Thursday, 4 August 2011

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

Dear Consumer’s Voice #1

I received an email from a South African company called the Susca Watts Academy offering training certificates in beauty treatments and saying they could guarantee me a job on a cruise liner? They say this will cost R6000 and I must pay R1000 to register. Do you think I can trust these people?

To be accurate, they don’t actually guarantee you a job on a cruise liner. What they say is that they offer:
“Guaranteed Job interview on popular internasional Cruize liner after completion of Certification”
We’ll ignore that fact that they can’t spell correctly, shall we?

I’m suspicious about this for a number of reasons. I did some checking and I can’t find any particular problems with the company itself, they seem to be registered and accredited by various authorities who know more than I do about beauty technologies. However I DO have some criticisms.

Firstly I simply don’t trust any company that emails strangers who they’ve never contacted before. I know for a fact that they’re doing this because you weren’t the only person who got this email. We got one as well addressed to the Consumer Watchdog email address as well. Nobody from Consumer Watchdog has ever contacted these people. I’ve asked them where they got our email address but they haven’t yet told us.

They also sell courses in a range of subjects that are, shall we say, dubious? As well as the usual manicure, pedicure and waxing skills, they also offer courses in “Business management” and, more worryingly perhaps, courses in anatomy, physiology and psychology.

My final worry is the business about the jobs on cruise liners. They work with a Bahamian company called Steiner Transocean who run the spas on many cruise liners and who seem to have a rather poor history of staff treatment and who pay truly lousy wages. A Google search for “Steiner Transocean” and the word “complaint” comes up with over 3,000 hits [Correction: actually over 7,000, my mistake]. And remember this. You’re not guaranteed a job with these people, just an interview.

My advice? Give it a miss.

TVI Express - an update

A couple of times last year we responded to readers who asked us about a scheme called TVI Express. They had been invited to join this scheme with a payment of P2,100 and had been promised a fortune in potential earnings if they just recruited further members beneath them.

I said that this is quite clearly a pyramid scheme. Unlike multi-level marketing schemes like Amway and Herbalife there’s no actual product with TVI Express. They pretend that they offer travel discount vouchers but discounts are NOT a product. Discounts are just a reduction in price of a product, not a product themselves. You only get a discount when you spend money on something. What’s more, do you know where to find a hotel, car hire company or airline that accepts their worthless vouchers? No, neither do I.

On TVI’s own web site they answer the question “Do I need to sell any products?” like this:
“No. You don’t need to sell any products. TVI Express is a unique e-commerce opportunity allowing you to build the Business around the globe sitting at your home.” [Update: they've now changed this but it remains the same on their Japanese site.]
When we last wrote about them some TVI Express members criticised me for calling them a pyramid scheme, denying this completely. But more recently I’ve found others who agree with me. The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission and the Office of Consumer Affairs in the US State of Georgia both say TVI Express is an illegal pyramid scheme. More recently the Bank of Namibia have also cautioned:
“all promoters of TVI Express, including persons who attempt to recruit others, either by word-of- mouth or via spamming emails messages to join these schemes, anywhere in Namibia, to stop such practices immediately.”
They’re also out of business in South Africa and prosecutions are pending against some of the members there. However in the last week we’ve heard of two people who were recruited into TVI Express her in Botswana, both of whom were promised rapid fortunes and both of whom are now poor. TVI Express is now illegal in Namibia and the sooner it’s outlawed here in Botswana the better.

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