Saturday 19 December 2015

Some healthy skepticism

Don’t believe everything you read. Or hear. Or see. Above all you certainly should be VERY careful about anything you see on the internet.

It’s not that everything you hear is lies, that’s certainly not true, but the truth is that there’s an endless supply of lies and deception out there and most of it is trying to get you to part with your money.

A reader sent us an email he received that said:
“Hello Everybody, My name is Mrs Sharon Sim. I live in Singapore and i am a happy woman today? and i told my self that any lender that rescue my family from our poor situation, i will refer any person that is looking for loan to him, he gave me happiness to me and my family, i was in need of a loan of S$250,000.00 to start my life all over as i am a single mother with 3 kids I met this honest and GOD fearing man loan lender that help me with a loan of S$250,000.00 SG dollar, he is a GOD fearing man, if you are in need of loan and you will pay back the loan please contact him tell him that is Mrs Sharon, that refer you to him. contact Dr Purva Pius,via email: Thank you.”
Obviously this is a scam, you know that I hope? Real lenders don’t lend a quarter of a million Singaporean dollars (almost P2 million) to total strangers. They simply don’t. Real lenders don’t operate from Gmail addresses. Real lenders are companies, not just some guy calling himself “Dr”. Real lenders use their customer’s names and don’t just say “Hello Everybody”.

Another reader sent us this one:
“I am a dynamic financial assistance. I loan funds out to individuals in need of financial assistance, that have a bad credit or in need of money to pay bills or to invest on business. I want to use this medium to inform you that we render reliable and beneficiary assistance as be glad to offer you a loan. Presently i own 45% of the shares in CGP (Capital Group PLC, London) a government approved Financial. Institute. I am currently setting up a scheme in form of Loan acquisition. to help various individuals as well as organizations who have intentions of. renovating, debt consolidation, re-financing and also establishment of. business outfits. I am an international business man and Lender that has offered Loans to so various individual and firms in Europe, Asia, Africa and other parts of the world. We give out our Loan in USD($) and GBP (£). The maximum loan term we can offer is 30 Years at fixed interest rate of 3% per year.”
Again, real lenders don’t use Gmail addresses. Real lenders know how to write a sentence in English if they’re selling to English speakers. Real lenders know how to use a full stop.

Above all, and unfortunately, real lenders charge a LOT more than 3% on loans.

Let’s face one undeniable fact. Neither of these so-called lenders are lenders at all. They’re both scammers. At no point in the transactions they offer will any money flow from them to you. The only money will go from you to them. At some point just before the fake loan they’re offering is supposed to reach your account there’ll be a last-minute hitch. It might be a legal fee, a duty or tax or perhaps an account opening fee, but regardless of what they call it, it’ll be between P3,000 and P10,000 that they demand from you before the money arrives. Which of course it won’t. The entire business is about that money from you to them. It’s what they call an “advance fee”. That’s why they’re called “advance fee scams”.

The same goes for any emails like this one that I received recently:
“Greetings to you dear, my name is Rina i came across your contact today, i am interested to be in contact with you. please reply me”.
This is just another example of the same sort of scam but this time it’s not a loan that’s meant to tempt you, it’s romance. Or perhaps just something more physical.

Not all stories you see relate to scams. Some are just rumours. Last week someone shared a story in our Facebook group that suggested someone had found a condom inside a Woolworths sandwich. The comment from the original poster said “My colleague just bit into a condom in his Woolworths chicken and mayo sandwich” and the picture they posted does seem to show a Woolworths sandwich with a condom on top of it, as if someone had indeed found it there.

But here’s the thing. There is no evidence that this condom was ever actually inside that sandwich. The person who originally posted the message on Twitter apparently only created their Twitter account a few weeks ago and has subsequently deleted the account entirely. There is, as art experts and archaeologists say, no “provenance” to this story. There is no evidence that the story is true.

I know I’ve written this repeatedly before but what we all need is a much greater level of skepticism. Being a skeptic is a bit like being a healthy eater. If you want to lose weight or become healthier, you need to eat less, eat better and exercise your body. To be a skeptic you need to believe fewer things, believe only those things that are backed with evidence and to exercise your brain more.

I promise you that doing both of those things will make you a happier and more energetic consumer. It’ll also make you a lot healthier, both below the neck as well as above it.

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

Where’s my deposit?

This letter serves as a formal complaint against my former landlord for refusal to refund my security deposit in full as per agreement of the lease agreement. After serving notice of thirty days in advance he stated he would deduct a total of P1200 from the security deposit of P2,500 leaving the balance at P1,300. His reasons being that the house needs to be re painted which was never stated in the lease agreement.

The house was cleaned and left in its original state. Therefore I am hoping you may kindly assist in solving this dispute.

This is such a common thing. We probably hear from someone having exactly the same problem every week and their question is almost always the same. Can the landlord keep some or all of the deposit the tenant gave them when they moved in? The answer is almost always the same.

It depends what it said in the lease. There’s a simple rule in law when it comes to written agreements such as leases. If an agreement is put in writing then that’s the entire agreement. Nothing else has been agreed. Nothing else that was said, discussed or even informally agreed over a handshake has any value or importance. To put it another way, your landlord can’t just make stuff up. He has no right to keep your money unless a court has ordered that he can do so.

I suggest that first of all you double check the lease agreement you signed. Make sure that it does NOT say that you had to repaint the house before you left. You should do this because most leases DO include a clause like this. It IS normal practice for the tenant to return the property in roughly the same condition as when they moved in and in many cases it will specifically mention that you need to repaint it.

Once you’ve checked I suggest you write your landlord a letter reminding him that the lease didn’t mention this and that as the property was returned in its original state he has 14 days to refund you completely. Tell him that if he doesn’t you’ll take legal action against him to recover the money. If he fails to refund you then take a trip to the Small Claims Court with all the paperwork and seek an order against him from them. Let me know how it goes!

Is the charger covered?

I’m asking for a poor old woman. She bought a brand new laptop for her son and within 8 days the charger stopped working. The shop say they can’t do anything about it and it’s her loss. Is this fair? What can be done to help her?

It certainly does NOT sound fair to me and I suspect everyone else will feel the same. Like the first case this week I think it depends what was agreed in writing.

EVERY component of a device like a laptop (or a cellphone, refrigerator, car or TV) is covered by the warranty unless the store has made it clear that a part, such as the power supply, is not covered. The Consumer Protection Regulations say this very clearly. Section 17 (1) (e) says that “disclaiming or limiting the implied warranty of merchantability and fitness for use, unless a disclaimer is clearly and conspicuously disclosed” constitutes an act of “unfair business practice”. In other words if the power supply was excluded from the warranty then the customer needed to be told that very clearly when she bought the laptop. There should have been no doubt in her mind about that.

Section 17 (1) (f) of the Regulations goes further and says that the store can’t suggest that the customer has waived her rights to the complete warranty “unless the waiver is clearly stated and the consumer has specifically consented to it”. She needs to have signed something confirming that she understood that the power supply was excluded.

I suggest that someone explains this to the store and sees if they can’t be a bit more helpful. If you send me the name of the store we can also get in touch and do a bit of free “store education” for them!

Saturday 12 December 2015

Be perfect

Ok, that might be asking a bit much.

As I’m repeatedly told, nobody’s perfect, least of all me. We all have our flaws, our weaknesses and our failures but that doesn’t mean we should strive to be better. My view is that while we can’t be perfect, that doesn’t mean we can’t be perfectionists.

I spend a lot of my time writing things, newspaper articles, emails and reports for clients and it always upsets me when I look at something I wrote some while ago and discover a spelling mistake, incorrect punctuation or just some messy language. I know there are more important things to worry about but it still distresses me.

Maybe we should embrace our failings and our mistakes? Maybe we should embrace the unexpected? In fact some of the greatest examples of progress have come from mistakes and mishaps.

The most famous was penicillin, the first of the major antibiotics. Its discoverer, Alexander Fleming left his laboratory for a holiday and on his return found that some of his petri dishes containing bacteria had been contaminated by a mould, the story goes because they’d been left near an accidentally open window. What Fleming noticed was that the mould had killed off some of the bacteria. Being the curious sort he wanted to know why. Years later he got a Nobel Prize for his discovery and, perhaps above all, his scientific curiosity.

According to a list prepared by Popular Mechanics, it wasn’t just penicillin that was an accidental discovery. The list includes Velcro, microwave ovens, vulcanized rubber, Coca-Cola, and Viagra. Even radioactivity and the Big Bang theory of cosmology were discovered accidentally.

I’m not suggesting that humanity should sit patiently awaiting pleasingly beneficial accidents, what they call serendipity, but I do think we should recognise that many things happen at random and it’s the job of people interested in change and improvement to recognise and welcome these events when they occur.

Many years ago I worked for an American software company and at a customer conference one year, after all the drinking and over-eating had been completed, two of our customers ended up at a bar. One guy’s company made pipes for the oil industry, another’s made bread. They thought they had nothing in common other than both using our software to help run their businesses. Until they started chatting. That’s when they suddenly realised they were actually in the same industry, they were both bakers. Admittedly the things they baked were hugely different but the essential elements of their processes were the same. Raw ingredients were prepared, placed in moulds and cooked until done.

Apparently following that chance meeting in that bar the companies, having nothing to lose because they were in no way competitors, started exchanging ideas, experiences, even staff and both prospered, all because of that accidental meeting.

Here’s a free tip for businesses. These chance encounters can happen to you as well. You don’t need to attend a conference in some far-flung, exotic location with a huge entertainment allowance to have one. Al you need to do is tear your eyes away from the spreadsheet in front of you, get your backside off the chair and go out there where the customers are. And then talk to them. Ask them what they think of your store, the products and services you sell and this month’s special offers. Ask them what they’d like to see you doing in future. Ask them openly. What would make you come to my store more often? What are my competitors doing that you prefer? What can I do to make your shopping experience better and more rewarding? What can I do to make you spend more money in my store?

Ok, most customers will come up with the same old story. Lower your prices, they’ll say, but you expected that. With luck what might happen is that chance encounter with a customer who has a genuinely good idea, something that might stimulate your imagination, something that might transform your business. I promise you that this can happen. It’s happened to me several times.

But here’s the real lesson, perhaps the one biggest lesson I’ve learned in business.

Strive for perfection but never be afraid to make mistakes.

The best proponent of this approach was Steve Jobs, the founder of Apple, perhaps the world’s most successful technology company. Shortly after being reappointed to run Apple he said:
“One of the things I’ve always found is that you’ve got to start with the customer experience and work backwards to the technology. You can’t start with the technology and try to figure out where you’re gonna try to sell it. I’ve made this mistake probably more then anyone else in this room and I’ve got the scar tissue to prove it and I know that it’s the case.”

Later he came out with one of my favourite management quotes.
"Some mistakes will be made along the way. That's good 'cos at least some decisions are being made along the way. And we'll find the mistakes. We'll fix them.”
Despite what you might think, Apple, while Jobs was in command, made a series of major mistakes but their approach was the right one. Listen to customers, be imaginative, make bold decisions, look at the results, listen to your customers some more, learn from them and then move on.

I’m not promising you the same level of success as Apple but I will promise you this. Your customers will respect you for talking to them and for taking some risks. They’ll respect you for being different. And for being better.

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

Where are my company documents?

I have a problem, around end of September I needed services of a company secretary so I spoke to this other young lady who once told me that she is into that business. I appointed her as my company secretary and also asked her to remove one of the directors in which she is suppose to create share certificate cancellation document.

I was charged P280 for those services which I paid, now my problem is she was suppose to return my company documents within a week but even now she hasn't return the documents and now I can't register for PPADB because of her.

Every time she would arrange an appointment so that she can bring the documents but she will never show up and she would either switch off her phone or ignore our calls. Can you help me get my documents back?

As I send this message she was suppose to drop the documents by my offices she didn't show up and she is not taking my calls. I'm also planning to involve the police because she acts like she didn't do what she was suppose to do.

Clearly she is the wrong person to be acting as anyone’s company secretary. My understanding of what you asked her to do is that it’s actually quite simple to do, it shouldn’t be too difficult, you could have done it yourself. However P280 is probably a very fair price to pay for someone else to drive to the relevant office and stand in line instead of you.

The big problem is that she still has your company documents and you need to get them back from her urgently. I suggest that you write her a letter demanding the documents back within three days. Tell her that you will also expect a refund of the money you paid her within that time as well. Explain in the letter that if she fails to do either of those things you’ll take legal action against her to recover both the documents and the money. You should also make it clear in the letter that she doesn’t have you permission to act as your company secretary and has no authority to act on your behalf.

Make it clear in the letter that you have copied it both to us and to the Companies and Intellectual Property Authority. They’re the people who took over the job of the Registrar of Companies and I doubt they’ll be impressed by someone acting the way your fake “company secretary” has done.

I lent money to friends!

Good morning Mr Harriman and your team. Please I need your help but I don't know if it is relevant to what you do. Two of my friends owe me some cash and every time they have to pay me it's story after story and I don't know what to do. The other one it's P2,700 since last year may and the other is P5,300 this year. I really thought I was helping them.

I would really appreciate your help on this one because I need the money.

You know Shakespeare wrote in Hamlet, “Neither a borrower nor a lender be”? Those were wise words. I know you know this now but while it’s fine to lend friends very small amounts of money, the moment you start lending larger amounts you’re asking for trouble. We’ve probably all done it and many of us have learnt the lesson the hard way. Never lend money to friends that you really, truly want to get back. You should always assume that every loan you make to a friend, whether its small or large, will never be repaid. Always prepare to be disappointed. Always be prepared to lose the friendship of the person who borrowed the money.

In your case I think your chances of getting the money back depend entirely on whether you put these loan agreements in writing. If you did then you should be able to go to the Small Claims Court and get an order against them both. If not, then I’m afraid all you can do is apply moral pressure. In other words you’re going to need to beg to get the money back.

The lesson is that whoever you lend money to, get the agreement in writing. It doesn’t have to be a lengthy and expensive legal contract, it just needs to be a note confirming that on a particular date you lent mtheme this sum, to be repaid before another date, signed by both parties and preferably with the signatures of witnesses as well. And be prepared to be disappointed. And minus a friend.

(The fuller quote is:

"Neither a borrower nor a lender be;
For loan oft loses both itself and friend,
And borrowing dulls the edge of husbandry.
This above all: to thine ownself be true,
And it must follow, as the night the day,
Thou canst not then be false to any man.")

Saturday 5 December 2015

The Facebook blessing

Facebook really is a mixed blessing.

I should start by saying that I really like Facebook and I think it offers us the opportunity to change they way we communicate and, more importantly, to improve it. Yes, to improve it.

However, like all developments there is a downside. If you’ve never seen it, watch Inherit The Wind, a film from 1960 loosely based on the so-called “Scopes Monkey Trial” in 1925 when a biology teacher in Tennessee was prosecuted for teaching his students about human evolution. In the film, the defending attorney says, when talking about progress:
“You have to pay for it. Sometimes I think there's a man who sits behind a counter and says, All right, you can have a telephone but you lose privacy and the charm of distance. Madam, you may vote but at a price. You lose the right to retreat behind the powder puff or your petticoat. Mister, you may conquer the air but the birds will lose their wonder and the clouds will smell of gasoline."

I certainly saw the downside of Facebook recently when a number of people posted graphic pictures of the appalling tragedy of the school kids from Matsha College. We’ve all seen the pictures of the truck that carried the students but these pictures went much, much further. They were the sort of thing no right-minded parent would want to see, certainly not the bereaved parents.

Luckily many of these pictures were rapidly removed when the people who posted them realised they had gone too far.

Facebook has also emerged as the primary channel for scams these days. That’s not a reason for abandoning or restricting Facebook any more than we should discard books, the telephone and television. They can also be misused but we’ve learned how to use them properly and safely.

Some months ago I received a message from Facebook. She said:
“I have been communicating with someone named Luca Anders and he became my Facebook boyfriend. He said he is working in the UK and his contract is ending this month end. He took all his benefits from the company and he wants to come and settle with me in Botswana. He called me that he is coming with a flight which landed at Cape Town at 0930 this morning. Those that claim that they are at the airport called me asking if he is coming to me and I confirmed. Now they say he is carrying a lot of cash.

They say he should pay R10,000 for money laundering and now he says I should deposit the money and he’ll pay me back when he comes because they are now going to send him back and without that cash. Please check for me if its the truth. He says I should not tell many people coz he is carrying lots of money and he is fearing for his life. I’m in a fix. To deposit or not to or is this a scam?”
Yes, it was a scam but it was a very smart one. The story about the guy arriving at Cape Town that very morning was very clever. It added a real sense of urgency to the pressure she was under. The thought that her lover was in custody and might be kicked out of South Africa made her desperate.

Of course all the scammers pretending to be “Luca” wanted is the R10,000 and if she’d paid them they just would have asked for more and more money until either she finally realized it was a scam or she ran out of money.

Just a few days later I got another message.
“Help me out. There is this guy we had been talking since April. He stays in the UK. Recently he wanted to send me some goods which includes 2 phones, iPhone 6 and S4, a Canon camera, a laptop, clothes shoes and handbags, make ups, perfume, jewellery and cash. The goods were sent last Saturday and they were to arrive in South Africa on Tuesday. On Wednesday morning I received a call from a guy by the name of Peter Lucas from the Cape town airport saying the package has arrived in Cape Town Airport. So I need to pay $300 for tax clearance for the goods to be delivered. They are saying its a direct delivery. What scares me mostly is the money that he says he has put inside the package $5000.”
Of course there was no guy, no shipment, no laptop and iPhone, no jewelry and make-up and certainly no cash. The only genuine thing about this story was the money they wanted her to pay to get the mythical shipment of goodies.

With this particular victim there was bad news as well as some good. I asked her if she’d already sent them any money. She said:
“Yes I did sent them the $300 they needed but when I was expecting the package the same day I deposited the money. The guy said the package was scanned and cash was found inside so it had been charged with money laundering so he suggested to talk to one officer he knows who might help. He later called and said the officer needs a bribe of $300 again so he can pass goods. Thats when I began to be suspicious.”
Luckily she only lost around P3,000 and she quickly became suspicious and sought our advice. P3,000 is a lot of money but it’s not going to ruin her life. Others haven’t been so fortunate and have paid scammers money huge amounts before realizing the truth.

The lesson is simple. Be careful with Facebook. Embrace all the benefits is has to offer you and your loved-ones but remember that not everything you see there is either right or good.

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

Is it wrong of me to have stopped paying?

I bought a Hisense cellphone from a furniture store and I was to pay on installments now the problem is I used the cellphone and it started to give me an earpiece problem. I reported it to them and they checked the cellphone but I was told to go back home with it so I continued struggling with the problem. After 4 months the cellphone started to black out and couldn't even charge and I went to them again and they took it promising me to replace it until now. My problem is I haven't finished paying my installments and they haven't replaced it and I have also stopped paying them. Is it wrong of me to have stopped paying? And I’m so annoyed of them calling me and asking about the money and not say anything about the said cellphone?

First the bad news. Yes, you WERE wrong to stop paying the installments. I really can understand your frustration at having to pay for something you don’t have any longer but the problem with hire purchase is that until you’ve made the final payment you don’t own the item you thought you’d bought. It’s only after you’ve paid that last installment that you own the phone. Until that point the store still owns it.

However the phone presumably came with a warranty, probably for a year, and I hope you’re still within that period? If so the store is obliged to fix the phone, so long as you catch up with the installments.

I suggest that you get in touch with the store and tell them that you will be catching up with the payments and that you expect them to honour the warranty that came with the phone. If they’re awkward you should remind them that they can’t ignore the warranty without your consent and that all items sold are required by Section 13 (1) (a) of the Consumer Protection Regulations to be “of merchantable quality”.

However, here’s some more bad news. Possibly. You don’t say when you bought the phone. If the warranty has now expired then you are in a very difficult place. You still must catch up with the installments and you’ll need to pay for fixing the phone yourself. That would be very unfortunate.

We’ll get in touch with the store to see if they can get things moving.

The lesson? Whenever possible buy things for cash. Hire purchase leads to problems like this.

When will they compensate me?

On the 19th October I went to an agricultural store to buy seedlings but I was unfortunately injured in the store as their employee was moving their stock past us, his cart squashed me against the payment counter leaving me with a back injury. The shop assistant enlightened the manager on the incident but she was hesitant and asked me to leave my details.

About 10 minutes after leaving the store I got a call from the store owner who asked that I go see their company doctor for examination. Their doctor had closed at the time and I ended up going to see a different doctor. I was charged P321.80. I called the owner to inform him of the payment and asked for my refund, he said he will send me insurance claim forms on Monday 21st October as their insurance is liable for such. It's been more than a month and each time I call or text him he keeps on saying his insurance will contact me.

Kindly assist me on how to claim my money back, is there a procedure to follow on such? I have suffered at their hands but they keep on passing the blame to their insurance company which they cannot even provide information on except saying they will call me.

I think you’ve been patient enough. The least you can expect when you are injured by someone else’s actions (or inaction) is a rapid response. I understand that submitting an insurance claim can take a little while but I they should also understand the urgency of this issue. If they have any care for their public image I’d also think they’d want to resolve this issue as quickly as possible to avoid any negative publicity.

I suggest that we address in two different ways. Firstly you write to them saying that they have fourteen days to resolve the issue and refund you for the doctor’s fees or you’ll take them to the Small Claims Court. Secondly we’ll contact them asking how they allowed a customer to be injured while in their store and what plans they have to prevent this happening again.

That should shock them into settling this!

Saturday 28 November 2015

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

Why am I listed?

I am writing this letter to you so you guide and help me as I have been owing a store P7,800 and they took me to their sherrifs but I then paid the amount in cash on the 20 October and asked for certificate of clearance, When i checked with ITC I found my name is there but when I asked them to update my profile at ITC but they say it is going to take time, so my query is how long does somebody’s profile be updated at ITC according to law as I have paid last month and is already a month now. What can I do?

The process when someone owes an institution money is straightforward. The company will send the debtor a series of letters or make a series of phone calls reminding them that they owe money. If that doesn’t work then it’s likely that a debt collector will become involved. These are professionals whose main job is hassling people until they cough up the money they owe. This is the beginning of the dangerous stage. The problem is that (as far as I know, please correct me if I’m wrong) the debt collection industry is unregulated. Anyone can set himself or herself up as a debt collector and it’s an area that has its share of dubious characters.

If the debt collector doesn’t make any progress, and sometimes even if they do, the next stage will be to “list” you with a credit reference agency such as Transunion (which used to be called ITC). Companies like TransUnion hold records on everyone who has ever had any financial transactions, showing how good we are as payers. Some of us have records full of defaults and missed payments, others have records of being good payers. Most of us are somewhere in between.

Once you clear a debt you are entitled to have your record with TransUnion updated to show that. However some of these agencies have told me that this isn’t something that happens quickly. It should normally happen within about 30 days but I’ve known it take a lot longer than that. I suggest that you contact the store and the debt collector and ask them to confirm that they’ve told TransUnion that you’ve now paid the debt. Then keep checking to make sure they’ve done it.

Meanwhile we’ll get in touch with the store to see how far they’ve got.

Who withdrew my money?
Ok here we go. Some months back I posted on Facebook regarding a bank transaction of 500 pula that was done 45 minutes after I had withdrawn 500 pula from an ATM. The bank after all these months finally called me and lo and behold they will not be refunding me my money because after their " findings", they believe my pin number was used so it could have just as easily been me!!! I have only one question how did this occur when I had my ATM card in my possession at the time the sms of that transaction came through and i was halfway to Kanye. Please help!!!.

You need to see the evidence that the bank has on which is based it’s conclusion that your PIN was used.

The general rule is that if your PIN is used, the bank assumes that they’re not to blame for any misuse of your account. In that situation they’ll say that you either used the card yourself or that you somehow disclosed your card details and PIN to someone else.

The bad news is that this might actually be true. It’s possible that your card was “skimmed”. This is when a device attached to an ATM copies your card details while simultaneously a hidden camera records you entering the PIN. With the card details and your PIN the crooks can produce a replica of your card within minutes and can be withdrawing money from your account moments later.

We heard months ago of a situation like this when someone’s card details were copied and just a few minutes later her money was being withdrawn from an ATM in Peru.

The lesson is always to be vigilant. Every time you use an ATM take a good look to see if there is anything strange about the slot where you enter your card. Then you MUST cover your hand as you enter the PIN. Don’t give the crook’s hidden camera a chance to see the numbers you press.

We’ve contacted the bank in question about your case but I’m afraid I’m not very optimistic.

Sunday 22 November 2015

A Service Stimulus Package

With all this talk about an economic stimulus package (and no, I still don’t understand it either) I thought that we could all benefit from a customer service stimulus package as well.

What might this service stimulus package include? What can be done to stimulate the companies that sell us things to do so in a way that grows customer loyalty and contentment?

It can start from within. I have a rather old-fashioned view that the single, most important thing that affects the quality of service and then the success of a company is the quality of its leadership. If you have an inspirational leader at the top of a company, someone who invests his or her time in making the organisation work, and placing the customer’s needs at the same level as the shareholders, then the organisation will succeed, I guarantee it. However if you have a CEO or MD who sees their main role as attending conferences, pompously ignoring the staff and massaging their ego then the organisation will fail. I guarantee it.

The bad news is that, in my experience, the latter type of manager is more common than the former. There are tremendously good leaders in business in Botswana but there are also plenty who are not, people who’ve been hired because of their longevity, their connections or simply because the organisation can’t find anyone better.

But the good ones do exist. Honestly, they do. I’ve been lucky enough to know a few of them and even to work with them. Yes, I do mean here in Botswana.

So what makes them so stimulating?

The right leaders do the obvious things like set budgets and objectives and they hire people with the right skills (and fire those without) but they also do the things that actually matter even more.

They start by setting an example. That’s perhaps the most stimulating thing that any manager can do. They start by showing that they’re prepared to work at least as hard as anyone else in the organisation. They come in early, leave late and there are no tasks to good for them to do. I’ve seen restaurant owners clearing tables, preparing food and doing the washing up because someone is off sick and the place is particularly busy. They don’t see themselves as too important to do menial tasks. I’ve seen one of the most senior managers of a bank serving customers because the queues were long that day. I know two MDs of companies here in Botswana who insist on being personally involved in every complaint we receive about their companies.

Stimulating leaders also show passion. They show a real commitment to the products and services their companies offer, products and services they’ve often helped to design and develop. Think of the passion shown by that most complicated of business leaders, Steve Jobs. It’s fair to say that he lived and breathed his products, even the ones that weren’t successes (can you even remember which they were?). Why can’t other managers show the same passion?

They also show that they care. They don’t just pretend, they genuinely do care that their colleagues are performing at their best, that they’re are supported by the best training and technology and even that they’re as happy as can be.

That’s what a leader can do internally to make things better but what about the “demand” side? What about the customers? What can we do to improve the service we receive? Is it even possible for us to have any effect on it?

Yes, of course it is. And it’s actually very simple.

The best way for consumers to stimulate a company into delivering better service is to be demanding, to be difficult, to be challenging. In other words, to be the best thing that could happen to them. Some companies still don’t get it and many consumers simply don’t know this: that the politely critical consumer is the best possible customer. He or she is the customer that is offering you an entirely free consultancy service. They’re making observations and recommendations that other companies pay consultants huge amounts of money to make and they’re doing it not because they think it’ll make them rich or famous but because they want (even if they don’t realise it) your company to be more successful. They want your store to be the one they visit over and over again because the products and service are better than those from the competitors. They want you to make more profits so you can expand and enhance your service. They are the best possible stimulus you could get.

As well as being a challenging and assertive customer you can also do one other thing. Be nice. In fact be very nice.

We hear all the time about shop staff who are grumpy and miserable and who don’t seem to be enjoying life. So my response is to ask what you did to fix that? Yes, I’m often told that it’s THEIR job to greet customers with a smile, not our job. But who cares? Aren’t we a country of nice, courteous people? Aren’t we famous for being the country that spends half its time greeting people? And don’t we realise that it’s infectious? Smiling at someone will almost always stimulate them to smile back at you. And then who knows, maybe they’ll still be smiling when the next customer comes along.

Companies and consumers have a simple choice. Do you like being stimulated? Don’t you like stimulating others?

Get out there tomorrow and start stimulating. I guarantee it’ll excite you.

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

Is it too late to return it?

So last week Friday 06 November I bought a Gamemon FT-31C3 racing wheel (gamepad) for P400 at a store at Game City and they told me it has a 7 day warranty. So yesterday which was the last day of the warranty it stopped working. This morning I took it back and the manager refused to repair or exchange it because I’m off by a day. How can i be helped?

Sorry, I don’t think there’s much you can do. You were a day late taking it back to the store.

Most products from reputable manufacturers come with a warranty that lasts at least a year, some even longer. However some stores are either selling second-hand goods where the warranty has expired or they’re selling what are known as “grey imports” where they items have been sourced overseas and sold outside the region they were meant for. There’s nothing illegal or improper about doing either of these things, so long as the store is honest about it. In particular the store must be honest if they can’t support the warranty that the manufacturer offers because they’ve imported it in a strange way.

Specifically a store can’t disclaim or limit the warranty that might come with a product “unless a disclaimer is clearly and conspicuously disclosed”. They’re also not allowed to say you have no rights, or even just limited rights, unless a waiver was “clearly stated and the consumer has specifically consented to it”.

Unfortunately it seems like you DID waive your rights and you did acknowledge that the warranty was only for seven days when you bought the item. The sad thing in your situation is that although the device stopped working on the seventh day, still within the incredibly short warranty period, you didn’t return it until the following day when the warranty had already expired. So unfortunately you’re out of luck.

The lesson is simple. You can reasonably expect any item you buy to work perfectly for the length of the warranty that is offered but not a moment longer. I don’t think that anything that comes with a seven day warranty can be trusted, do you?

Can I expect the right color?

I am busy renovating a house, and went to a store to buy a new kitchen and I spend about P80,000. To make my story short, the colours of my kitchen I ordered, is not the colour supplied to me. Now they say I have to pay extra to get the right colour and I can keep the old doors.

Have the staff at this store been smoking something illegal? They delivered the wrong colour items and they say you have to pay extra to get what you ordered? Clearly they’re not thinking rationally.

The Consumer Protection Regulations are very clear on this sort of thing (as is basic contract law). Section 13 (1) (a) of the Regulations says that a supplier of a commodity has failed to meet minimum standards if “the commodity sold … does not match any sample or description given to the consumer”. If they said they’d deliver goods that were a particular colour then that’s what they must deliver, it’s as simple as that.

Section 15 (1) (a) says that a supplier must also deliver services “with reasonable care and skill” and delivering the wrong color items is hardly doing that, is it?

I suggest that you write the store a letter saying that they have failed to honor your contract with them by delivering the wrong products. State very clearly that there is no way under the sun that you’ll be paying them even one thebe because of their mistake. Then give them seven days to confirm that they’ll either supply replacements as originally ordered or will suggest some form of discount for delivering the wrong color items.

Make it perfectly clear to them that you expect them to resolve this situation and that if they don’t you’ll take any legal action against that you see fit.

And send me their contact details and we’ll get in touch with them as well!

Friday 13 November 2015


This is the 500th Consumer Watchdog column and you’ll have to forgive us for feeling a little proud of ourselves.

You might think that over the last ten years of writing this column there have been highs as well as lows. In fact it’s been a constant high.

When we started Consumer Watchdog its purpose was simple. It was there to help consumers fix problems and to help them stand up for their rights. Very quickly we realised that was impossible. The vast majority of people in Botswana had no idea what their rights were so how could they stand up for them? So our purpose expanded to include consumer rights education. Then we realised that, despite the many protections consumers in Botswana have, there remain gaps in the legislation. More importantly there was an enormous gap in enforcement of these rights. So we included advocacy into the mix. That’s where we are now. In 2015 and after 500 newspaper columns Consumer Watchdog exists to support consumers in exercising their rights, educating them on what their rights are and advocating for greater protection.

Of course we’ve certainly had some successes. I can’t be precise but we estimate we’ve responded to approximately 10,000 complaints, questions and celebrations over the last decade.

We’ve also been able to encourage certain stores, most notably furniture stores to obey the law. When Consumer Watchdog started stores were happy to advertise their products for sale on hire purchase and were equally to advertise them in breach of the Control Of Goods (Marking Of Goods) Regulations 1974, which requires stores to disclose the full credit price as well as the cash price and the details of the instalments customers must make. To their credit most stores corrected this when we pointed it out to them.

We’ve also had some success with the variety of financial scams that have circulated around Botswana in recent years. There was Stock Market Direct whose founder, Tony Samuels, ended up skipping the country with several million Pula of “investors” money, never to be seen again. Our warnings managed to prevent a lot of people from losing money but not everyone.

The biggest of the financial scams was of course Eurextrade and again, while we couldn’t stop everyone throwing away their hard-earned money hoping for the promised (but obviously impossible) “2.9% daily” return, we managed to prevent many people doing so. Nobody really knows how much money was stolen by this Ponzi scheme but we heard from and of many people who had invested hundreds of thousands so I wouldn’t be surprised if the total amount exceeded P100 million.

Then there were all the pyramid schemes that came to visit. It started with Success University, then there was TVI Express, WorldVentures, 4 Corners Alliance and the laughable Karatbars, the scheme that encourages you to “invest” in gold at a time when the price of gold is falling, not rising. That’s also the scam that claimed it had received a “thumbs up” from us, thus proving how ridiculous the lies told by pyramid scheme recruiters can be.

Unlike a certain colleague, I also think that the various legal threats we’ve had over the last decade have been high points as well. The lesson I’ve learned is that if you’re telling the truth, something that the public benefits from hearing, then a legal threat is a guarantee that you’re doing the right thing.

Of course not one of the threats has ever succeeded. On every occasion we’ve responded to the threat politely suggesting that we’ve done nothing but report the truth and the company has finally seen sense and left us alone, something they probably should have done to begin with.

Perhaps the most interesting threat we ever received was from a company calling itself "Joyce & Nielsen" who claimed to be acting for "Headway University", one of the many fake universities that sold fake degrees to fake graduates with credit cards.

The web site for this company, which described itself as “full-service business law firm” accused us of spreading “defamatory, harmful and malicious content in violation of state, federal and international law (…) with the intent to harm, defame and cause financial damages to our client, Headway University”.

I wasn’t sure at the time how it is possible to defame a fake university that sells fake degrees to fake graduates. Defamation rests on the assumption that the victim has a reputation to protect. Peddlers of bogus qualifications are criminals. They have no reputation to lose.

However the best thing about this threat was that the law firm didn’t actually exist. The crooks behind the fake university had created an entirely fake web site to pretend that the law firm existed, even stealing the text on the web site from other, genuine law firms. We knew we were doing something right that day.

Perhaps the best thing we’ve achieved, certainly one the things I’m proudest of, is something I’ve only noticed in the last couple of years. Since we established our Facebook group in 2010 the membership has grown to over 22,000 people and something magical started happening about two years ago. We found that we’d created a community. These days, if a member posts a question or a complaint dozens of other members will respond with advice, suggestions and support before we even get a chance to do so. It’s almost like a circle of friends, dare I even suggest that it’s a bit like a family?

Writing five hundred newspaper articles isn’t itself a greatest achievement but it has allowed us the time to see the changes that have happened to the consumers of Botswana over that time. Our growing, national level of skepticism and the mutual support are things I think we can all be very proud of.

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

Is my landlord being fair?

I rented a bachelor pad in beginning of June. I paid 2000 security and 2000 rental. On the lease there was somewhere where it stated that "its a 2year lease and if I happen to leave before the 2 year period elapses I will have to look for another tenant or I will be liable for paying the rest of the months left on the lease". I signed the lease anyway because I had a stable job.

My employment term got terminated end of September and I told the landlord that end of November I will be leaving. He didn't have a problem with it but reminded me of the lease agreement. I did my best to look for that tenant to no avail. So I contacted him again to let him know that I couldn't find anybody. And mind you he has some guy he is using as his 'agent'. He is the same guy I contacted after he advertised this house on Facebook. And now the landlord is saying if he uses his "agent" am gonna have to pay that agent half- the rental which is P1000.

Is this fair at all?

I do understand your difficulty. It might not have been your fault that you lost your job but think of it this way. Is it your landlord’s fault either? He rented you his house in good faith and he's sticking to his side of the agreement. He’s done nothing wrong so it’s even more unfair on him if he is disadvantaged as a result of your problem.

I’m sorry but you need to abide by the terms of the lease agreement that you signed. Like any other contract you might sign a lease is a legally binding document. Your lease made it very clear that you would need to find another tenant to take your place if you left before it expired.

Unfortunately you’re either going to need to find another tenant to take over your lease or pay the landlord the P1,000 contribution he’s asking you to make to hiring an agent to do this for him. In fact the landlord is being rather generous. He could have demanded the full P2,000 agent fee from you. Realistically paying the P1,000 might be the cheapest option for you. Sorry I don’t have better news.

Is Kipi a pyramid scheme?

Richard is KIPI some kind of pyramid scheme or what? I hear its very popular in South Africa.

Kipi shows all the signs of being another pyramid or Ponzi scheme. I urge you to be VERY careful before you part with your money.

The people trying to recruit others into Kipi make a number of claims about their business. They include “No monthly payments, No need to recruit (optional), No selling of any products, No buying of any products, No manager or owner in handling of funds, No company or firm to deposit your money to, No company or firm to receive withdrawal from, No LAW against Kipi community practices.”

In fact I can’t see there’s any business there at all. I’m also always suspicious about any business that starts by saying they’re not criminals. Who, other than a criminal, would say that?

Curiously they give very little information about how might make money from the scheme. They claim that they’re a community saving scheme, a “stokvel” but then hint that it’s something to do with Bitcoin. Elsewhere they imply that they are a Multi Level Marketing scheme. I smell a rat.

I’m not the only one. According to IOL in South Africa Kipi was “referred to the National Consumer Commission (NCC) for investigation by the Reserve Bank, following an earlier referral by the Financial Services Board (FSB) of the scheme to the Reserve Bank”. Apparently the scheme is operated by someone called Chris Walker who has already had an earlier scheme call Defencex closed by the South African authorities, leaving R352 million that couldn’t be found.

There are many, many reasons to be very suspicious of Kipi. Please don’t waste your time and money investing in this deeply dubious scheme.

Saturday 7 November 2015

What is Consumer Watchdog?

On several occasions in the last few weeks I’ve been asked again, what is Consumer Watchdog? How does it work? Here goes.

What is Consumer Watchdog?

Consumer Watchdog is a division of its privately owned parent company. We’re not registered as a society, a charity, a NGO or even a church, we’re a private company.

Who funds Consumer Watchdog?

Other than being paid for the newspaper columns we write, Consumer Watchdog has no sources of external income. All our costs are covered by the parent company. We’re certainly not funded by any other agencies, not Government, not other consumer groups and not by any international consumer bodies. Most importantly we certainly don’t get anything from consumers. There have been occasions when grateful consumers have offered us gifts but our response has always been the same. If you feel the need to make a donation give it to the Cheshire Foundation instead.

Do you want to be funded?

No, we’re perfectly happy with the way we are. I genuinely like the fact that Consumer Watchdog is financially independent. Not taking money from anyone means we don’t have to take instructions from anyone.

Are you allied with other groups?

No, and we like it that way. There are other consumer organisations out there both in Botswana and elsewhere, and while they do good work but we don’t generally collaborate with them. I wish them the very best of luck but we prefer to do things our way. Independently. That doesn’t mean we won’t appear on the same platforms as them, we talk to them, we might even agree with them. But their business is theirs and ours is ours.

In particular we’re not allied in any way with Consumers International, who describe themselves as “the world federation of consumer groups that, working together with its members, serves as the only independent and authoritative global voice for consumers”. I’m in favour of groups like this as sources of information, research and knowledge but I’m not sure we want to be guided like this or to play by someone else’s rules.

There’s even a consumer body in Botswana that sometimes describes itself as “the mother body for all consumer groups within the country”. Sorry but no, they’re not our Mum, Dad or any other relative. As you can probably tell by now, we don’t like being told what to do.

Don’t you have conflicts of interest with your clients?

Consumer Watchdog’s parent company works for a variety of companies doing market research and helping them to improve the quality of their customer service. Maybe you think this places in a difficult position when we receive a complaint against one of our client companies?

No, it doesn’t. Without exception, every company we work with understands that we keep our commercial work and Consumer Watchdog separate. It’s perfectly possible that we’ll be working with a company on Monday and dealing with a complaint about them on Tuesday. We can keep these issue separate and so can the companies we work with. That’s because they’re mature, grown-up companies that know how to deal with complaints properly. Every single one of them. I know this because we only choose to work with that sort of company. Other companies can keep their money, we won’t take it.

Of course there are companies who aren’t as mature and sensible. There are certain car dealerships and importers, holiday clubs, quacks selling “alternative health” products, multi-level marketing schemes and suspicious “investment” and stock market training institutions that we wouldn’t work with, whatever they offered us. We have standards. And morals.

Don’t you get into trouble sometimes?

Yes and no. We’ve had more than our fair share of legal threats but only from company representatives who’ve forgotten that we live in a country where freedom of expression is enshrined in our Constitution (Section 12, in case any lawyers have forgotten). They’re the same people who’ve forgotten that Section 195 of the Penal Code says that a comment isn’t defamation if “the matter is true and it was for the public benefit that it should be published”. I can’t think of a better case of publishing something for the public benefit than news of consumers being abused.

So far, every legal threat we’ve ever received has suddenly evaporated when we’ve told the lawyers to advise their angry clients that all we’ve done is report the truth. And reminded them of the law. And then published their threats on the Internet.

We’ve also been lucky with the support we get from Mmegi and our other media partners. Every time there’s been a silly threat from a company they’ve backed us completely.

How much do consumers pay to get our help?

Nothing. Not a single thebe. It’s entirely free. It always has been and it always will be.

Do people believe this?

No, not everyone believes that this is how we operate. On Facebook last week someone posted “I'm suggesting, on good authority, that you are funded by organisations/individuals that pay money for good reviews. How else do you run your business?”

He then continued to allege that we had taken “32,000” to give a positive review to a certain restaurant that he named. The irony is that I did once review the restaurant he named. However my review, which you can see on TripAdvisor, was hardly flattering and I certainly wasn’t paid by anyone to write it.

I’ll overlook that fact that this guy’s suggestion that we are paid to be positive is defamatory. It’s completely, utterly, 100% incorrect so all I’ll do is completely deny it. We have never, not ever, accepted anything to give an organisation a positive review or comment. Not once. And we never will.

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

Is this one of those scams?

Dear Watchdog

I received a mail from the Coca-Cola promotion. The mail states that my mail has been randomly picked by a powered newsletter software operated by a legally registered US freelance tech Coca-Cola rewards prize of 1,000,000 Great British Pounds Sterling in the ongoing Coca-Cola 128th anniversary celebrations promo in UK. It goes on to say for claims, please submit name, age, telephone and address to: Mr Edward Barker through E- mail: From cocacola promo secretary: Skivu Eru

I’m looking forward for your out standing support in educating Batswana Consumers on such issues. Is this real or its a one of those scams?

I think you know already, don’t you? This is undoubtedly a scam. Companies like Coca Cola don’t give enormous prizes to randomly selected strangers whose name they don’t even know. I bet the email you received didn’t use your name, right?

The fact is that there is no Coca-Cola 128th anniversary prize or competition. There never has been and I really doubt that there ever will be. Also, real companies don’t use free email addresses from Yahoo (like this one), Hotmail or Gmail. Don’t you think it’s strange that they emailed you from a Yahoo in Hong Kong when they claim to be offering a prize in “Great British Pounds Sterling”?

As with all the scams we’ve covered before it’s all about an “advance fee”. The scammers will pretend that there’s a legal fee, an attorney to be paid, an account opening fee or some such nonsense and they’ll demand you send it to them (probably using Western Union) before you get the fictitious money they’re promising you. That’s what the whole thing is about, that advance fee. The lesson from this is very simple. If it seems too good to be true then it IS too good to be true. I suggest that you delete the email and, whatever else you do, don’t send them any money. You’ll never see it again because scammers don’t offer refunds!

Are they being fair?

I was in a motshelo with 4 other people at the beginning of this year in January we contributed P600. We took turns to borrow the money which was P3,000. In June and July I couldn't pay my interest as required due to my financial status. Normally contributions are submitted around 5th of every month. So I submitted P1,000 the same time to the secretary. Then a day after I received a call from one of the members that I am removed from motshelo I should come and collect my contribution (P1000). A meeting was then held thereafter and I told the same story by the other 3 members. They told me that I was never present for meetings when in actual fact there was not even a single one called. So when I asked them to at least bring my interest as the money was also borrowed to outsiders they refused again. Please advise on this one whether I will be in a position to claim my money back or not. The society was not even registered.

I’m always a bit suspicious of Motshelo schemes. There’s nothing inherently wrong with informal lending schemes, it’s just that I’ve heard so many stories of them going wrong and people ending up poorer rather than richer because they joined such a scheme.

In principle there’s nothing wrong with a group of people gathering together to save an agreed amount each month and then take loans from the collective pot of money when they have a need. Critically, the borrower pays interest into the pot which boosts the amount the scheme has to lend to its members. These schemes are certainly popular. A recent survey suggested that perhaps 230,000 people in Botswana are currently members of at least one Motshelo scheme.

However the problem is that while these schemes are created with the best intentions they are often established without any rules, without legal paperwork and without any financial expertise. They are often exploited by one unscrupulous person in the group and it’s very easy for the accumulated money to be abused.

Luckily Motshelo schemes are regulated by NBFIRA, the Non-Bank Financial Institutions Regulatory Authority and I think they are the best people to advise you about this. Give them a call on 3102595 and explain your situation to them. I’m sure they’ll be helpful.

Saturday 31 October 2015

Inform yourself

Every day it becomes more important for consumer to inform themselves about how things work. Not understanding can lead to unhappiness, embarrassment and poverty.

Let’s start with modern technology. In the last month I’ve been forced to remove twelve posts from our Facebook group because they appeared to be advertising pornography. In fact they weren’t linking to porn at all, they just linked to advertising sites that (I assume) were trying to boost their popularity and therefore earnings by getting as many clicks as possible.

The thing that interests me is how these links came to be posted. Almost every time I contact the member of the group who posted them their answer is roughly the same. One said:
“My fb acc was hacked yesterday morning by sum1 in Lagos, this person has been posting malicious and xplicit content on diff groups. Pliz ignore those msgs. I sincerely apologise for th disturbing msgs. I am now in control of my acc n hv since changed security n access details to improve th security. Thanx for notifying me.”
But that simply isn’t true. Nobody in Lagos has “hacked” his Facebook account. The truth is much simpler, and potentially more embarrassing.

When people see these links offering pornography some are tempted and click on the link and are then faced with a request to allow the malicious web site or Facebook app to post on Facebook on your behalf. Tempted by the prospect of seeing something titillating they say Yes. The app then starts doing exactly what it has now been permitted to do, posting the very same message that first tempted that Facebook user to click on it, but this time using his or her name. In fact that’s how it happened the first time. This is nothing more than an app spreading itself virally, just like someone with the flu. Every time they cough or sneeze some people are infected and then start coughing and spreading it further themselves. In exactly the same way, every time a Facebook user clicks on a suspicious link and then gives permission for the app to post on his behalf, the virus is spread further.

The lesson is a simple one. There are people out there who will do their best to abuse your Facebook presence to make themselves some money. Ask yourself this. Why would you believe a total stranger who offers you online pornography and then explicitly asks you to trust them and hand over your Facebook identity?

If you’re worried you should sign on to Facebook right now, click on Settings and then on Apps and see who you’ve previously permitted to post on your behalf.

It’s not just technology that people don’t understand. Insurance is perhaps the biggest areas of ignorance. One of the commonest questions we get asked runs like this:
“Please help. If I surrender my Mmoloki funeral policy from Botswana Life will they refund me all the money I paid?”
Unfortunately, so many people fail to understand what you’re buying when you sign an insurance policy. You’re paying someone else, in this case an insurance company, to take a risk on your behalf. If something bad happens during the period of the policy that it covers, such as a car crash, a break-in or a death, the insurance company will pay for things instead of you having to do so. However, the critical thing is that it’s not the payout you’re buying, it’s the cover that might (and only might) lead to the payout. No payout is guaranteed. If the bad thing doesn’t happen then there’s no payout. But if it does happen you don’t need to worry about the money.

Insurance companies make money by knowing the chances of bad things happening and then calculating how much they should charge people so that they take in slightly more money in premiums than they are likely to pay out. Those of us who have made claims are benefiting from those who were lucky enough not to have a problem.

Several times in the last few months we’ve been asked the same question about insurance. If several people have included the same person in their funeral plan policies can they all claim when that person dies? Several people have apparently been told that in these circumstances only one person can submit a claim and get the money. That’s simply incorrect. One of the big insurance companies told us, in very simple terms, “This is definitely incorrect. We pay benefits based on whether or not all premiums are up to date and not based on how many people had covered the deceased.”

So everyone who has a fully paid-up policy can submit a claim.

And finally there’s an issue of pricing. Is it legal for companies to sell things in Rands? Part of the confusion is that certain stores display price stickers showing prices in Rands as well as stickers in Pula. We all understand that this is because they import goods from their mother companies in South Africa but my question is why they don’t take the time to remove the Rand sticker when they put a Pula sticker on?

The rules are actually very simple. You and I can buy and sell things in any currency that we choose to. I can sell you my car in Pula, US dollars or Russian Rubles so long as we both agree to it.

Perhaps what’s more important is that certain stores obey the law but show us contempt. The issue isn’t the currency of sale, it’s the price that matters. If Woolworths are selling an item for R18.95 in SA why do they sell it in Botswana for P18.95? At current exchange rates it shouldn’t cost more that P15 at the most. Yes, maybe that’s a very small difference but if that’s the case with every item they’re selling they’re making a lot of extra money from us.

So why can’t they explain to us how that works?

Friday 30 October 2015

The Voice - Consumers Voice

Is this just a scam?

Please assist, I would like to know if this is legit or its just a scam. The person said hes in France and can loan us some money to start businesses here in Botswana and Africa. His email says

“I'm in France, particular lender, I work with enough Bank, the interest rate is 2%, as a document I simply request a copy of your ID or passport and some additional information. Then the notary will contact you to settle your loan contract that will be signed, so that your loan is approved and there Bank to directly send your money by bank transfer.”
He said the conditions were
“To be major. Being of good character. Being consent for a 2% interest for any request. The repayment term varies from 06-360 months. Be prepared to provide certain information and documents. Being mutually agreed to sign a loan agreement. Your loan repayments are necessarily fit your budget. You may request reimbursement of your modulation mode up or down every 06 months.”
This is certainly a scam, there’s absolutely no doubt about it. Real lenders don’t operate like this. Real lenders certainly don’t lend to people in foreign countries at unbelievably low interest rates. Real lenders can express themselves properly. And I bet the email he sent you didn’t even use your name? That’s because he probably sent it to thousands, maybe tens or hundreds of thousands of people at the same time.

This is the beginning of an “advance fee” scam. Sooner or later they’ll ask you to send them money, perhaps for attorney’s fees, an account opening charge or a tax payment, either way that’s what the scam is all about, that money in advance.

Please don’t send them any money, just ignore them and delete any further emails you get from them!

Can I get a refund?
I booked for accommodation at a Bed & Breakfast at Mogoditshane for P300 on the 8th October at about 1740 and we put our bag in the room and about 1810 we were called by a customer to attend them. We spoke to the receptionist and narrated the story and requested the refund and he told us that it is not possible for them to refund us. I request the number for the supervisor and he gave the cell number for the manager, I gave my partner the number and he called but the manager said their policy does not allow refunds.

He asked the manager where is the policy he talking about been displayed so that we can read for ourselves and said it has not been displayed and failed to give the reason why it not displayed and then he was given the email address and he said he will email it the following day in the morning and up to now he has never done that and no follow up call that he made. He was told that we have not option but to report the matter to Consumer Watchdog and he said we can go ahead no problem.

I am asking your office to assist us in getting the refund or any possible option.

Unfortunately I’m not sure that you’re entitled to a full refund for a couple of reasons.

Firstly you did actually occupy the rooms, even if just for a very short while. I’m not sure whether the rooms were “used” in any way, but technically they had been and might require cleaning before being offered to another customer. Certainly if I was the next guest after you in that room I would want it cleaned before I occupied it.

Secondly, and more importantly I think they might be justified in withholding your payment because you effectively “blocked” the room for the night. They could have offered the room to another customer who would have stayed and paid the full rate for the night. By booking the room and then leaving at the last minute you effectively prevented the B&B from offering it to someone else and earning income as a result. Giving you a refund would lose them that night’s income from the room.

You ask about whether the no-refund rule should have been displayed. Not necessarily. Not all rules need to be displayed for them to be enforceable. It’s common practice for hotels and B&Bs not to refund some or all of the payment if people fail to stay the night having previously booked it. It’s not a strange or unreasonable thing.

Sorry that I can’t be more helpful.

Monday 26 October 2015

Breaking news: a press release from Multichoice Botswana

This is the full text of a press release from Multichoice Botswana:
MultiChoice Africa brings BBC First to Botswana

Second new BBC Worldwide global genre brand to launch on DStv with popular shows Downton Abbey and EastEnders

26 October 2015: MultiChoice Africa is delighted to inform our viewers in Botswana that we have listened to their requests and have made the decision to bring BBC First to their television screens from 27 October 2015. On this channel, DStv Premium subscribers will be able to catch top-rated British drama series such as Wolf Hall and Peaky Blinders along with EastEnders and the latest season of Downton Abbey.

Following the refresh of the BBC Worldwide channels in September, MultiChoice Africa introduced BBC Brit (DStv channel 120) alongside BBC Lifestyle and CBeebies on the Premium, Compact and Compact Plus packages. Lately, we have received an increase in requests for content that was moved to the new channel, BBC First, during the refresh. As a company that values our loyal subscribers, MultiChoice Africa decided to also add this channel to the DStv platform as part of our continuous efforts to provide our viewers with content they want to watch.

“Subscriber satisfaction is a high priority for us. When we realised that our valued subscribers were highly disappointed at missing out on their favourite shows which were moved to BBC First during the BBC channel refresh, we went back to the drawing board to re-evaluate our decision on BBC First,” said Billy Sekgororoane, General Manager MultiChoice Botswana. “We sincerely apologise to all our loyal subscribers for our initial decision to not acquire BBC First. That was an error in judgement on our side. We hope that the addition of this channel will reassure them that we do listen to them and we are still committed to ensuring they receive the best programming variety in the world.”

BBC First will be available on channel 119 to the DStv Premium package and will air from 18:00 - 01:00 CAT daily.

BBC First is the new home of the great original, innovative British drama. With award-winning talent in front of and behind the camera, the channel gives audiences the chance to see unforgettable stories that challenge, immerse and entertain – all from a distinctly British perspective. The new channel will challenge perceptions and exceed expectations while delivering quality entertainment content to discerning viewers.

In October on BBC First, viewers can look forward to highly rated and star-studded BBC drama offerings including Wolf Hall, a historical mini-series based on Hilary Mantel’s Booker-winning novels about the rise of Thomas Cromwell in Henry VIII’s Tudor court, starring Mark Rylance and Damian Lewis (Homeland).

Smash-hit period drama Downton Abbey returns for its much-anticipated fifth series in addition to brand new sci-fi time-travelling heroics in Doctor Who S9 and sun-drenched murder-mystery series Death in Paradise.

BBC First is also home to long-running soap opera EastEnders (celebrating its 30th year of chronicling the ups and downs of the colourful inhabitants of London’s East End), airing Monday to Thursday at 18:00 and Casualty airing Fridays at 18:00.

Joel Churcher, General Manager and Vice President for Africa, BBC Worldwide commented: "The BBC is known for producing outstanding drama with fans of our shows spanning the globe. I’m delighted that we are able to introduce even more innovative, distinctive British drama to the African market through BBC First, alongside our current channel portfolio, BBC Brit, BBC Lifestyle, CBeebies and BBC World News”.

Among the highlights in store for the coming months are the World War One-era gangster drama Peaky Blinders (starring Cillian Murphy), Cold War spy thriller The Game, popular detective series DCI Banks and the new psychological thriller Fortitude, set in a close-knit community in the icy Arctic.

Other top-drawer fare coming up on BBC First is the riveting film Burton and Taylor, centring on the twilight years of this A-list couple’s volatile relationship, starring Helena Bonham Carter as Elizabeth Taylor and Dominic West as Richard Burton.

A new detective series, Father Brown, stars Mark Williams as a Catholic priest with a penchant for solving crimes in the pastoral English countryside. Set in the 1950s, it is based on the stories of GK Chesterton. And the first season of Happy Valley, the hotly anticipated BAFTA-winning police drama series set in a small town, will also premiere exclusively for BBC First viewers.

For unmissable round-the-clock British drama at its most compelling and innovative, tune in to BBC First, DStv channel 119, from Tuesday, 27 October 2015.

For more information, please visit

Notes to editors:
About BBC Worldwide
BBC Worldwide is the main commercial arm and a wholly owned subsidiary of the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC). Its vision is to build the BBC’s brands, audiences, commercial returns and reputation across the world. This is achieved through investing in, commercialising and showcasing content from the BBC around the world, in a way that is consistent with BBC standards and values. The business also champions British creativity globally.

In 2014/15, BBC Worldwide generated headline profits of £138.6m and headline sales of £1,001.8m and returned a record £226.5m to the BBC. For more detailed performance information please see our Annual Review website:

Breaking news. An email from Multichoice Botswana.

BREAKING NEWS. An email just came in from Multichoice Botswana. It goes like this:
"Good Afternoon Richard,

I’d like to share this release that will be going out to the media shortly.

We know a lot of your followers have been understandably upset with the fact that MultiChoice Africa countries, including Botswana, were not to receive BBC First. We escalated the issue and have finally got relief. BBC First will be on our platform as of the 27th October 2015. At this time I am unable to confirm the exact time the channel will go active, but I will communicate this in due course.

We apologize for any inconvenience this may have caused and do thank all of our subscribers for their patience."
Am I permitted to say RESULT!!!?

Saturday 24 October 2015

Do things change?

Yes, of course things change. But sometimes VERY slowly.

Even though it sometimes challenges my patience I do understand that all the best change is evolutionary, not revolutionary. The best change is that which has happened gradually, little step by little step. Sudden, radical change usually ends up failing. History has shown us that revolutionary political change usually results in starvation, dictatorship and war. Revolutionary change in business ends up with the “New Coke” fiasco (youngsters can Google that one).

For me the most frustrating thing is how long it can take for a community to learn lessons from each other and from the nation’s experience.

Two people have asked in the last week whether two different investment opportunities could be trusted. The first was an advertisement on Facebook which said:

“My Dear Botswana Friends. Are you aware that Botswana is officially open to trade with Gold Bullion? Accept for RSA it’s not allowed in most of Southern Africa. This is a huge window of opportunity for a Batswana to take advantage of and to make money with gold. Click on this link and join my International GoldRule Club for free and we will teach you how!”
If you click on the link you visit a site called “Lightminded: Rich Mind Rich Man”.

The opening paragraph on this site says:
"I want to share with you something that is already changing the financial world, as we know it, forever. When I discovered it for the first time, I was blown away - and I do not get blown away easily. A few moths [sic] ago I teamed up with top international cashflow creation experts to develop a program, which enables us to create unlimited cashflow, and we are now ready to share it with you."
You know already, don't you, that there’s something fishy going on when you see a phrase like "enables us to create unlimited cashflow"? And you know that whenever someone who has discovered an amazing money-making scheme wants "to share it with you" you have to ask yourself why?

Another clue is when he says:
"Please don't send me a message asking me what this is about. Just follow the steps if you want to know what it is about!"
Here's a free tip. Any money-making schemes that is secretive has something to hide.

Once you’ve read all this silliness you’re invited to click on yet another link where you can join this guy’s “Gold Club”. And guess where that link takes you?


You might remember Karatbars being aggressively marketed in Botswana a couple of years ago with similar stories of the riches you could make. The scheme is based on buying very small quantities of gold and of course recruiting people beneath you to both buy the mini-gold and recruiting further levels beneath them as well. In fact the price you paid to buy this gold is much higher than the real gold price and besides, the price of gold has been steadily dropping since 2012 so it’s hardly a great investment. What was more interesting was how they marketed their business in Botswana. One of their local representatives claimed that the German Embassy, the Department of Mines and BURS had all endorsed their scheme. This wasn’t true and I know this because I asked them and they all denied it. Then came an even bigger lie. They said that the “doubting thomases then went to consumer watch dog. They also gave us a thumbs up.”

That was an even bigger lie. Not only had we never given them “a thumbs up”, in fact we’d been saying (and continue to say) that they’re a pyramid scheme and that people should never, under any circumstances, join their ridiculous scheme.

Unfortunately my suspicion that they’d gone away was wrong. Karatbars and their ridiculous scheme is still around and the danger is that many people will continue to fall for their scheme, losing not only time and effort but also money.

The good news is that many more individuals are skeptical of such schemes but we have a long way to go before we develop a community “herd immunity” that will protect the nation as a whole.

Despite what Mmegi readers might think people are even still falling for the multitude of scams present on the internet. We are still often asked whether it’s possible that a corrupt South African government minster really does want to offer a randomly selected stranger $30.5 million or if it’s possible that you’ve “won $350,000 in SADC promotion” or even if you’ve won millions in the Euro Milliones Spanish Lottery Prize Award that you never entered. Bizarrely we still get these questions from people who have already been asked to pay over the “advance fee” that all scammers are after.

But some things DO change. Perhaps.

In 2013 the Competition Authority approved the acquisition of all the Woolworths stores in Botswana by the Woolworths Group in South Africa. Woolworths in SA said they wanted to streamline their operations and offer their customers in Botswana improved services, better product quality, greater localization of supply and price reductions.

So the question is simple.

Did these things actually happen? Have you noticed a difference? Are their prices better than they were in the past? Do they offer a better range of better products? Above all, the big question that everyone is asking is how do their prices compare to those charged for identical products in their stores in South Africa?

Visit our Facebook group and you’ll see a link to a very simple online questionnaire that asks you these questions. Please spare 2 minutes of your time and let’s see whether Woolworths has in fact changed. If so we can congratulate them. If not…