Tuesday 31 May 2016

Pipcoin - another Ponzi scheme

Several people have asked us about Pipcoin, asking if you can really earn the 35% monthly profit they claim. Is it real or a scam?

I suspect the latter.

Their web site describes it as "Africa’s first P2P Cryptocurrency" and they say "you don't have to make contracts or pledge your property. In Pipcoin there are no lenders and no debtors. Everything is very simple: one participant asks for help - another one helps.The only thing that Pipcoin demands from its participants is to be honest and kind to each other."

Sounds just like the other big scam at the moment, MMM Global. A mysterious scheme where money just grows magically.

Smartly, what they've done, just like MMM Global, is to claim to have invented a new currency. MMM Global has the bizarre 'Mavro', these guys offer you the chance to trade in their mysterious Pipcoin, something they're trying desperately to imply is like the Bitcoin.

On their web site they have a section entitled "How does it work" which talks a lot about Napster, Bitcoin, Digital Currency Mining and shows this diagram that appears to show IBM PCs from about 1982.

This is as close as they get to explaining how you can make your fortune:
"Participant (trader) must first register on the network in order to buy and sell Pipcoin; there will be a security code that must always be kept safe as this is another security measure against hackers and infiltrators.

After gaining access to the user-friendly platform then you will be exposed to many options of making income such as buying coins from a minimum of R100 to registering an affiliate for a bonus of 10%. Traders can only withdraw their funds after a month or can choose to leave it to grow higher as calculations."
That's just a sequence of words with precisely no meaning.

And the 35% return? That's shown in this matrix from one of their Facebook groups:

In summary, we have a Get Rich Quick Scheme that can't explain how it works or where money will come from, that hints at the current sexy online currency issue and which claims you can make 35% profit per month.

The only way they can pay out 35% is by using "investments" from newer members to pay older members. That's called a Ponzi scheme.

Don't waste your time, effort and money in yet another Ponzi scheme.

Friday 27 May 2016

Look for patterns

A very wise, intelligent and charismatic person once attempted to define intelligence as the ability to correctly observe patterns.

The problem is that we we humans aren’t always very good at doing deciding what is a pattern and what isn’t. Do a Google search for pareidolia, the mistake our brains often make when we see patterns that aren’t really there. The internet is full of examples of this. You’ll find endless supposed images of Jesus in pizza toppings, sandwiches and mirrored windows. These images are nothing more than constructs within our brains, brains that evolved over hundreds of thousands of years to observe patterns as a way of saving our lives from predators. That skill often now shows itself in these bizarre constructed images.

Image c/o Richard Wiseman
As consumers we also have to careful about the patterns we might perceive. People occasionally post messages in the Consumer Watchdog Facebook group that are clearly related to false patterns. They’re often criticisms of which ever ethnic group the poster currently feels aggrieved by. Whether their resentment is based on a real experience or not, our position is always that you can’t make sweeping generalizations about every member of a group just because you feel you had a bad experience with one of them. We always remove these posts as soon as we see them and before they can cause unnecessary offence.

However, I think it’s fair to remark about patterns relating to a particular store or company, particularly if the same complaint is being reported over and over again.

We received an email a few days ago about a cellphone store. I’ve removed the name of the store for now.
“On 5th May I bought a smart phone for P495. Soon I realized that the phone was faulty: it didn’t connect to the internet, didn’t read the memory card, the speakers didn’t work and the charger didn’t charge. On the 17th May I took the phone back and was told that on the receipt it was written ‘no refunds, no exchange and no returns’, hence they couldn’t help me. On the 18th May I went back again, accompanied by my teacher, who pointed to the note at the receipt which says ‘3 months warranty’. The sales lady now took the phone for repair, explaining that repair will last at least two months. My question: Is the store obliged to exchange the phone if repair takes such a long time, or at least provide replacement for that time?”
Before we look for patterns let’s consider the Consumer Protection Regulations. Section 13 (1) (a) says that goods must be “of merchantable quality” which is defined in the Regulations as meaning “fit for the purposes for which commodities of that kind are usually purchased”. Obviously a smartphone should be able to connect to the internet, read a memory card, make noise and be charged. That’s not rocket science or brain surgery. Anyone can understand that.

Section 17 (1) (e) forbids a supplier from “disclaiming or limiting the implied warranty of merchantability and fitness for use, unless a disclaimer is clearly and conspicuously disclosed” and the next section, 17 (1) (f), says that a store can’t claim a customer has waived their rights “unless the waiver is clearly stated and the consumer has specifically consented to it”.

Did you see that last bit? The customer must have “specifically consented to it”. That means a signature on a piece of paper, surely?

Most importantly there’s the comment on the receipt that said “3 months warranty”. That’s all the store needs to remember.

And finally, the claim that it will take two months to repair the phone is absurd, preposterous and stupid. Section 15 (1) (a) of the Regulations says services must be delivered “with reasonable care and skill”. I know cellphone repair shops that can fix most phone problems in 24 hours so two months is silly and the store need to know that.

But back to patterns.

In October last year another reader contacted us about exactly the same chain of stores. He said:
“I got a phone and within 2 days it was giving me trouble when I received a call it kept flashing and white lines on the screen. I took it back to them exactly a week after I bought it and they claimed to have rebooted it and said it would be fine but in another three days again it started doing the same thing. They took it and said they will take it to their technician but 3 weeks later it still had the same problem. Then they claimed it had been dropped and I should buy a new screen.”
The month before that another reader told us almost exactly the same story about the same chain of stores.

I took a quick look back through messages on Facebook and found another five complaints, all telling almost exactly the same story. This isn’t a coincidence. This is most definitely a pattern. This chain of cellphone stores (and no, it’s not the biggest chain you can name, it’s a smaller one) seems to like doing business this way. Sell your customers a phone and then disclaim all responsibility for fixing the problems that sometimes occur.

You have to ask yourself whether this is actually a company policy or perhaps a result of their supply chain. Where are they getting these phones from? Are they from a legitimate source?

I don’t know the answer to those questions but what I do know is that these stores are abusing their customers and ignoring the legal obligations they have towards to them.

We’ll be in touch with the store owner and asking what he plans to do to remedy these problems.

The lesson is to be cautious about extrapolating individual experiences into patterns. But sometimes it might just be right to do so.

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

Must I show my ID?

I don't know if this will be answered by yourselves, but I would like know if I am forced to produce my ID card whenever I swipe my bank card in the shops. Unlike the old ATM cards I am referring to a chip card where I will also need to enter my pin number. The employees in one of the shops were saying it's a must that I produce my ID otherwise their bosses are looking in the cameras and they will lose their jobs if they can see that they swiped my card even though I refused to show my ID.

My understanding is that your PIN should be enough but I can understand that a store might want to double check that you’re really the person who owns the card but that should be your decision as much as theirs. I’m not aware that the banks demand this, they seem to be happy with just the PIN or a signature. I’m not sure they suggest any other details should be recorded.

I also find it frustrating when I use my Chip and PIN cards only to be asked for my signature as well, even when the till slip says “No signature required”.

I suggest that if this happens again, and you don’t want to get the staff into trouble, you ask to see the manager and ask him or her to explain why the PIN you’ve entered isn’t enough.

Consumers need to be a bit more assertive when stores make up rules without explaining why they are necessary. Personally I always politely refuse to give stores my cellphone number or ID number. Those are my business, not theirs and I have the right to disclose only the details I am comfortable disclosing.

Feel free to disclose these details if you want but you have a right to stand up for your rights and your privacy!

Can I return the bed?

I have purchased a bed and mattress yesterday on the basis that if I was not satisfied I will be able to get a refund. I have so because with a bed you only know its true comfort after you have had a good night’s sleep on it. This bed comes with a 5 year guarantee and 25 year warranty.

Please advise me my right as the shop does not seem too keen to refund me.

The Consumer Protection Regulations are very clear. Section 13 (1) (a) says that goods must be “of merchantable quality” meaning that they must be “fit for the purposes for which commodities of that kind are usually purchased”. A cellphone must be able to make calls, send and receive messages and these days, access the internet. A fridge must be capable of keeping its contents sufficiently cold. A memory stick must be capable of storing an appropriate amount of data.

But what must a bed do?

It’s actually very hard to define. Yes, you should be able to sleep on it but you can also sleep on the floor. So what exactly should a bed offer you? Clearly it should offer you some level of comfort but how much? What’s comfortable to you might be uncomfortable to me. I happen to like a firm bed but you might like a softer one.

You’re right that you can only really tell whether a bed is right for you once you’ve actually spent a night on it. But that’s the problem. Once you’ve slept on it, it’s second-hand. It’s no longer new. If you were to persuade the store to take it back they couldn’t sell it as new to anyone else, to someone who might like it more than you did. Section 13 (1) (c) of the Regulations forbid that. The store would need to declare that the bed was now second-hand and nobody would pay the full price for that, would they?

While I understand your problem, I’m not sure there’s much you can do. Unless the store signed a written agreement that you could return the bed if it wasn’t to your taste, I don’t think you can force them to do so. Look at it from their point of view. Have they actually done anything wrong? The bed does what a bed does and as far as I understand it’s not faulty.

The only thing I can suggest is that you approach the manager and see if they can’t accept your word that the shop assistant said you could return the bed if you didn’t like it. It’s worth a try.

Saturday 21 May 2016

Your rights

By now most of you will know at least some of your consumer rights. You’ll know that goods and services must be “of merchantable quality”, meaning that they are “fit for the purposes for which commodities of that kind are usually purchased”. You’ll know that suppliers must deliver services “with reasonable care and skill”. You’ll know that second-hand, deteriorated or reconditioned goods can’t be sold as new. You’ll know about all of these things and more.

But what about other rights, ones that aren’t quite as clear-cut?

Someone asked in our Facebook group recently “Is it allowed for consumers to be searched by shops? Can someone explain that to me coz the security said its written at the door that they will search bags, parcels when one leaves the shop”.

The answer is simple. Yes, of course stores can search you. They can search your bags. They can take your money and keep it for themselves. They can drive your car. They can move into your house and eat your food. They can even have sex with your partner.

If you permit them to. And if your partner likes the look of them.

But if you don’t want them to, they have absolutely no right to search you or do any of those other things. Only a police officer can search you or your belongings against your will. That’s what the law says.

In May 2011 a woman went shopping in Pick N Pay at Riverwalk with her three daughters and some of their friends. As they were leaving the store a security guard from Scorpion Security blocked her way and 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. Instead she took Scorpion Security to court.

And she won.

When the case was heard in the High Court in Francistown the Managing Director of Scorpion Security gave evidence in defence of his guard’s actions. He explained that he saw their job as looking after their client’s goods but then went on to embarrass himself in front of the judge by having no idea what powers his guards had. In his ruling, the judge said that the MD “did not know circumstances when a legal search could be made.” Apparently he’d told the judge “that security guards could search. That they had the authority to do similar to that of Police Officers.”


In his judgment the judge said that: “I find that indeed the Defendants searched the Plantiff without her consent and it was unlawful. […] The Plaintiff has proved her case on a balance of probabilities and I accordingly grant judgment in her favour.”

It gets better. Considering that she had suffered “humiliation, embarrassment and impairment of her dignity as an honest member of society” the judge awarded her P60,000 in compensation.

That security guard’s actions cost Scorpion a lot of money.

So what about a sign on the wall that says the store can search you? Does that mean they can?

Well consider this. If there was a sign that said the store was entitled to shoot you in the head if they don’t like the look of you, would that be legal? Of course not. A sign doesn’t make laws, Parliament does and judges enforce them.

However, stores do have some rights. Like the right to throw you out. I’ve heard from a number of organizations recently who have asked what they can do with customers they no longer want. One contacted us asking whether she could cancel the booking made by customers who had failed to pay the full fee for the services she offered and had then abused her publicly on Facebook. I said that of course she could. They were behaving so badly that the relationship between both parties had collapsed irretrievably. Fire that customer!

We’ve heard many times from restaurant managers who’ve had customers who arrive, order and complain, demanding not to be charged for the food and drinks they ordered. The following week they do exactly the same thing. And again the next week. The first and second time the manager gave them the benefit of the doubt but eventually lost patience and asked us for advice. Ban them, we said. You’re better off without them and your other customers, the ones who aren’t abusing you, will thank you for it.

I also have huge respect for managers who stick up for their staff. The MD of a company told me recently that she was going to cancel all contracts with one particular customer who repeatedly verbally abused her staff. She valued the contentment of her staff more than she valued one abusive customer. I respect that greatly.

Another restaurant manager contacted us just a few weeks ago saying that a loud and drunken customer had abused his staff and demanded special treatment (and no doubt free drinks), claiming that he worked for a part of Government that could investigate his business. This restaurant manager was made of strong stuff. He called the local Police who advised him that he should ban the customer and he should call them if he made a fuss. They promised to take him away in handcuffs if he didn’t cooperate.

Customer service is a two-way street. Yes, the supplier owes perhaps a little extra to the customer but they are within their moral rights to demand that customers behave themselves properly.

The default position is clearly that customers should be treated with respect by the people serving them but that respect is finite and it can be withdrawn the moment the customer proves to be an ass.

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

Must I pay?

My daughter used to stay with her Dad in Gaborone and I stay with her baby sister. Apparently towards end of last term the Dad had no baby sitter and we decided to transfer her because it wasn't safe for a 7 year old girl to be staying home alone after school.

We have found her space at an English medium primary but her former school can’t give her transfer out because they are saying we did not serve a 1 term notice and they demand that we pay a term equivalent school fees in lieu of notice. Currently the kid is at home, we can not pay P6100 in lieu of notice and at the same time pay for her new school. Please help.

This all depends on what the agreement you signed with the school says. Did they mention this fee in lieu of notice?

Update: The reader replied saying “the contract states that "failure to serve notice, parents will be liable to pay term fees and failure to pay, legal action will be taken against the parent.”

I'm sorry to say that it seems you’re committed to the payment. Well, whoever signed the contract would be, that might not be you, that might be her Dad.

The clause is actually a reasonable one. The school could have allocated your child’s place to another family who would have paid the fees in full. If you move your daughter without notice the school will lose out because you didn’t give hem enough time to find another paying customer.

Is there no way your child could stay at the current school until the end of the term and you get a part-time child-minder to care for her after school? That might be a lot cheaper than paying a term’s school fees at the new school.

How can I get my money back?

On the 5th February last year I lent a colleague P2,000 with an agreement that around the 20th of the same month he will return the money. I pointed out that the money was for the project and that I was lending it to him out of a good heart and with the understanding of his problem and again trusting he would return the money. This was put down in writing and he signed the letter.

The month ended and instead of giving me money he told me he had a family crisis and had to assist financially therefore will be able to repay me end of March instead.

End of March he quit his job and requested that I wait for him to get his package which took about 4 months. After he got his money he did not pay me but instead kept quiet about it. I had to call and ask why he is quiet as he had promised to pay me as soon as he got the money. He did not have any explanation rather told me that when his company starts doing well he will repay and that I should go borrow money elsewhere so that I can close the gap for the money I lent him.

The annoying thing is that he never contacts me, I am the one who is always contacting him. I sent a Whatsapp message last week and he did not respond even though he is always on line.

Please help me get my money back, I have a letter he signed when I gave him the money, Whatsapp texts as proof.

I’m so sorry for your trouble. It’s always frustrating when someone refuses to repay a debt but it’s so much worse when it’s someone you considered a friend.

I suggest you write him a letter giving him 14 days to repay you in full. The letter should say that you’ll immediately take legal action against him if he fails to comply. If he does fail, on Day 15 go straight to the Small Claims Court and ask for an order against him. You were VERY wise to get his agreement in writing when you first lent him the money. You should also print out all the WhatsApp messages he sent you and take them to the Court along with the original agreement and the letter threatening action.

Hopefully he’ll cooperate to avoid an order! Let me know what happens.

Friday 13 May 2016

Get with it!

Whether you like it or not, whether you’re a supplier, a store owner, or a consumer (and most of us are at least two of those) you really need to get with today’s technology. Do you want to be in 2016 or 1916? If it’s the latter, then I’ll wish you goodbye because you’re almost certainly dead already. If you aren’t then you will be soon.

Top of your technological To Do List should be Facebook. Even though many people are resistant to it, Facebook is a bit like rain. Whether you like it or not it’s there and you better get used to it. If you’re smart you’ll actually embrace it and perhaps even exploit it.

According to current estimates there are currently more than 1.5 billion users of Facebook worldwide and statistics for 2015 suggested that a greater proportion of people in Botswana are using Facebook than in South Africa and Namibia. In fact, we have one of the highest “penetration rates” of any African country. So whether suppliers and stores like it or not, their customers are on Facebook.

The problem is that Facebook is scary. It worries businesses because it’s a very good example of the anarchy that the Internet offers. It’s free speech at it’s most free.

Sometimes too free.

A few weeks ago someone posted a slightly silly joke in our Facebook group. Posted by a black member of our group, it made a flippant comment about black people and their shopping habits. It was a harmless and most people saw the funny side.

But that’s when the trouble started.

Another member of the group, who was of a much paler shade, posted a comment in Afrikaans that used one of the words that white people like me just don’t use. In English it said “Typical K****r”.

Unfortunately, the timing was bad. She posted it late one evening and because we were really busy we didn’t check Facebook until lunchtime the following day. By that time a firestorm had erupted. Hundreds of people had been enraged. Understandably and quite rightly.

As soon as I saw it I removed the original jokey post and every subsequent comment. Not because the reaction was unfair, but because people were becoming more and more angry and threats had been made.

One of my favorite legal quotes comes from Sir Stephen Sedley, a British Appeal Court judge. Ruling on a case about whether horrible people are allowed to say horrible things, he said:
“Free speech includes not only the inoffensive but the irritating, the contentious, the eccentric, the heretical, the unwelcome and the provocative provided it does not tend to provoke violence. Freedom only to speak inoffensively is not worth having.”
That’s the danger with Facebook. The racist member of our group was exercising her right to free speech. Just like she was exercising her right to be prosecuted for breaching Section 92 of the Penal Code which forbids the expression of racial hatred. The law is simple. If you have racist thoughts, keep them to yourself because the rest of us have a right not to be burdened by your hate-filled character.

Her problem was that the hatred she expressed was ghastly and more than just unpopular. Her words were more than just a bit provocative and challenging. They were close to provoking violence. Against her. But she deserved to be shunned, not thumped.

A few months ago a major organization, one you’ll all know, asked for our opinion on how they should use Facebook. What could they do, they wanted to know, to cope with the avalanche of complaints and criticisms about them on Facebook?

Firstly, I said, you have to understand that Facebook is just like a bar full of drunks. Some people, when they’ve had a few drinks, become more sociable, a bit noisier and sway a bit. Other people fall asleep. The problem is that a small proportion turn nasty. We’ve all probably known that person. After a certain number of drinks they stop being a reasonable person and they become a monster. These bad drunks then stimulate their fellow drinkers into further misbehavior. That’s when fights start.

So how do you deal with it? If you’re the manager in such a bar, what do you do? Do you get drunk too? Do you start shouting? Do you get rough? Do you start throwing punches? No. You do your best to calm things down. You use the old-fashioned psychological techniques to calm things down. And then you kick them out.

You manage Facebook in exactly the same way. Never over-react. Never give in to the temptation to throw punches. Never get drunk in the Facebook bar.

If you can do this, then Facebook can actually be a remarkable place for your company. There’s one chain of stores I know who get their fair share of complaints in our Facebook group but every single time it gets fixed. A representative of the company always responds publicly, asking for direct contact details from the aggrieved person and then contacting them, apologizing lie they mean it and offering a solution.

The splendid irony is that this chain is probably more popular now than if the complaints had never been posted, than if the problems had never occurred. By showing themselves to be mature, modern and able to take criticism constructively, they’re probably more respected than they were before.

Is your company prepared to do the same, to embrace the modern era rather than running away from it? Are you prepared to treat social media not as a potential predator for you business, but as fertllizer?

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

Must I pay it all?

I need your intervention or guidance. I took a loan of P30,000 from my bank some time in 2008 or so. My instalments were P968.08 for 36 months. I paid for 1 and half years and left my employer where the debit order was running. I stopped paying for 2-3 years and they presented me with a summons from deputy sheriffs and I spoke with their collection department who advised me to restart the debit order which ran with the same amount 968.08. To my surprise the debt has already gone to P75,000 of which I was told it was for charges I fail to understand. I have been paying since 2013 and I’m still paying and still the balance is P74,000.

What happened to the in duplum rule which states that unpaid interest on a money debt owing ceases to accumulate once it reaches the amount of the capital sum. In other words, the aggregate debt (capital plus interest) cannot exceed double the capital amount. The in duplum rule apply to borrowed money, and to all debts (including judgment debts) arising from a capital amount that is owed.

Firstly, I’m not a lawyer, all I can offer is my layman’s opinion. The “in duplum” does indeed say that the interest on a debt cannot exceed the capital sum upon which it is based but this rule only applies at the time the debt is settled, not over the course of the repayment period. It’s perfectly possible, for instance, to pay off more than double the amount you borrowed with a home loan, mainly because the repayment period can often be as long as twenty years.

I’m also a bit confused by the numbers you give. If you monthly repayment was P968 then you got a remarkably good deal on a loan of P30,000 over three years. That’s a truly tiny interest rate. Are you sure those figures are correct?

The biggest problem you face is the “2-3 years” when you didn’t pay. The interest, penalties and charges can easily amount to a LOT of money of that period. Starting to pay off the debt at the original rate of P968 per month isn’t going to be nearly enough.

I suggest that you ask the bank for a full statement of the debt, going back to the very beginning and get your calculator out. Then go and talk to the bank and see if you can’t arrange a more practical repayment plan. You can only rely on the “in duplum” rule if you’re planning to settle it with one payment.

Can I get my money back?

I bought a radiator cowling for my van and this past Saturday I found the old one which we misplaced and I then take the new one which I never used back to shop to get my money back and the owner refused saying why did I take such a long time and parts that are correctly supplied are not returnable. So as a consumer, don’t I have the right to return the goods and claim my money back?

No, you don’t.

You only have a right to action by a supplier when they are the ones who have done something wrong. What have they done wrong here?

When you buy something that is not “of merchantable quality”, as required by Section 13 (1) (a) of the Consumer Protection Regulations 2001 you have a right to one of the three ‘R’s: a refund, a repair or a replacement. Critically, it’s normally up to the store to choose which of these they offer you. They’re entitled to try and repair something before they offer you a replacement or a refund. But this is when THEY have done something wrong, like offer you sub-standard goods.

In this situation, all they did was sell you exactly what you wanted. As far as I understand what they sold you did what you wanted it to do?

Of course a nice store might be charitable and so long as the item has never been used, is in perfect condition and is still in its original packaging nobody would complain if they resold it. But they don’t have to.

Why not go back to the store and see if they can’t be kind to you. Explain to them that you made a simple mistake, you know it’s not their fault and the item is still in perfect condition. Try a charm offensive!

Friday 6 May 2016

The unbelievable

It sounds obvious but you shouldn’t believe the unbelievable.

Let’s start with fuel treatments. A number of companies will tell you they have a product that will do remarkable things to your car. Some say they’ll improve fuel efficiency, others that they reduce emissions.

Syntek's "Xtreme Fuel Treatment" product claims both. This product has been sold by a number of people around Botswana for a couple of years. Their South African web site makes a number of claims about the product including that it: “dramatically reduces the amount of harmful emissions produced by your vehicle or equipment”, “prolongs engine life” and that it “increases fuel mileage and economy.” They also claim that it “changes the surface structure of the fuel to achieve a more efficient combustion process."

But is there actually an evidence that these claims are correct and this product works?

Absolutely none. I asked a number of their local distributors for some evidence that might justify their claims but I was disappointed. The so-called “evidence” that the distributors sent me was nothing of the sort.

They also operate as a pyramid-structured Multi-level Marketing scheme. Just as important as selling their worthless product is the need to recruit more and more people in the lower levels in order to make money flow up to the higher levels.

The truth is that there is absolutely no evidence that their product does anything at all apart from make a few people at the top of their distribution pyramid very rich.

Another Multi Level Marketing scheme that most of us have encountered at some point is Herbalife. They sell a range of so-called health products and are just as well known for their enthusiasm for recruiting more and more people into their pyramid. However, my favourite aspect of Herbalife is that they are required in some countries to publish their member’s income figures and a few weeks ago Herbalife released their 2015 earnings figures (441Kb pdf file) for their US "members".

The results are interesting. Interesting but not surprising. In fact it's the same old story. Almost all of the money is earned by a tiny proportion of the members.

Here are some specifics, taken directly from Herbalife's own figures.

80.2% of the members, that's 437,152 people, are just people who buy their products and don't have a "downline". These are the people on the bottom rung of the pyramid, the ones who buy products from Herbalife but probably don’t sell them on to other people.

The most interesting group is those people who earned commission from selling Herbalife products to the people below them in the pyramid, their “downline”. These are the "Sales Leaders With a Downline". In the USA in 2015 there were 68,768 of them. These are the people that Herbalife offer as examples of the riches you can earn from joining Herbalife.

But there are no riches.

Of these people, the top 10% earn nearly 90% of the cash. At the other end of the scale, the bottom 90% earn just over 10% of the money. The group earning between $1 and $1,000 in 2015 (that's 62.5% of the entire group) actually earned an average of just $303.

And that's their income, not their profit. That's before they paid their expenses, the phone bills, the transport costs and their electricity bills. Nobody knows how much that comes to but I bet it’s more than $303. I bet almost everyone makes a loss.

So yet again it's the same old story. If you want to make money from Herbalife you need to be at the top of the pyramid and you’ll never get to that level. The people already at the top need you and everyone else to stay at the bottom level so they can get that 90%.

Do you really want to make rich people richer? That's all you do when you join Herbalife.

Another MLM that I think is much more dangerous is called Longrich. They’re another pyramid-structured business so, like Herbalife, you’re highly unlikely to make any money from it but what worries me most is the range of products they sell. For instance, they claim that their "Nutri V Rich" product is "anti cancer, improve and prevent diabetic, high blood pressure, and other terminal diseases." They also say it’s "almost 100% effective in treating a range of conditions such as high blood pressure, fatty liver, diabetes mellitus (type 2 diabetes), obesity, gastritis, liver disease".

Making claims like that is illegal in Botswana. They are described as a “prohibited advertisement”, contrary to Sections 396-399 of the Penal Code. It’s criminal.

Longrich aren’t the only one. “Healthy Habits”, who seem to have inherited some of the promoters from Syntek, are also marketing their products, market a range of clearly magical drinks. Their web site says that they have “the most powerful health building components in the world” and that they are “bridging the discordance between our ancient, genetically determined biology and today’s nutritional needs.”

It’s worth re-reading that last sentence and trying to find any sense is what they say. I certainly can’t.

These charlatans claims that their magic tea can “prevent diabetes” along with asthma, depression, fever, hangover, headache, insomnia and stress. They also claim that it reduces cholesterol, moderates blood sugar levels, enhances your immune system and can “increase sexual function”. The list goes on and on, it seems there’s nothing they’re not prepared to claim their silly tea can cure.

The simple truth is that there is no product that can do all of these things. If there was, a Nobel Prize for Medicine would have already been awarded to the discoverer and probably the prize for Peace as well.

All of these claims, whether they’re about fuel efficiency, health or if they suggest you can become wealthy by joining their pyramid, they’re all false. They’re all unbelievable and like I said before, that’s something you should never believe.

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

Where’s my prize?

Kindly assist me. I have won an all expense paid trip to Kasane for two from a company since last year September. To this day I am still trying to redeem the price. I am being tossed around and am fed up with the attitude of people in that office. I have on numerous occasions contacted the manager who is not returning my calls now.

Please assist. All I did was win a trip fair and square and would like to take it up before winter. I was also made to pay P 400 towards this which I still have no explanation as to what it was for. I understand I am not the only person who has paid or battling to get my prize.

Thank you once more.

Some people might think that because this was a prize you won in a competition that you aren’t a consumer and you don’t have any rights. I disagree. It doesn’t matter whether you paid for something or not, this company said you had won something and you have a right to expect them to keep their word.

Unfortunately, this isn’t the first time we’ve heard of companies neglecting to honor their obligations to competition winners. Once he excitement has worn off, they seem to forget the winner and the promises they made them.

We’ll get in touch with the company and remind them of what they need to do. Hopefully this might have some effect. We’ll also find out why you had to pay someone to get your prize. That is NOT how these things are meant to work. A prize should be free, not something you have to pay to get.

Where’s my laptop?

I need help guys. I bought a laptop for cash on the 23rd of March. I noticed a tiny dot on the screen but thought it was worth ignoring. Turns out dots on screens grow big and even turn into lines across the screen. Anyway, I took the laptop back on the 8th of April. The gentleman who assisted me told me to check with them in two to three weeks. I actually waited for three weeks, when I got there at around 13:00 hrs, the same gentleman told me that the laptop was not ready. I made him aware that I urgently needed the laptop and suggested that they loan me a laptop in the meantime. His response was that he would call the repairs people to see how far the laptop was, and he assured to call me after lunch with a solution. He never called so I went back after 17:00 hrs, and I still left there without a laptop, yet they have my money. Now my question is, what is the quickest way to have a laptop because I really need one? Do I ask them to give my money back, and is that possible? What do I do?

I think you’ve been patient enough. Clearly your laptop screen is faulty but there’s no reason for it to take this long to fix that sort of problem. I know of companies who can replace laptop screens in a day for a reasonable price so I can’t understand why this store has taken nearly a month. Of course they probably have lots of customers to deal with but that doesn’t change a thing. You have a right to a prompt solution to your problem.

If you speak to them I suggest that you remind them that Section 15 (1) (a) of the Consumer Protection Regulations 2001 requires a supplier to offer services (such as a repair) “with reasonable care and skill”. In this case I don’t think they’re being particularly careful or very skillful.

This needs to change.

We’ll contact the store in question and explain this to them as well. We’ll explain that if they fail to offer you either a repaired laptop or a replacement as soon as possible then they’ll have to consider a full refund. I doubt they want to do that.

I hope you had a backup of the data on the laptop? Everyone should consider buying an external drive whenever they buy a laptop. Either that or start backing up your files to a Cloud storage service. It’s incredibly important.