car
“I bought a new Mercedes Benz C180 CGI sometime in October last year. It has done about 4,500km and has started showing the check engine light. I called the dealer that sold it to me and they collected it. They then reported to me that the car computer lost memory. I don’t know what to do now. I want them to replace it with a new car. What if something happens in future because of the 1st problem I encountered?”
I’m afraid it’s probably unreasonable to demand a brand new car in this situation. Of course the dealer has an obligation to resolve this problem, the vehicle is still under warranty, but it’s their job to repair the vehicle, not necessarily to replace it. It’s only reasonable to give them the opportunity to fix the problem.

The lesson? Give suppliers a chance to fix things before escalating your demands.

Question 2 – the mechanic
“A mechanic based in Tlokweng took my car in May 2010 for repairs. The car was having a problem with the gear box and he told me it was a computer box issue and he could sort out in 2 days and agreed at a price of P4,000. P2,000 was given as advance and later on he came back telling stories and took another P1,500 for fixing the starter. Last month, he came back and told me that a rack and pinion on the gear box is damaged and I got it fixed at Pistol engineering paying another P1,500.

Even after 8 months, the car is still not ready. He still makes excuses and I have a feeling he has taken out parts from the car and sold it in another cars and my car is parked in his house as a shell.”
I think you realise that you’re being abused, don’t you?

I think the solution is simple. Demand to see your vehicle and get a full status report from the mechanic.

If he refuses to show you your vehicle, or when he does you can see that parts are missing, call the police and ask them to visit him. Accuse him of theft.

If when you see the car things are looking OK you should nevertheless demand a date when you’ll get it back from him.

The lesson? You have a right to know approximately how long something will take to fix. Obviously you need to offer a little flexibility, sometimes these things can be hard to predict precisely but you should be given a rough idea. Then demand that the supplier sticks to it.

Question 3 – the broken car
“Hi, I have a car that I was involved an accident that belongs to a friend of mine, that he uses as a cab. I took the car for panel beating as soon as I had the accident as I realized that it will cost my friend money if it is not at work.

I took the car to be fixed at a panel-beaters but it’s been about 6 months now and I still don't have the car back. The owner has now served me with a demand letter for the car and damages worth 10,500 pula.”
Please tell me that the car was insured? Please?

Regardless of whether it was insured the owner does probably have a right to pursue you for damages. You did, after all, get involved in an accident while you had the car.

However I don’t understand why it took 6 months to get fixed. I suggest you demand that they fix the car as promised and get it back to you by a date you can agree with them. Make it soon!

How did your friend decide that you had cost him P10,500?

The lesson? Insurance!

Question 4 – the missing deposit on a car
“Last year towards Christmas I found a Toyota Landcruiser for my uncle. The man at the dealership told me it cost P155,000 so I put a deposit of P4,000 to hold it while my uncle got a loan. I told the dealer we were expecting about P140,000 pula from the bank and he said it’s fine and to pay what we had and the rest of the money we can pay in on a monthly basis. The loan was approved but after some deductions my uncle only got P122,000. I told the dealer what we got and he said just deposit the money we will talk about the rest.

After that he said the money was too small he needed another P10,000. After a couple of days my uncle said he cannot raise the extra so he would consider a cheaper car. The dealer agreed and said he would look for a cheaper car. After a week we were told that the second choice wasn’t available and my uncle asked for his money to be refunded. The dealer refused saying we have cost him buyers. He says he will only give us back our money when he finds a buyer for the Landcruiser. I asked him if the car stays there unsold for 12 months does it mean that we will have to wait for that long to get the money back and he said yes because I have put the money down on that car.”
He simply cannot keep all your money. The deposit was P4,000, the rest was a down-payment on a specific car that he encouraged you to pay AFTER he realised you couldn’t make the full price. Your uncle deserves his P122,000 back NOW. We’ll get in touch with them on your behalf and see what we can do.

The lesson? Second-hand car dealers make drug dealers look good!

This week’s stars

  • Lucia from Shoprite Checkers for going the extra mile while helping a customer.

The Voice - shoes and scams

Dear Consumer’s Voice #1

I bought Levi sneakers at JB Sports in Francistown on the 20th January. I bought the sneakers for P410 and wore them over the next weekend. I used them again this past weekend and they started tearing between the sole and the shoe on both of them. I went back to the store and they told me I was not suppose to dance with them or wear them on weekends only. I tried to explain to the manager that my nature of work does not give me a chance to put on sneakers during the week because I work at a mine where I have to use safety boots and when I knock off I want to wear something more comfortable.

All I want from you is help to either get a better pair from them because I have only used this shoes for less than 5 days.

I replied:

This is absurd. When you buy a pair of shoes you should be able to do anything in them that's generally appropriate. Trainers are basically sportswear so you should be able to do anything remotely sports-like in them like running, jumping and, yes, dancing.

It's frankly not the store's business what you do in the shoes so long as you treat them responsibly.

Section 13 (1) (a) of the Consumer Protection Regulations states that:
"Any supplier who offers a commodity or service to a consumer fails to meet minimum standards and specifications if ... the commodity sold ... is not of merchantable quality".
"Merchantable quality" is defined as:
"a commodity that is fit for the purposes for which commodities of that kind are usually purchased, as it is reasonable to expect in light of the relevant circumstances"
Clearly these shoes are not of merchantable quality. I would tell the store this and make them understand that you know your rights! Let me know what they say?]

[The reader replied…]

I would like to update you with this matter that I reported on Tuesday. I went back to the store with the regulations in my hands and the store manager just told me to my face that this means nothing to him. He said he does not care about these consumer regulations. My wish is to take them to task but I do not know where to start and may you please assist me.

I spoke to the store manager and he seemed confused. Firstly he told me to send the reader back and said that he would “fix things”. When I asked him what exactly that meant he got a bit flustered. I asked him if that meant his customer would get a refund, a replacement or a repair and that’s when he got confused and changed his mind. He then said that it wasn’t up to him, his manager would decide what would happen. That’s the manager that wasn’t there that day but who was based in Gaborone.

That would also be the same manager who hasn’t returned my call. It can’t be that he doesn’t care, can it?

The lesson? Know your rights and even when a store manager or owner spits in your face don’t give up.

Dear Consumer’s Voice #2

Hi I received an email from someone called Bethany Wagaye who said:

“Hi. My name is Miss Bethany Wagaye , I am interested in exploring another language, culture, settle abroad and open a business after I finish my university study in your country The political climate in your country is commendable in terms of good health, human rights, economic and political stability, and more. I believe we can make a good partner in any relationship. If you are interested to know more details about me, reply me so I can plan my departure accordingly. I look forward to having the opportunity to discuss this with you further.
Yours sincerely, Miss Bethany Wagaye”
Can I believe this?


Thursday 10 February 2011

The "Northern Ireland Institute of Business & Technology" threaten me

After the earlier correspondence with this scam institution I got this comment from the fake "Dr. Gopi":
"Richard. FBI is watching your uncorrectable behavior. You better watch out!!!"
So a fake educational establishment with fake accreditation, fake Board members, fake addresses and fake qualifications that claims to be based in either the UK or Ireland but in fact is based in neither, thinks the FBI, which only operates in the USA, is watching me?

I replied:
"Was this meant to be a serious comment or are you just joking?"
and today I got an incoherent reply from them saying:
"It is serious.
To avoid unforeseen serious consequence will come after you; you are urged to remove the slanderous comment on us from your consumer Watchdog blog.  You are warned not to use the slanderous article as the cover for your Watchdog blog." 
My reply went as follows:
"So you ARE joking then?

1. You don't appear to be genuinely registered as a company anywhere that I can find.
2. You claim to be based in Dublin but you are NOT even registered as a company in Ireland.
3. The business name you claim includes the word "British" but you simply do not exist in any part of the UK (you do realise that the UK and Ireland are different countries, don't you?).
4. Your accreditation is from a fake accreditation agency.
5. None of the people listed on your web site appear to really exist.
6. You threaten me with the FBI who operate solely within the borders of the USA.
7. You claim I have slandered you but cannot justify this claim.
8. You appear to be trying to threaten me with silly phrases like "You better watch out!!!" and the frankly incoherent "To avoid unforeseen serious consequence will come after you".

I will NOT be removing anything from the blog.  In fact if you take a look you will see that I have posted highlights from your emails and this email on the blog."
What do you think? Should I change my mind and remove the comments?

The fake "Northern Ireland Institute of Business & Technology"

We commented on this very suspicious educational establishment late last year, explaining that they are a fake "institute".

They didn't enjoy being exposed so they got in touch with a very long, rambling email that didn't actually address any of my criticisms so there's no point in posting it all.  However here are a few highlights (with my comments in italics):
"Northern Ireland Institute of Business and Technology (British) is incorporated in British Crown Territory" (This means precisely nothing. What does "British Crown Territory" mean?)

"NIIBT intend to maintain the prestigious business campus in Ireland". (Rubbish, they don't even have a campus in Ireland, they don't even EXIST in Ireland.)
My response to them went as follows:
"I received the following comment via the Consumer Watchdog blog site.

Unfortunately I doubt I'll be publishing the comment as it doesn't address any of the points I raised in the article.

It fails to address your fake accreditation, the appalling quality of English you use and your failure to give any traceable contact details outside Malaysia.

You fail to address the fact that you call yourself the "Northern Ireland Institute of Business and Technology" but claim to be based in the Republic of Ireland. However there appears to be no trace of you at the address you give. Similarly the addresses you give in Malaysia are both no more than a post boxes.

You sometimes give your company name as "Northern Ireland Institute Of Business And Technology (British)" but there is no trace in the UK Companies Register of your existence. Similarly no such company has been registered in the Republic of Ireland. Nor do you appear in either of these country's phone directories.

Curiously there IS an entry in the Irish companies register for the "Royal Ireland Institute of Business and Technology" which you also appear to operate but that company was dissolved in 2008.

So, while I thank you for your comments I don't feel any need to change anything I've written."
They're fake, avoid them.

Tuesday 8 February 2011

Fakes, fakes, fakes

It seems like everything can be faked.

We had a complaint recently from a consumer about a shirt. The details of the complaint are simple. The price label said P100 but when he went back later to buy the shirt he was told that the price on the label was a mistake, it should really be P150. OK, that’s fairly mundane, it happens all the time. It doesn’t make it right of course but the situation was fairly simple to resolve. After their very rude and contemptuous reaction to his complaint I suggested that he should simply never go to that store again. I also suggested that should tell all his friends, relatives and colleagues about the shabby treatment he received.

But that wasn’t the main problem I had. My problem was this quote from his email:
“I noticed they had some nice shirts, although fake, I asked for the price on one of the shirts”.
Did you see that? “although fake”? Firstly, let’s make it clear. It’s illegal to knowingly sell a fake. Ignore the fact that it’s morally wrong, it’s just illegal.

Secondly, the sort of store that knowingly sells fakes is the sort of store that will have as much contempt for you as they do for the law. A store that sells fake goods will give you fake service as well.

Lastly if ever anything goes wrong with a cheap and nasty fake (because they always ARE cheap and nasty) nobody will help you. If your fake Nike trainers fall apart after a week and you complain to Nike they’ll politely show you the door.

Then there are other sorts of fakes. Like universities.

I was forwarded an email that a reader received from “Belford University”. It began: “You are eligible for Belford University Special Scholarship Program”. The email later said:
“Belford University has long been catering needs of working adults who wish to translate their substantial experience into accredited and recognized degrees. Our unique process through which we assess and value prior experience has won many students degrees that they require most to excel in their professional lives.”
Doesn’t that smell a bit fishy to you? I took at a look at Belford University’s web page and it was immediately clear that this was a fake university. For instance, nowhere on the web page does it say where this “university” is located. That’s because it doesn’t actually exist. It’s no more than a web page and a bank account.

But it’s much more than that. This is what it says on the web page:
Add bachelor's, master's or doctorate degrees to your resume in just 15 days and open avenues to promotion and better jobs!”
A degree in just 15 days? Are they serious? Yes, all it takes to get a “degree” from these crooks is money. A Bachelors or a Masters for $549 or a PhD for $924.

Surely, you’ll ask, this place isn’t an accredited institution, is it? Ironically it IS accredited. They say that they are:
“Fully accredited by the International Accreditation Agency for Online Universities (IAAOU) and the Universal Council for Online Education Accreditation (UCOEA).”
Sounds impressive, doesn’t it? Well, it would be if these so-called accreditation bodies were actually genuine. Both of these bodies are themselves fake. Their web sites were created on the same day within a few seconds of each other, by the same internet registration company, amusingly the same company that registered the Belford University web site just a few days beforehand.

Out of curiosity I decided to test the Belford University application process. Using a fake name and email address I filled in the online form and applied for a doctorate. But what subject should I choose? They offer 120 different subjects, from Accounting to Veterinary Science but I decided to go for the big one.


All I had to do was give them my contact details and a “resume” and apply. My resume for my doctorate in Medicine was this:
“I worked in hospitals for many years helping patients”
Within hours I received an email that announced:
“we are pleased to announce that … Belford University has finally approved you for PhD Degree in Medicine. You may now pay the amount from the link provided below and get your PhD Degree in Medicine within 15 days from today.”
So there we are. All I have to do is cough up $924 and I’m a doctor of Medicine. Don’t you think that’s just a little bit scary? That in a couple of weeks I can portray myself as a very highly qualified doctor? Of course I would be a fake doctor but I’m sure it’s possible that I could use that fake qualification to obtain all sorts of benefits and advantages.

But I’m not a fake like Belford University and their fake degrees. Or am I?

Just for fun I decided to award myself a free Belford University degree. Working on the assumption that there’s nothing wrong with faking a fake degree from a fake university with fake accreditation I copied a Belford University doctoral degree certificate and put my own name on it. From now on please address me as “Fake Doctor Watchdog”.

So if you are thinking of buying yourself a fake degree from Belford or any of the other fake universities out there just consider this. You’ll be as much of a fake as they are.

This week’s stars
  • Shadrack at AON for excellent service

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

Dear Consumer’s Voice #1

I got an email from Belford University saying that I was eligible for a “Special Scholarship Offer”. They said I will get “an exclusive 10% discount on the tuition fee if you enrol in any program at Belford University during this season.”

I went to their web site and it said I can get a degree for $549? Can this be true? Can I trust these people?

Yes, you can trust them to steal your money and give you nothing of value in return. That’s because “Belford University” is not a real university. It’s a scam.

Unlike a real university, Belford University apparently has nothing more than a web site, a post box and a telephone number. No buildings, no lecturers, nothing at all that looks like a real university. Their web site says that they are an accredited university but the accreditation bodies they say have accredited them are, in fact, not recognised accreditation bodies. It’s a bit like saying the Consumer Watchdog University has been accredited by Consumer Watchdog Accreditation Service. It’s easy to say but it doesn’t make it mean anything.

Their web site is full of extraordinary things. On their front page they proudly say:
Add bachelor's, master's or doctorate degrees to your resume in just 15 days and open avenues to promotion and better jobs!”
Any degree that can be obtained in 15 days is fake, OK?

They also proudly say that:
“One of our prodigies, Michael Fonseca, has been promoted to the post of Divisional Head for Romuna Securities, a subsidiary of the Romuna Group.”
That would be nice, if of course either the person or the company actually existed. Neither do. It’s all a lie.

These crooks will sell you anything from a High School Diploma to a Doctorate based on “life experience”, all instantly and online. Of course these degrees are utterly worthless but there is a hint of danger there.

I signed on to their web site and was just one step away from buying myself a PhD in Medicine. The only thing left for me to do was to give my credit card details to them and $924 later I would have become DOCTOR Consumer Watchdog.

Of course just having a piece of paper saying you have a qualification won’t get you a job. Surely all organisations check the authenticity of qualifications before accepting them, don’t they?

No. They most often DON’T check them. All they see is a degree certificate, or what looks like a certified copy of one. I’ve known of several cases here in Botswana of large organisation who eventually find that some of their most senior staff have fake degrees from these “diploma mills”. In almost all of these cases that person is then instantly fired.

So, no, this offer isn’t real and they can’t be trusted and you really don’t want to take the risk of having a fake degree on your CV.

Dear Consumer’s Voice #2

I went to a fashion store at Molapo Crossing around lunch time and I noticed they had some nice shirts, although fake, and I asked for the price on one of the shirts I was interested in and was told by one of the workers that it was P100. She informed me that the price was fixed on the hanger and I was able to confirm this for myself. I told her that I will come back as I had forgotten my wallet in the office.

I was back at the store later to buy the shirt and, to my shock the teller informed me that the shirt was actually P150 and not the P100 indicated on the price tag. I informed her that one of her workers confirmed earlier that the shirt was P100. The teller informed me that it was a mistake and that she would not sell it for P100 as she will be making a loss. I told her that I drove all the way from Block 8 to her shop to buy the shirt and that had I known it to be P150 I wouldn’t have bothered. She said it was not her problem and I was disturbing her and unless I was prepared to pay the P150 I must go. I told her that I had been misled and that she was rude towards me as a customer. She told me she didn’t need me and ‘maybe 1, 2, 3, 4, members of your family as customers’. I informed her that I knew my rights and that I was going to take this up with Consumer Watchdog and even shame her on radio. She said she didn’t care and I could go anywhere I wanted.

Technically neither rudeness nor poor service is against the law.

In this case I suspect that despite the appalling rudeness you report, the complete contempt you were shown and the utter absence of customer care, nothing illegal has actually occurred.

If they had actually tried to charge you P150 while the shirt was still displayed at P100 you might have some sort of case but I suspect that the best thing you can do is never go there again. Just make sure you tell everyone you know about your experience!

And why were you even thinking of buying a fake?