Tuesday 28 April 2015

Yet another phishing scam - Capital Bank

Here comes a phishing scam, yet another that is targeted specifically at us in Botswana. This one pretends to be from Capital Bank. But it's not really.

The email looks convincing.

But look closely. It's not quite what it seems. Look where the link actually takes you.

If you click on the link it takes you what LOOKS like a Capital Bank signon screen. But it's not real. The web site you are visiting is actually:


Has Capital Bank moved to Greece?

If you enter your login and password you are then directed to another page that asks for a lot more, even your email password.

Banking and email identify theft complete. Say goodbye to your privacy and your money!

Yet another recruitment scam - MSC Cruises

A consumer received the following email apparently from "MSC Cruises" after he'd sent them his CV and had completed "interview questions" by email.
In response to your filled online Interview answers; attached to this mail is your appointment and confirmation letter. We have updated your full bio-data information and has been forwarded to our recruitment department for proper scrutiny. You are required to apply your signatures and name where designated only if you agree with the entire terms and conditions contained therein.

Please kindly inform us of your departure date in order to assist us in making advance preparation regarding your traveling document. As soon as we receive a copy of the signed contract letter we shall proceed with the preparation of your letter of invitation.

We await the scanned copy of the signed files along with your departure date.

Best regards

Awaiting your urgent reply
Mr Giles Hawke
Attached were two documents, one "appointment letter" and one "confirmation letter". See if you can spot the clues that this is a scam, not a real job offer. You can start with a monthly salary of £8,500 which is about P1.5 million, as a Front Office and Reservations Officer.

P.S. This isn't the first time we've reported about these people. Scammers are certainly persistent, probably because to pays them to be.

Saturday 25 April 2015

Eat safe!

The recent news about food safety in stores in Kasane has focused everyone’s attention on this critical issue. Inspectors from the police, local authorities and the consumer protection unit raided a number of stores, seizing goods that had expired or that weren’t of adequate quality and damning the stores for their poor hygiene.

Perhaps the most amusing aspect to this story (yes, there is one) is the reaction we’ve heard from some of the stores. “We weren’t told this was going to happen!” they said, complaining that they hadn’t been given advance warning of the inspections, presumably so they could do their own checks beforehand and fix, cover-up or dispose of their offences.

But that’s the point, isn’t it? These inspections are MEANT to be unannounced. They’re meant to be a surprise. They’re meant to check what the rest of us will see when we visit the stores. Do you ever call a store to warn them that you’re coming over to buy stuff and can they please clean and tidy the store beforehand? No, of course you don’t and neither should the inspectors. Their job is to inspect reality, not to inspect a cover-up.

What probably frightened the stores in Kasane was that it wasn’t just a single inspector who turned up with a clipboard. This was a major, multi-agency exercise.

What they found should concern us all. According to the Daily News the inspectors found “cockroaches, rats and cats” in various kitchens and storerooms. In one store “cockroaches were found in their restaurant and employees were found handling food without medical certificates and personal protective clothing.” They also apparently found a wide range of goods that had expired or that weren’t of good enough quality to be sold.

The bad news is that Kasane isn’t a special case. What the inspectors saw in those stores was typical of what you see in stores, or more importantly, what you DON’T see in stores. If you go behind the scenes in some stores and restaurants you’ll often see some shocking sights.

A restaurant owner I know, who is very proud of his hygiene standards and who will always allow any customer to take a look around his kitchen if they ask, tells shocking stories of what he can see in the kitchen of the restaurant next door. He once told me that he wouldn’t allow his worst enemy to eat next door, based on what he’s witnessed.

A few years ago we heard from a newspaper reporter who had uncovered the source of some of the meat being sold by some of the food vendors at a bus rank. He met a guy who would sneak into the back of certain supermarkets at night and would steal the expired or sub-standard meat that had been discarded and thrown in the bins. After he’d wiped it clean he would sell it to the vendors the following day, who would then cook it, no doubt covering it in some spicy sauce to cover up the taste of rotten meat.

In 2013 we were alerted to a pharmacy in Gaborone that was selling baby formula that was going to expire a week later. Worse, they were selling them on a two-for-one special offer. Each box would last for about a month so the first would expire shortly after opening and the second would have expired weeks before it was opened. Note that this wasn’t a can of baked beans or a bottle of water being sold a few days after its expiry date. This was baby formula. There are no items for sale that are more important.

Although the manufacturer took immediate action the pharmacy was slower to react, claiming that they needed authorisation from their head office to remove anything from their shelves. That was until the Ministry of Health stepped in and demanded action, reminding the pharmacy that the regulations in Botswana require that when baby formula is sold there must be at least three months left before it expires. Profuse apologies from the pharmacy chain soon followed and the problem doesn’t seem to have occurred again. Clearly the pharmacy didn’t want an angry Ministry of Health making their life difficult for them.

Note the amount of ice in the package.
Has this been defrosted and frozen again?
More recently we’ve done some of our own research in stores in Gaborone. We were looking for goods that either had expired or clearly weren’t fit to be sold.

It was the easiest research we’ve ever done.

We found frozen shrimps that had clearly defrosted and been refrozen and which had no packing of sell-by dates on them at all. We found frozen pork trotters that were being sold twelve days after their expiry date. We found fresh pork chops that were four days after they should have been thrown away. We found frozen chicken joints in a bag that also had no dates on it at all. In that situation how can you or the store possibly know how old they are? They might have been there for three days, three months or three years. Who knows?

Worst of all we found frozen mussel meat that was fifteen months beyond its expiry date. That’s the sort of thing that could kill someone.

Picture taken on 16th April 2015.
Note the Best Before date.
Luckily for consumers all of this is illegal. The Labelling of Prepackaged Foods Regulations are very clear about the facts and dates that MUST be on anything sold to us that we can’t inspect with our eyes, fingers and noses. There is no excuse for not labeling things properly and there is no excuse for selling us expired goods. None at all. More importantly there’s no excuse for ignoring the Food Control Act.

I think we should be celebrating the various enforcement agencies that raided the stores in Kasane. Can’t they do the same everywhere else as well? Stores might hate it but consumers would love it.

Friday 24 April 2015

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

Can I get my payout?

In May 2012, I lost my 5 months old child who was covered by my medical aid scheme.

Due to the enormous stress brought to me by the death of my child, I was not able to notify the medical aid to stop deducting installments for her medical cover, and so I continued paying the medical cover of my deceased child.

In March 2014, I felt emotionally better and ready to visit the medical aid to notify them of the death of the child. I wanted them to stop deducting payments for medical cover of the late child. The officer who assisted me informed me that I was entitled to Funeral Grant to cover the costs of my child's burial. They added that the Grant is payable within six months of death, after which it expires. They nonetheless advised me to write a letter and request to be reimbursed the money I had paid for the medical cover of the child after her death, and the Funeral Grant which I was told was P5,000.

They stopped deducting payments from my salary, and reimbursed the monthly payments I had made since the death of my child. They then informed me that Funeral Grant is paid by an insurance company. After some time, I received a letter informing me that they cannot pay the Grant on the basis that a period of six months has elapsed after the death of the child.

I want the insurance company to pay me the Funeral Grant, and I would like you to assist me. It is true that I presented the matter very late, but I did so as a result of the emotional and psychological stress I suffered following the death of my daughter.

Firstly please accept our condolences on your tragedy. It must have been very difficult for you and you are in our thoughts.

Unfortunately I suspect there's not much that can be done in this situation, despite the tragic circumstances. Companies can sometimes “bend the rules” a little bit but I suspect that asking for a benefit that “expired” more than a year before you claimed might be asking a bit too much.

The lesson in these circumstances is always to inform medical aid and insurance companies of anything that happens to you as soon as possible. I understand that you weren't feeling up to it but in those situations you can always get a friend or a relative to make the call on your behalf. That way you can get everything you are entitled to as soon as possible.

Can I get my deposit back?
Please I need your advice. I had rented a house in Mogoditshane for the last 2 years paying P1,750 and at the time I started my lease I paid P1,650 as security. A month back I served one month notice which ended 31st March and I vacate the house on the 2nd April with agreement that she will charge me daily rate for the 2 days that I stayed. After removing all my stuff inside the house I went to demand my security back and she told me that she doesn't have money she will only pay me once she has money. We have cleaned the house everything was in order so she said that she will also clean it and deduct from the security and my surprise is that she didn't even inspect the house when we moved in.

This simply isn't good enough. She clearly DID have the deposit you paid her two years ago, it seems that she's spent it. That's simply not good enough. Security deposits should be paid back as soon as the landlord has had the opportunity to inspect the house and has made sure you haven't trashed it. It should take days, not weeks or months.

I think you should write the landlord a letter giving her 14 days to repay the balance that she owes you. Tell her that if you don't receive the money within that time you'll take legal action against her. If she doesn't then pay up within 14 days you should go to the Small Claims Court with all the paperwork, including your letter and ask them for an order against her.

Monday 20 April 2015

Warning - recruitment scams

It might just be a coincidence (one of those random or perhaps seasonal things) but we've had a surge in the number of recruitment scams in the last couple of weeks.

The pattern is always the same.
  1. The victim posts his or her CV on a recruitment web site. These sites are usually genuine but a little shifty.

  2. They victim receives an email from what seems to be a large, well-known international company, often in the oil or mining industries like Shell Oil, saying that they have seen their CV and offering them a job. Note that they never mention what particular skills the potential recruit was marketing because they've never actually read it. This is a real example:
    "We refer to your earlier forwarded information for job engagement with relation to SHELL OIL COMPANY MALAYSIA. On the above subject matter, SHELL OIL COMPANY MALAYSIA management hereby congratulates you on your successful emergency based on detail recruitment by our recruitment manager: Dr. David Mark, further details are as follows:


    Salary: $4,900.00 (Four Thousand Nine Hundred USD Only) Monthly/take home after (tax), Starting on Euros equivalent depending on home country and currency preference.

    Benefits: Travel Insurance, Medical Insurance, 5 Bedroom Duplex, Free Education for your children both home and abroad (if any), Official Toyota Camry 2012 with 5 years experience Driver and 10-15 Days break/leave after every 90 business working days in the company."
  3. The victim doesn't notice that although the offer appears to come from "SHELL OIL COMPANY", in fact it comes from this email address: "hr.shell.gas.oil@live.com.my". Surely Shell Oil would be emailing form an address like "xxx@shell.com"?

  4. The email also includes something like this:
    "Please be advised that your Working Visa, Residential/Work Permit papers will cost you $895 only as Indicated in the Appointment Document attached with this Email.

    Make Sure you sign the Appointment Document and return back to us This AFTERNOON and also Contact MR. KAZEEM ABDULLAHI immediately regarding the transfer of the $895 and details he will be needing from you for the WORKING VISA,RESIDENTIAL & WORK PERMIT."
  5. Of course that's what this is all about, the $895 that they're asking for. That's the "advance fee" that these scammers are looking for. The "Working Visa, Residential/Work Permit papers" are just a cover to get the money.

  6. If a victim is sufficiently gullible that they send this money for the fake papers then the scammers will just string him along with more and more demands for various fictitious fees until he either realises that it's a scam or he runs our of money.
The facts are simple. Real companies don't recruit this way. Real companies interview people, either by phone or Skype first and then they insist on a face-to-face interview. Always. Real companies use landlines, real email addresses and use English of reasonable quality. Most importantly, companies that recruit internationally pay for everything, not the potential recruit.

If you see a job offer like this or your friend, relative, colleague or neighbour gets one then let them know.

It's a scam and scammers don't have consciences and NEVER give refunds.

Saturday 18 April 2015

Scammers are still there

Scammers are certainly still there and like certain other professions as old as humanity, they’re not going away.

You might think that the “traditional” scammers have moved on to more modern scams but they’re still there. There are still messages arriving on people’s computers every day like this one that ended up in my Junk folder last week.
“Greetings dear,my name is Angela i saw your profile on (facebook) today contact me through my email address(angelasiako5@gmail.com) so that i can give you my picture for you to know who i am am interested to make friend with you. Thanks. Yours Truly Friend, Angela”
This is the beginning of a classic “advance fee” scam. If you reply the next email will explain that “Angela” is in fact being held in a refugee camp somewhere in West Africa and can only communicate through her pastor. She’ll say that her late father, uncle or grandfather died suddenly leaving a massive amount of money in a bank account that, for some reason, she can’t access. She’ll then ask you to help by allowing the money to be transferred to your account and you’ll be able to keep a large proportion of it. She’ll explain that her pastor will be the person you’ll communicate with. However just before the money is ready to be transferred the pastor will then explain that there is a fee you have to pay, maybe to a lawyer or perhaps a customs or bank official for the money transfer to proceed. That’s what the whole thing is about, that “advance fee” payment. That’s what they want.

But scammers have certainly moved on. These days they focus much more on recruitment and romance.

We received an email last week that said:
“I have been communication with a company in London Active Event Company (Edward Jones) that has stated that they have employed me as their Travel Event Manager and have directed me to another agent to process work permit and visa.”
The job offer letter that was sent was very generous. This job offered a salary of £4,900 per month (that’s nearly P900,000 per year), despite the fact that this company had never met this potential recruit, had never interviewed her and didn’t even know anything about her. Consider this bit from the offer letter (I haven’t corrected the spelling or the language):
“This apointment may be terminated by either side giving one month notice. The normal hour of work are 35 hours per week, and you will be entitled to tree weeks ( if under four weeks if over 21) paid holiday in each complete year of service and four weeks holiday.”
Does that sound like the sort of language that any company would use in a letter offering someone employment?

Yes, in case you were wondering, there was an advance fee here too, for the fake visa they said the recruit would need.

Then we had another plea for help. This one came in live on Facebook. I was chatting to a woman who was being victimized in real time. It turns out that a man had approached her on Facebook and a relationship had developed between them. 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?”
Not actually the scammer, just a
photo the scammer stole from
someone else on Facebook
Needless to say this is all a scam but it’s a clever one. The story about the guy arriving at Cape Town that very morning is very clever. It adds 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 must have made her feel desperate.

As you’ll have realized again all they want is the R10,000. You can be sure that if she’d paid them they just would have asked for more and more money until either she finally realised it was a scam or she just ran out of money.

Luckily in both these cases the potential victims had a moment of skepticism before they handed over the money. Not everyone is this lucky. I can’t tell you how many people fall for these scams but I know they wouldn’t keep going if they didn’t work. They don’t have to work with every potential victim, they only have to work with a few because they make a LOT of money from the most gullible victims.

The real tragedy is that even though this last victim was lucky enough not to part with her money she nevertheless now has to come to terms with losing the guy she thought loved her. Yes, of course you can accuse her of being na├»ve and foolish but that doesn’t mean she isn’t suffering.

We can’t stop scammers but we do have a chance to stop our friends and loved-ones from falling victim to them. Let’s spread the skepticism needed to defend ourselves.

Friday 17 April 2015

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

Is this a real job?

I have been communication with a company in London called Active Event Company (Edward Jones) that has stated that they have employed me as their Travel Event Manager for £4,900 per month and have directed me to another agent to process work permit and visa.

Active Event Company, Argonaut House, Galleymead Road, Colnbrook, Berkshire, SL3 0EN United Kingdom.
Tel: +447031965524
Private Email:mredwardjones0@gmail.com

I could not locate this company on my own and that's why I request your assistance. Besides I have also gone through unnecessary exchange of emails requesting that I be supplied with banking details to send GBP695. After various exchange of emails they forwarded me the address for the agent for the visa and work permit represented by Beavis Hughe of the UK Immigration Service.

This is certainly a scam, there’s no doubt about it. There are various clues. To begin with the phone number they give for the company is a UK-based cellphone number. The code for the UK is +44 and the next digit is a ‘7’, the first digit of all UK cellphones. Also look at the email addresses they give. They’re both free addresses. Don’t you think a company would have its own domain? Don’t you think a real company would have a landline number?

Then there’s the salary. A monthly salary £4,900 per month is almost P900,000 per year. That’s not the sort of salary a company offers to total strangers. And you are a total stranger to them, aren’t you? They never interviewed you, they never even met you. Real companies don’t offer salaries like this to people they’ve never interviewed.

Most importantly this simply isn’t how companies recruit their staff. When a company recruits a foreigner THEY pay all the costs. They are the ones who pay for airfares, visas and relocation, not the person who is being recruited.

Whatever you do please don’t send them any money, you’ll never see it again.

Is this a real company?

I wanted to find out if it is possible to find out if “Leisure Live Travel Club” is real and not a scam. I recently signed up with them after their too good to be true presentation for membership while I was on a holiday in Durban this past Easter holiday. I paid R500 for registration in order to secure my Easter special deal and awaiting to pay a deposit of close to R4200.

Please help me because the deal sounds too good and tempting and I wanted to know if am making a mistake or not.

I am very suspicious of ALL holiday clubs and this company sounds no different. The biggest issue is that the so-called special offers they present are often no different to the discounts you can get from hotel chains FOR FREE. For instance if you go to www.bid2stay.co.za you can sometimes get huge discounts from the City Lodge Hotels group. The same goes for the Sun International chain, they often have special offers. Neither of these groups charge you any form of membership fee to get these discounts.

The other problem is that they often commit you to very long contracts that they refuse to let you cancel.

As you can imagine my advice would be to seriously consider whether you want that sort of commitment!

Update: The reader sent over a copy of the membership agreement he signed and he was in luck. The South African National Credit Act allows consumers to “rescind” such agreements within 5 business days and he contacted us on day 3. I advised him to get a letter to them as quickly as possible to get out of this agreement. Luckily they don’t have any choice but to accept his decision.

Saturday 11 April 2015

Who is the real criminal?

Security guards are still operating illegally.

Last month we reported on a complaint that we received about the conduct of a security guard at a branch of Jet Stores in Gaborone.

She told us that she had visited the store but didn’t actually buy anything. As she left the store a security guard approached her demanding that she return to the store. The guard said that she believed the customer had stolen something and rather than undergo further embarrassment she did as she was told and went back to the store.

Once back inside the guard, another woman, insisted on taking her prisoner to a changing room and then insisted that she lift up her dress to prove that she hadn’t concealed anything under her clothing. The poor customer was then forced through the indignity of stripping to her underwear in front of this guard, finally proving that hadn’t stolen anything.

After this ordeal was over and the guard had accepted that there was no cause to detain her the victim decided to stand up for herself. She demanded to see the manager and complained about the way she had been treated. That’s when this already unpleasant situation became bizarre. The guard’s excuse to the manager for her behavior was to point to the victim and say “this is the one that stole shoes on Wednesday”. That’s when the victim got even angrier, having now twice been insulted and accused of being a criminal. Quite rightly she went straight to the nearest police station.

The police demanded to know the evidence for the guard’s claim that the victim was a previous criminal but under pressure the guard relented and apparently confessed that it wasn’t actually true, she’d made that bit up.

So we have a guard who accosts innocent people, strip searches them and then makes up lies to defame them and defend her actions. We know who the real criminal is here, don’t we?

The bad news is that this isn’t an isolated incident. I know this for two reasons. Firstly we’ve heard from a number of individuals who’ve had similar experiences and secondly we recently did a survey of the public to find out what had happened to them. We asked several hundred people to complete a simple questionnaire about their experiences with security guards.

82% of the people we questioned said that they had, on at least one occasion, been stopped by a security guard as they left a store and of them almost 90% had been asked to show their belongings to the guard to be searched. 83% of people had indeed allowed the guard to do so.

So how did people feel about this experience? Were they angry about being treated like a potential thief?

62% of the people who’d had their belongings searched said they were “offended or upset” by the experience and I can imagine why.

Then we went further. How many people had been searched themselves? Not just their packages, but their bodies?

Not surprisingly the figure was much lower than those who had their belongings searched. Only one in six people had been stopped by a security guard who then wanted to search their person. Unhappily 70% of these people had felt obliged to permit the search and nine out of ten of these people said they had been offended or upset by the experience.

It gets worse. In over half of these situations it was a male security guard searching a woman.

The law in Botswana regarding security guards is simple and this was confirmed in a case before the courts in 2013.

In May 2011 a woman visited Pick N Pay at Riverwalk with her children and their friends. As they left the store a security guard from Scorpion Security stopped her and demanded to search her handbag. Rather than asking nicely he just grabbed the bag from her in a manner she described as “violent and physical”, searched through it and, finding nothing, handed it back to her. She claims that she felt “belittled and humiliated” by his treatment of her in front of her children and their friends but being a strong character she decided not to take this lying down. She took Scorpion Security to court.

And she won.

When the case was heard in the High Court in Francistown in August 2013 the Managing Director of Scorpion Security gave evidence. He explained to the court the powers he believed his guards possessed. He told the judge “that security guards could search. That they had the authority to do similar to that of Police Officers.” In his ruling, the judge said that the MD “did not know circumstances when a legal search could be made.”

The judge went on to say that:
“the Defendants searched the Plantiff without her consent and it was unlawful. […] I accordingly grant judgment in her favour.”
It gets better. He continued:
“On the issue of damages, considering the humiliation embarrassment and impairment of her dignity as an honest member of society I have considered that P60,000 would be sufficient solatium for her dented image in society.”
So let’s make it clear, yet again. Security guards are just civilians in uniform. They do a difficult job that helps to protect us but that doesn’t mean they have special powers. All a security guard can do is detain you until the police arrive. Only a police officer can search you against your will.

There’s one final finding from our research that worries me. 72% of the people we questioned knew that security guards don’t have the legal right to search customers. However given this knowledge 68% of people have nevertheless allowed guards to search their bags and 11% have allowed them to search their bodies. Given that almost everybody felt offended by being searched there’s only one conclusion we can reach.

People allow guards to search them because they feel bullied into doing so.

Are we really going to accept this?

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

Is this a scam?

[This is a plea for advice we received in real time on Facebook last week.]

Note: this isn't really the scammer, it's
a picture the scammers stole from a real
person in Brazil.
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?

Isn’t it obvious that this is a scam?

There are several clues. One was simple. If he’s flying from London to Gaborone why would he be flying via Cape Town and not Johannesburg? Also there’s this business about the R10,000 “for money laundering”. That’s just nonsense. And if it was true why didn’t they take the money from the cash he was apparently carrying? Why did they need a third party to send money to them?

And why is he carrying cash? Doesn’t he have a bank account and a debit card?

Above all, do rich men carrying vast amounts of money really fly to the opposite side of the planet to settle with someone they’ve never actually met in the flesh before?

Finally there’s the Facebook profile of this guy. It took me just a few moments to discover that the profile picture had been stolen from a guy living in Brazil. And didn’t the victim think it was odd that he had very friends on Facebook other than her and those others were also women he was flirting with?

Luckily this victim contacted us before she was persuaded to hand over any cash but that doesn’t mean her emotions haven’t been abused. The lesson is simple. You can’t trust total strangers that offer you riches. You knew that, didn’t you?

Can I get the right size? 

I bought a pair of shoes for my mother from a shoe shop in Rail Park Mall. The shoes were a size 5 and after fitting at home we realised that she needs a bigger size, a size 6 most probably. I returned the shoes back to the shop on Tuesday to have them exchanged for a bigger size or to get another pair if the size was not available. My request was not acceded to as the cashier claims that their system cannot process the exchange of items on sale.

What frustrates me is that such a condition was not communicated to me at the time of purchase. I even checked the till slip for any communication of such, it was blank. It is important for the information to be clearly communicated to customers, especially in my case where I was buying an item for somebody who was not available at the time to fit the shoes. I need your advice. Thank you in advance.

I think you should go back to the store and tell them that you've spoken to us and that our advice is that you have a right to be treated like any other customer. The fact that the item was on sale isn't relevant. Tell them that Section 17 (1) (d) of the Consumer Protection Regulations says it's an unfair business practice if a store causes "a probability of confusion or of misunderstanding as to the legal rights, obligations, or remedies of a party to a transaction". Also Section 17 (1) (f) forbids a store from "entering into a transaction in which the consumer waives or purports to waive a right, benefit or immunity provided by law, unless the waiver is clearly stated and the consumer has specifically consented to it".

Update: The reader went back to a different branch of the store, explained the situation and her understanding of the law and she was given the shoes she needed. Look what happens when you know your rights and you stand up for them!

Friday 3 April 2015

How to complain

Last year a reader contacted us to tell us about the complaints procedure he’d seen at a hospital he’d recently visited. It had ten, yes TEN, steps. If you had a complaint about the service you received you were first required to contact the Supervisor in charge, then the PR officer, then the Matron, then the Hospital Manager, then the Hospital Superintendent, then the Ministry of Health toll-free number, then the relevant Director in the Ministry, then the Permanent Secretary, then the Minister of Health and finally the Office of the President.

Given that everyone in this sequence is a busy person and that some of them will be on leave, on training or attending typically endless Government meetings (I know, I used to work there) I can imagine that going all the way to the top of this sequence could easily take months. By the time your complaint gets to HE’s desk a year could have gone by.

How is that a complaints procedure? It seems more likely to be a complaints avoidance procedure.

It isn’t just parts of the Public Service that makes complaining difficult. I’ve seen complaints procedures (almost) as complicated in parastatals, banks and retailers. They seem to think that their way of dealing with customer complaints should be as complicated as their organisational structure.

And some organisations can become VERY complicated. Thomas Cook, a UK-based travel agency appointed a new CEO a few years ago, Harriet Green. She reported on a BBC program that when she arrived the organization it had, as a result of taking over 80 other brands, developed 11 levels of management between her as CEO and the people that mattered most, her customers. Her task was to simplify that and that’s one of the reasons that when she left two years later, saying her work there was complete, their share price had increased tenfold.

However, regardless of the complexity of an organization the way they manage complaints should be simple.

That’s why we always recommend the Consumer Watchdog Three Step Consumer Complaints Procedure. Feel free to use this whenever you feel the need to complain.

Step 1. Complain to the person who offended you. It doesn’t matter if it was the teller who short-changed you, the waiter who brought cold food or the bank teller who disappeared when you reached the front of the queue. That person is the person who you should first complain to. If they refuse to accept your complaint or don’t show suitable humility and contrition then you escalate to Step 2.

Step 2. Complain to the most senior person on the premises. That person’s title will be something like “Branch Manager”, “Hospital Manager” or “Restaurant Manager”. Don’t bother with supervisors, administrators or team leaders. Only the most senior person will do. Only if they fail to satisfy you should you go to Step 3.

Step 3. Complain to the most senior person in the entire organization. Their job title will be either “Managing Director” or “Chief Executive Officer”. In special cases you might accept people with titles like “Country Manager” or “Regional Manager” but it absolutely must be someone who has the capacity to frighten the person who originally offended you.

Of course some of you will say that companies have complaints policies and that customers must follow them. I say why? Why should I be forced to follow a procedure that was written for YOUR convenience, not mine? Which one of us puts the food in your table at night? You, who run the business or me, the person who gives you my money? Forget your policies and procedures, I’m the one who pays for things and I am therefore the one who decides who I complain to.

Regardless of the nature of your complaint and the complaints procedure a company asks you to follow there are also various techniques that will help you get the solution you deserve.

Don’t be rude. Despite the temptation (and it can sometimes be almost overwhelming) remain polite. Be assertive and stand up for your rights but remember that rudeness simply doesn’t help. We had a complaint recently from a customer who had a long-running problem with her bank. When we contacted the bank they acknowledged that they’d let the customer down but they wondered why she had to be so consistently rude. Why did she shout at people in the branch when they weren’t the ones who had caused the problem? Why did she think it was necessary to swear at their staff?

The bank told us that they were close to calling the customer in and handing over her balance in cash and showing her the door. And you know what? They would have been right to do so. No commercial organization is required to take your business, they can turn you away in the same way that you can leave and take your money elsewhere. Obviously companies are reluctant to do that because they want as many customers as possible and they want to protect their reputation but they will eventually kick out customers who abuse them.

So be polite when you complain.

You should also make it as easy as possible for the company to fix your problem. Give them a solution. Don’t be demanding but give them some idea of what they can do to make you happy again. If all you really need is an apology then make that clear. If you lost money because of their mistake then tell them how much and how you calculated it. Be realistic.

If you can remain calm, assert yourself and follow our three steps you stand a very good chance of getting exactly the result you deserve.

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

Can I get my money back!

I wanted to ask if there's any help I can get if I had ewallet a woman claiming to be a landlord and renting out a house. She made up a story about the urgency of sending the money that the house is in demand. The money has been sent and the fake landlord never shows up, I never physically met her or saw the house but her number is still on but she never answers her phone. The police say there is nothing that can be done as the money was not stolen but willingly sent it. Are the police right?

It’s worth calling FNB to see if they can reverse the transaction but if it’s already been cashed I suspect that might not be possible.

I also think you should go back to the Police and give them some assistance. Mention to them that this woman is probably guilty of “Obtaining by false pretence”. Section 308 of the Penal Code says that anyone who does this “is liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding seven years”. If the Police don’t think that’s the right charge then try Section 310 which says that anyone convicted of “Cheating” can also go away for seven years.

I tried to contact the woman who you claim stole your money but she wasn’t very helpful. She refused to answer my calls but she did respond to my message on Facebook when I said I was covering the story in The Voice. She said “i dont know wat u tokn about covering it or not i realy dont care”. She then implied that if I wrote the story she would spread a story that I’d had sex with her.

Some people are VERY strange.

Update: Even Facebook now think she's a fake.

Will it work?

I am writing on behalf of my friend who bought an Apple iPad from one a store in Gaborone and would appreciate your advice regarding this purchase. After buying it he went to a mobile phone shop to install some applications particularly whatsapp and viber which he uses regularly because of the nature of his work. Sadly he was told at the store that the applications cannot be installed, I'm not sure why because he bought the iPad confident that it has the applications. He tried to return the iPad and exchange it with the one that has viber and whatsapp applications, but according to my friend the lady that sold him the iPad refuses to take it.

My friend is so not happy but like some customers, he fears to come out and demand his rights as a customer.

Your friend might find this frustrating but I’m afraid that WhatsApp and Viber are apps designed for cellphones, not iPads. If you check the WhatsApp web site your friend will see they say: “iPod and iPad devices are not supported at this time.”

It doesn’t take much research to learn that there ARE ways to install WhatsApp on an iPad but they are all unofficial. Some require the iPad to be “jailbroken” which I urge your friend NOT to attempt. If they jailbreak their iPad they’ll invalidate both the Apple warranty as well as the warranty the store offers.

There are other ways to get WhatsApp working on an iPad but they are all rather technical and you do this entirely at your own risk. Apple, WhatsApp and the company that sold the iPad aren’t ever going to offer your friend any support so they need to be very careful.

Did your friend specifically ask the store if the iPad could run WhatsApp and Viber? If he didn’t then it’s probably too late for him to change his mind. From what you say it seems like the store sold your friend the iPad in good faith. Unfortunately for your friend it’s not the store’s fault that he didn’t do his homework.