Saturday 24 September 2016

Get angry

I’m a big believer in remaining calm. When you’re calm you more likely to think straight, come to rational decisions and not offend people, all good things. I’m also a believer in being compassionate, tolerant and understanding. When something goes wrong, maybe you’re let down or mistreated in a store, being calm and tolerant is by far the best way to get the matter resolved to your satisfaction. Most service providers are reasonable people who make occasional mistakes and getting angry with them is not going to help them resolve the problem. It might just make things worse. Diplomacy is better than warfare.

But there are exceptions. There are times when I think it’s reasonable to get angry.

I’m angry right now and I have been for a couple of weeks. It started with the horror of the tragic accident that occurred in Gaborone when a truck transporting sand tipped over and crushed a passing vehicle, instantly killing its occupant. If you though the situation couldn’t get worse, you’re wrong. A matter of hours later the victim’s mother and sister, having been informed of the tragic accident, were themselves killed in a separate accident. I’m not sure it’s possible to imagine the horror that family are now going through.

But I’m not just feeling compassion. I’m angry. Really, deeply, horribly angry. Apparently the accident was caused by an unknown vehicle running a red light and I think the time has come not just to be caring but to feel justifiable anger at the driver who caused the accident but also to every other person who does the same. Just three days after the accident I drove past the junction where the accident happened and incredibly, vehicles were still running those lights. In fact, during my 15-minute journey I saw three different vehicles who decided that red lights didn’t apply to them.

It’s out of control and it’s time we all got very angry about it. Our friends, family and neighbours are dying in horrible numbers largely because the rest of us either ignore the rules of the road or we tolerate others who do so. It’s time to stop being tolerant of bad drivers. It’s time for a complete change of heart.

I think it’s also acceptable to be angry about abuse. Like the company that sold a consumer two computers and a fax machine on 27th April but which haven’t yet been delivered. The customer told me “Since that time they have been telling us different stories saying that they are still waiting for delivery people to deliver our goods from South Africa” and that the manager of the company said “they cannot refund us our money as they operate as per orders, he was saying that if we cancel our order who is going to buy our order”.

Taking five months to deliver two perfectly ordinary computers and a fax machine is simply unacceptable, particularly when you’ve already got your customer’s money.

We suggested that the customer should formally cancel the order and explain to the company that Section 15 (1) (e) of the Consumer Protection Regulations says that when a deal is cancelled the supplier must “promptly restore” any payment that has been made.

She did this but met with complete arrogance. No, they said, you can’t have your money back. They even went so far as to engage attorneys to write her a letter saying that because they’d already paid their supplier in South Africa she would either need to wait or compensate them for any losses resulting from the cancellation.

This company is arrogant and contemptuous of their customer. They’re also incompetent. They thought it would be persuasive if they showed us proof that they’d paid their South African supplier for the goods. That was a mistake because it showed that they had only done so two months after she had paid them. All their response has achieved is to make everyone angry and an angry customer is just a customer more likely to want a fight.

I suspect that the moment I name this company, which I will do next week unless they see sense and stop being so arrogant, I’ll be the one getting an attorney’s letter alleging defamation, treason and war crimes. But you know what? I don’t care. I’m angry.

I’m also angry about hire purchase but that’s been the case for a very long time. Buying things on HP is a truly awful way to buy things. Even if everything goes well you’ll typically pay double the cash price of the item you’re buying but if there’s a problem and you default on your repayments things can get truly horrible. Not only will the goods be repossessed without notice or a court order (because the agreement you sign says that can happen) but you’ll still owe the store almost all the money. After they’ve auctioned the goods for a trivial amount and deducted that from your balance they’ll add on penalties, interest, debt collection fees and anything else the agreement permits. You can end up owing several times more than the cash price. You can end up losing vast amounts of money as well as your credit rating.

I’m even angrier at the way hire purchase customers are treated when their goods aren’t up to scratch. A colleague of mine recently bought a phone on hire purchase (if she’d told me I would have lent her the money to buy it for cash) and after just a couple of months it went wrong. She returned it to the store but two months later she still hadn’t got it back.

It’s not good enough. She and the rest of us were really angry. The result? We complained and she will be getting a full refund. Meanwhile we bought her a phone for cash.

Like I said, we all have to behave reasonable, tolerantly and kindly. But anger has its place as well and sometimes it gets the job done.

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

Where’s my refund?

On the 9th of September this year I visited a furniture store in Palapye. I wanted to buy a sleeper couch and I found one, it costed P2500 and I bought it cash. The sleeper couch I found in the shop was not in good condition and they promised that they have one in their warehouse and they will deliver it to my house before 1700 hrs in the evening. I said no problem make sure you deliver it because I am going to the cattle post and I want to use it there.

When I come to the shop around 1700, the manager told me that they dont have the sleeper couch in stock, the one they have to the other shops is not in good condition. I demanded the refund and they said they dont have cash they will give me the money on Saturday (10/09/2016). I sent my wife to collect the money they said they still dont have cash she will check on Monday. On Monday the same excuse was given to me until Friday (16/09/2016).

Now I dont know what to do please help me.

We hear this ridiculous excuse all the time. “We don’t have cash”.

Why is this your problem? Why does their lack of planning mean your rights can be ignored?

Section 15 (1) (e) of the Consumer Protection Regulations says that when a deal has been cancelled a supplier must “promptly restore” any deposit or payment that has already been made. Notice the word “promptly”. “Promptly” does not mean endless excuses and a lack of ability to make a plan.

I know that stores don’t like to keep large amounts of cash on the premises because of the security issues, I think we all understand that. But haven’t they heard of banks? They keep cash. Better still, why can’t they just take your bank account details and do an internet banking transfer?

Meanwhile we’ll get in touch with the store and see if we can encourage them to use their brains. Do you think they can find them?

I want my refund too!

I stayed at a Lodge for 2 nights instead of 3 which I indicated before arrival, despite the fact that I had paid in advance. Upon checking out I told the lady at the front desk that I had cancelled my third night and would like a refund. She called her manager who said they don’t have petty cash and since I paid electronically it can only be done at a later stage. They promised to communicate with me but that was the last time I heard from them.

I have made numerous phones calls to the lodge and they refer me to the owner who is based in Gaborone. At one point I was told to write an email to ‘bookings’ then I was told to email someone directly who seems to be the owner.

Despite calls and emails I am always told he will get back to me but he has never responded to my emails or
phone calls as his secretary always says he is not available, as she says all I can do is wait for his response.

Please advise.

What is it with getting refunds these days? At least the management of this lodge have heard of electronic payment mechanisms.

In a way you’re actually quite lucky. Many hotels don’t accept cancellations at the last minute unless they can quickly find another guest to occupy the room you’ve vacated. You can end up paying for a room you didn’t occupy which can be hugely frustrating as well as expensive.

But the facts in your case are different. The lodge promised you a refund and you therefore deserve exactly that. And like the other case this week you deserve it “promptly”.

We’ll get in touch with the lodge and ask them to stop fooling around.

Thursday 22 September 2016

Botswana Gazette - The Northern Ireland Institute of Business and Technology

There’s a story in the Botswana Gazette this week headlined “BAC’s ‘Dr Fake’ wants to silence The Botswana Gazette” that includes references to comments I’ve made in the past regarding the so-called “Northern Ireland institute of Business and Technology British”.

I can obviously make no comments about the person who is threatening action against the Gazette other than he claims to have obtained a qualification from that establishment. I don’t know him or anything about him.

However, I do know this. The “Northern Ireland institute of Business and Technology British” is a ridiculous, insane, bogus educational establishment.


The most important aspect of the NIIBT, in fact the most important aspect of any educational establishment, is their accreditation. NIIBT claim to be accredited by an organisation called the “International Accreditation and Recognition Council” (IARC) but this is not a recognized accreditation body.

They also claim to be a “member” of Open Education Europa, but this isn’t a recognized accreditation body either.

Finally they claim to be an “Associate Member” of the Asian Association of Open Universities but again that’s not an accreditation body.

So no actual accreditation.

Place of business

Then there's the title of the organisation. They’re not British. Not even slightly. Despite implying on their web site that they are a registered UK company (Company number: 1452174), I can find no trace of such a company registered in the UK.

They offer an address, 20 Adelaide St, Belfast, Northern Ireland but that’s nothing more than a virtual office address which you can rent. They’re not actually based there. In fact there are records of many other companies being based at that address.

So they’re not British at all.

In a footer on their web site they say that they are "registered with the Government of British Virgin Islands". That may or not be true because there's no way to search online for BVI companies. But it's further evidence that they're not really "British" and they have nothing whatsoever to do with Northern Ireland.

Their faculty

Any reputable educational establishment will proudly list their staff and their accomplishments. Not NIIBT.

Their "President cum Chairman of Board of Examiners", "Dr. R. Hempfing (Lawyer)., BA(Law)., MBA., PhD., Mgt.FNIIBT British" doesn't appear to exist. He has a photo but other than that I can find no trace of him or his accomplishments.

The same applies to their "Director General", "Prof. Dr. E.C. Now". Again no actual evidence that he exists.

It's the same with their "Advisory Council". They don't seem to exist either.

So what about all their academic staff, the professors, lecturers and researchers?

They don't seem to have any. If they exist, they're secret.


What reputation? They don't have one.

Why not?

Their conduct

They're completely bonkers.

In the past, when I've had the nerve to criticism their reactions have been "strange" to say the least.

They called me "Internet Terrorist Richard Harriman" and accused me of "an ill intention to tarnish the reputation of the institute". They then said they had been forced "to lodge an Interpol police report against you of your wrong doing" and best of all there was this unhinged series of comments:
"Action will be taken against internet terrorist of foul international law."

"FBI and Interpol are alerted on Internet Terrorists: Actions will be taken against internet terrorists soon who foul the international law."


"FBI is watching your uncorrectable behavior. You better watch out!!!"

"To avoid unforeseen serious consequence will come after you"

"Mr. Richard Lim, Senior Manager for International Affairs is alerted on your remark [...] He will use it as evidence to sue you for slander and defamation. You will have to pay for a high price of your silly actions."

Their final email to me included this threat:
"Our claim for damage on slandering and defaming on Northern Ireland Institute of Business and Technology (British) and its agent is going to be USD6 millions. You are urged to treat this matter as serious and removing all slanderous and defamation articles on NIIBT, unlawfully using the NIIBT logo, unlawfully interference of the internal affairs of NIIBT and its agent in your blogs, etc from the internet and wikipedia instantly."
Of course no such legal action ever occurred because nothing I said was incorrect, malicious or not in the public interest. My $6 million is safe (mainly because I don't have it).

The conclusion

This is a bogus establishment that sells bogus qualifications.

Saturday 17 September 2016

Ignorance is good. Sometimes.

Ignorance is good. But only if you know that you’re ignorant. I’m ignorant about lots of things. I’m ignorant, for instance, about hydrogeology. I know what it is, it’s about water and rocks and stuff but I know little more than that so I wouldn’t dare give people advice about sinking boreholes. It would be ridiculous for me to attempt to do such a thing. I also know nothing about horse-racing so don’t ever ask me which horse you should bet on. My advice would be worthless and I wouldn’t dare offer it. I know I’m ignorant about these things.

The danger is when people are ignorant about their ignorance, either when they don’t know that they don’t know something or when they think they know something but they got their “knowledge” from the first web site they visited.

If you want a very good example of internet-based ignorance just google the words “quantum medicine” and you’ll find more than 25 million hits, almost all of which peddle the most monumental amounts of gibberish, nonsense and hogwash. I’m not an expert on quantum physics but I did do a year of undergraduate level physics and while that doesn’t qualify me as an expert it does help me to spot blithering idiocy about the subject. And that’s what almost all of it is. The trouble is that are people doing their best to sell us health products, usually bizarre boxes of electronics that they say will either diagnose disease, balance your energy levels or even treat serious medical conditions like cancer, diabetes and heart disease. These boxes of silliness almost always have the word “quantum” in their title or make some ridiculous claim about how they use quantum physics to perform their miracles. That’s more than ignorance, that’s a clear and present danger to the lives of the ignorant.

Sometimes the practical ignorance we see it startling. In fact, “staggering gullibility” might be a better description of what we see.

Last weekend we received an email from a woman who said:
“Hello i am having a parcel of items in south africa which were sent by my husband from UK but now they are stuck in south Africa at First Flight Couriers because of unreasonable charges. i want you to help locate this people if it is not a fraud.”
You know where this is going already, don’t you? Please tell me you see already? But it’s her husband who’s sent the parcel? Can that be true? I asked her for more details and she replied:
“My Husband is the one who sent me the parcel. the parcel contained an Apple iphone6, a laptop shoes and jewellery. The person who called me said she is Miss sheriff from First flight couriers at O.R Tambo airport.”
So it’s still her husband? I told her I was certain this was a scam and asked her if she had sent any money yet and whether her husband lived in the UK. She said:
“yes my husband is in UK. I Have sent the money about P15000”
I still wasn’t convinced so I very politely asked her if she was really sure it was her husband who’d sent the package, how long he’d been living in the UK and how long they’d been married. That’s when I got a bit more clarity. She responded:
“we havent been married but we have been dating for about a year and half that is to say he is my boyfriend actually”
Now we were getting somewhere. I asked if in fact she’d ever met her husband, sorry boyfriend, in person?
“No we were talking on calls through the phone and whatsapp”
So that sort of boyfriend. The sort of boyfriend she’s never actually met, who exists solely via her cellphone, the sort who only has a cellphone number?

I asked for a few more details about her boyfriend. She told me that
“he is single and has one child but they have divorced with the mother of the child. He said he owns a shopping mall.”
It’s the same old story. Almost always the scammer presents himself as mature and financially stable but often with a child. That all lends credibility to the story. But only a little bit.

It was time to make sure that she really understood the bad news, that she’s been scammed. I told her clearly and also explained that that shipping company name has been used with other scammers before. I told her that there was no parcel, there was no real shipping company, there wasn’t even an actual boyfriend, this whole story, in fact the entire “relationship” had been designed to get that money from her.

Her response was inevitable.
“Oh my God! Really?? what am i going to do with this”
I didn’t know what to say. Her P15,000 had gone, never to be seen again by her for the simple reason that scammers don’t ever offer refunds. They’re criminals with no conscience who prey on the staggeringly gullible, on the people who are ignorant of the ways of wicked people.

This story isn’t unique, you’ve probably heard it before, I know I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve heard it. Luckily most times the victim comes to us first and we can illuminate them with a little knowledge but sadly they sometimes get to us too late and their money has gone already.

That’s why we need to spread the word about ignorance. We need to educate people that ignorance isn’t a bad thing so long as you recognize it, In fact, it’s an opportunity to grow your mind. The mission that we should all undertake is to combat the types of ignorance that threaten us and the people we care about. Isn’t that what caring people do?

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

He sold me an accident wreck!

I bought a second hand car two months ago from someone, it’s a Nissan Bakkie NP200 1.5. The car was advertised in the advertiser and when I met the seller I asked him why he was selling the car but he said he was selling because he needed some money for his business. I also asked him if the car had never been involved in an accident he also said “no”. I ended up buying this car from him and just last week on Friday I sent the car for service to Supreme Nissan in Zeerust and unfortunately they could not service the car because they discovered that it had been involved in a terrible accident so it’s in a mess and they alleged it could stop any time as whoever was fixing it did not do a good job.

Is there anything I can do as I think I have been robbed. I need your advice.

I'm really sorry for your trouble. Unfortunately, the second-hand car market has more than its fair share of crooks, liars and cheats. You seem to have encountered a particularly bad one.

Many times when you buy a second-hand car you’ll see in the sale agreement or on the receipt the word “voetstoots” or maybe “as seen” or “as is”. That a way for the seller of the car to say the buyer accepts the car in exactly the condition it’s in and that no promises are made about the state of the vehicle. I think we all understand that, it’s up to buyers to inspect the car and satisfy themselves before they hand over their money. However, that doesn’t allow the buyer to deceive you. If you asked him whether the car had been in an accident and he lied to you then he’s a lying, cheating crook.

I suggest that you go to the Police and tell them you want to lay a charge of “obtaining by false pretence” against him. You can quote Section 308 of the Penal Code (“Obtaining by false pretence") to the Police if they need advice.

Alternatively, you can lay a charge of cheating, contrary to Section 310 of the Penal Code (“Cheating”).

Either way you need to stress to the Police that he lied to you when he sold you the vehicle and that you need them to understand how seriously you’re taking this. Don’t let this guy get away with it.

Let me know how it goes.

Should I join a Multi-Level Marketing scheme?

Good morning Mr Harriman, I have a full-time job but I am looking for a part-time job and my question to you is about the "recruit and build kind" of businesses like Herbalife, Amway, GDN and so on. Are they worth it and can someone invest their time on them or are they another opportunity to enrich someone? I just want to understand my friend referred me to you and said that u can advise me on such. Thank you and I appreciate your help.

Everyone knows by now that I’m very skeptical about multi-level marketing schemes like Herbalife, Amway and all the others. I simply don’t see how a business model like theirs can make anyone any money, other than the people at the top of the pyramid. But don’t just rely on my skepticism, you should rely on the figures that these companies are required to publish.

In various countries, including the USA, following legal actions by the authorities they publish income statements showing how much their recruits actually make from the business. For example, Herbalife published figures in the USA that covered 2015 and which showed that 90% of all the money earned by Herbalife representatives was earned by the 10% at the top. The remaining 10% of the money had to be distributed between the 90% of people stuck on the lower rungs.

The average annual income of the group at the bottom was a mere $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. It’s safe to assume that their profits were either zero or more likely negative.

It’s the same story with other MLM companies such as Amway. Their figures show the same pattern and there’s no reason to think other MLMs aren’t the same. The only way to make any money from MLMs is to be at the top of the pyramid making money from the suckers lower down who do all the hard work.

Please don’t waste your time.

Saturday 10 September 2016

How to choose a bank

We’re frequently asked by consumers which bank they should choose. Despite the temptation we never recommend a particular bank. That’s not because we don’t have strong opinions on banks (because we certainly do), it’s because it’s not as easy as that. Every customer is different. What works for me might not work of you. What irritates you might not irritate me. The bank that’s right for me might not be the bank that’s right for you.

Some of the reason you might, or might not choose a bank are obvious.

The most obvious one is the products they offer.

All banks offer some sort of basic current account that allows you to receive your income and later spend it. So far, so boring. What’s more interesting is the range of specialist accounts that allow you to save money and earn some interest. They’re the sort of thing you should ask about. Banking isn’t just about being able to slip a card into an ATM and get cash to spend. It’s about saving money as well. But even this is a bit boring. Everyone knows this already.

The big question that a surprisingly small proportion of people consider is what they actually need. The starting point isn’t actually what they offer, it’s what you need, that’s what really matters. It matters most because you’ll likely have to pay for these things.

How many times a month are you going to use the ATM? How many times will you want to go to a branch to pay in cash? Cheques? How many of them do you write and receive? How many transfers will you want to make to other people’s accounts? How many foreign currency transactions are you likely to make?

These are the questions you need to ask yourself and then you need to sit down with the enormously detailed, very long and incredibly boring schedule of bank charges that banks are required to publish every year. Then you open your laptop and start building an enormous spreadsheet that calculates the total cost for every bank you’re considering.

Or not.

Let’s be realistic. None of us has the time to do that. We have lives to lead. We have jobs to go to, kids to feed and TV to watch.

Luckily there’s a simpler option. Even though they don’t often advertise it, most banks these days offer fixed-price banking options. Rather than paying a fee for every individual transaction you pay a single fee per month and then most everyday transactions become free. You can go to the ATM as much as you like and it’s all covered by that one fee. It also makes selecting the bank easier. Don’t bother will all the boring fees, just see who offers the best monthly fee.

Then look at geography. Where does the bank have branches? But does that matter to you in 2016? Do you really need to go to the bank at all? Almost every bank offers technology solutions these days. Internet and cellphone banking have revolutionized the way we store, move and spend our money. These tools mean that we hardly ever need to go to the bank any more unless we’re depositing cash or signing something. The combination of fixed-price banking and techie banking really is a game changer.

Incidentally, here’s a free tip for banks. I’ve told them all this before but maybe you can suggest it as well net time you visit your bank? It’s simple. Banks should pay us not to go into their branches. They should offer rate reductions to customers who never set foot in a branch. That’ll get us all online and reduce queue lengths like magic.

But here are some more practical tests you can use to select a bank.

The first thing you should do is wait until the end of the month and then visit a shopping center full of banks and take a look inside each one of them. How long are the queues? Are the people in the queues moving or standing still? Do the customers look happy? Do the staff look happy?

What does that tell you about the approach the bank adopts to customer service?

The simplest and perhaps the best thing you can do is ask your friends and relatives for a recommendation. What’s their experience with their banks? Have they been treated well? Do they need to queue when they visit? Does the bank help them or hinder them in their lives?

But please ask someone relevant. If you’re a 19-year-old student, then your 85-year-old granny probably isn’t the best source of advice. In the same way, if you’re an 85-year-old granny then maybe your 19-year-old student granddaughter isn’t the best source of advice either. Ask someone who has the same needs as you.

Once you get to the bank, let them do the work. Let them sell their bank and their products to you. Don’t tell them what you want, instead ask them how they can help you. Most of the time you’ll just hear them listing the accounts they have and explaining what each one offers. What you want to hear is something different. The first thing you should hear from them is a series of questions. Are you working? Are you married? Do you have children? How old are they? What are you ambitions?

A sensible employee working for a sensible bank will want to know a bit about you before they suggest which products you might want. They’ll want to custom-build a set of accounts for you and for your unique needs.

And if they don’t adopt this approach, if instead they open the conversation with “Bring in your Omang…” then you know this isn’t the bank for you.

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

Is it a scam?

Richard please help me, I met a guy on a website his name is Edward Max and he said he sent me an iPhone and some other things. The thing is the courier company they sent me email like now saying I should pay the sum of 200USD through western union. I dont know if its a scam. Please help me before I regret sending money to them.

I’m really glad you got in touch before you sent any money because this is certainly a scam. In fact, this is a very common scam that I’m sure many Voice readers will have seen before. A woman, and yes, it’s almost always a woman, meets a guy either on Facebook or through a dating web site and they start a conversation that very rapidly becomes romantic. He always seems charming and has a good job. He sounds like a great catch. The guy soon says he’s in love with her and will sometimes even go as far as proposing marriage.

Then comes the shipment. He’ll say that he’s sending her a package containing all sorts of goodies. There’s always an iPhone but often also a laptop, jewelry, perfumes and even cash. Then the victim gets an email, apparently from the shipping company or even from customs in South Africa saying that because of some breach of customs rules, she has to pay them to “release” the shipment. Given that she thinks the shipment is full of valuables and cash she’s normally happy to send them a relatively small amount of money. It’s usually about P2,000, roughly what they’re asking you to pay. The victim obviously doesn’t think it’s odd that for a shipment from Europe or the USA to Botswana, she has to pay someone in South Africa. She also doesn’t think it odd that a shipping company don’t want the money paid directly into their account but want it sent using Western Union.

But that payment is what this is all about. There is no boyfriend, no shipment full of goodies, no shipping company. The only real thing I the money they are trying to get from her.

The real tragedy, the real crime is that these scammers do more than steal people’s money, they break people’s hearts. Some readers will be unsympathetic and say the victims are gullible but my view is that doesn’t matter. These scammers are emotional rapists. On at least one occasion that I know they are physical rapists as well, but that’s another story.

Just be very careful who meet online.

Must I pay to settle early?

Dear Consumer Watchdog

I have a loan with a microlender and wanted to clear my debt with them this month. My complaint is they are asking me to give them a 3 months notice lest they charge me P9,223 as an early settlement penalty

They are also not paying me anything as insurance refund. Please let me know if this is fair and if there is a way I may find assistance in this matter. Your anticipated cooperation will be highly appreciated.

I suspect this depends greatly on what it says in the loan agreement you signed with the lender. There’s nothing illegal about early settlement penalties but the lender MUST have included a warning about them in the agreement you signed, otherwise they can’t do it. They can’t just make up charges because they feel like doing so.

I suggest that the first thing you should do is find your copy of the loan agreement and see what it says. Micro-lenders are obliged to give you a copy of the agreement when you take out the loan and even if you’ve lost it they should give you a replacement copy without any fuss. Then, whether the agreement mentions the settlement penalty or not, call NBFIRA, the Non-Bank Financial Institutions Regulatory Authority, who oversee the micro-lending industry. Ask them what they think about the fee and the agreement you signed.

You also need to ask about the insurance refund. My experience is that lenders such as banks do normally offer a partial refund of the insurance fees if you’ve paid any portion of them in advance.

Whatever happens with this lender, it’s critically important that you get a full statement of your account both before and after you settle the debt. That will confirm that you owe them nothing more. Please let me know how it goes.

Friday 9 September 2016

Consumer Alert: Monitec Society

Here comes what seems to be another Ponzi scheme.

"Monitec Society" describe themselves like this:
"Monitec Society is a community where people help each other. Monitec Society gives you a technical basic program. This community is international."
You're right. That means precisely nothing. Elsewhere they say that:
"Monitec Society is a union of networkers and an international community a stokfel or a platform of networker who help each other’s through donations"
So they're a clone of MMM Global. A scheme into which you pay in money and later take more money out than you paid in.

Where is this scheme based?
"Our community is based on World Wide Web which makes it easier to connect and help each other."
Are they a registered company? They say:
"NO, it’s a society, stokfel or union of networkers with a common interest. Monitec Society is not a bank, Monitec Society does not collect your MONEY, Monitec Society is not an online business, HYIP, investment or MLM program."
However, the figures they quote about how much money you can earn are all expressed in Rands so is it based in South Africa? No, no such company is registered there. They're telling the truth, this is a scheme that exists just in cyberspace. And not for long. Their domain,, was registered on 13th August 2015 to an address in India.

But what matters most is whether you can make money from the scheme. They certainly suggest you can. Monitor Society offer two "programs and each promise remarkable returns.
"The money you donated to the community member accumulate daily BONUSES, e.g. if you donate R 5000.00 you will earn about 2% percent daily for 65 days or 2.25% daily for 95 day depending on the program you choose:
  • PRGRAM 1 - 2% for 65 Days
  • PRGRAM 2 - 2.25% for 95 Days"
No, they can't spell properly. Assuming that you get the principal amount (the R5,000) back with "PRGRAM 1" you'll walk away with R11,500 and with "PRGRAM 2" R15,688. Those are returns of 230% and 314% respectively.

Either way they're promising you remarkable profits on your contributions. No bank can offer anything like that.

But there's a reason no bank offers such returns.

It's because they're impossible.

Nowhere do Monitec Society explain where the money is coming from and that's because they can't explain it. If they did, people wouldn't hand over their money. That's because it's almost certainly a Ponzi scheme, just like MMM Global and Eurextrade. The money they offer you back comes from new investors and it will continue to do so as long as they can find enough gullible people to keep contributing.

Please don't waste your time and money on Monitec Society, you'll never get either back.

Friday 2 September 2016

Differ and discriminate

I had a meeting last week that delighted me. I’d asked to meet the manager of two people who’d been celebrated for good service and who have now been identified as national service stars at this year’s Consumer Watchdog conference. That’s a first. Never before have we had two of the top service stars coming from the same company. Either this is a very pleasant coincidence or there’s something special about that company. I wanted to know which it was.

I think I now know.

He spent a lot of time explaining how they recruit their staff, train them, measure how well they perform, take action to address problems and how managers are held accountable for the performance of their outlets. But those things, while they’re all very good, are predictable in an organization that’s performing well.

The thing that impressed me was what he told me about his company’s approach. Talking about his company he told me that “we want to be different”. He said he was perfectly happy for all of his competitors to be the same as each other but his company wanted to be unique, different, separate from them. Unashamedly different. That takes a lot of courage.

Image c/o Wikipedia
One of the most famous of all advertising slogans came from Apple’s 1997 “Think different” campaign. Apple had long been known as a maverick, eccentric company but with this campaign they very clearly declared their difference from the norm. Apple and its co-founder, Steve Jobs, were proud to identify themselves as unconventional.

Steve Jobs was a great example of a rule-breaker. He defied assumptions in the technology world and created a brand that differentiated itself from the rest. Apple is now one of the most valuable companies in the world and they achieved that in part by following the advice of that slogan. By unleashing their imagination, by redefining the creative process and by paying obsessive attention to detail they became a market leader. Critics felt they could never win against tech giants like Microsoft but they were quite rapidly proved wrong.

So why can’t you and your company do the same? Why can’t you separate yourself from the “normal” companies and be unconventional?

I’m not suggesting that everyone can be like Apple or Steve Jobs and nor should you perhaps want to. Despite being an astonishing, unique and inspirational character, Steve Jobs was occasionally a ghastly human being. He was unpredictable, rude and unpleasant, none of which are things you or I should ever aspire to be. Despite what some people think, none of these things help a business succeed.

But being different can.

I’m enormously frustrated by some industries where the motivation of most companies seem to be competitive mediocrity. They’re quite content to be no better or worse than their competitors. None of them seem to want to stand out and separate themselves from the rest of the herd. The real frustration is that if one of these companies was prepared to differentiate itself they might be incredibly successful.

I admit that there’s always a risk involved with being different. You might alienate some people. Apple is again a good example of that. Some people just don’t like Apple products. But the ones who do can be fanatically loyal to the brand. Certainly Apple’s current corporate wealth is a good indicator of how successful they’ve become by being different.

It’s not just companies that benefit from being different. You can as well.

Every time we try and recruit a new member of staff we adopt the same approach. We no longer advertise in newspapers, I do it all on Facebook. The message I post is always the same. I explain the nature of the vacancy and then say “Please email us and using fewer than 150 words explain why we should consider employing you.” Every time the experience is the same. About half of the replies are more than 150 words and many of them attach CVs, scanned copies of qualifications, photos of their Omang and driving licence, even sometimes copies of their marriage certificate.

I don’t even read these emails. I’m simply not interested in the them. What I’m looking for are emails that firstly follow the 150-word limit and then ones who stand out from the crowd. I know this might sound pompous but I’m not looking for normal people. I’m looking for people who are abnormal. It doesn’t matter what level they might be, I want people who are different.

Many years ago I learnt a powerful lesson about discrimination. Discrimination isn’t a bad thing. In fact, it can be a good thing. It just depends on the basis for the discrimination. Obviously it’s completely unacceptable to discriminate against people because of their skin colour, religion, gender or sexual orientation but there ARE grounds you can use to discriminate that are acceptable. Talent, experience, resourcefulness and intelligence are all good reasons for recruiting one person and not another.

Discrimination is also good when consumers do it. Again I mean the right sort of discrimination. It’s clearly wrong to avoid companies or stores because of the skin tone of their owners or because of their religion but you really should discriminate between stores because of the quality and prices they offer and also because of the quality of their customer service. That’s all good.

I think life as a consumer would be a lot better if we had more of all of these things. More companies that are willing to be different, more individuals prepared to stand out from the crowd and more consumer discrimination would combine to make our lives a lot better.

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

Must I pay?

I bought a laptop on high purchase and it got stolen from my house as it was broken into while we were away attending a relative's funeral. However I reported the issue to the shop and was asked to submit all the necessary documents from the police as proof of theft. An officer from the store also called in at my house to do assessment for further verification of theft.

I was then asked to wait while the necessary procedures are done hence be given a replacement thereafter; that was in June 2015. Up to now I haven't received any response from the store but rather I recently received a phone call from a debt collector's office that I am owing the shop money and that I am requested to pay such monies or I will face some repossession. I'm asking for your help with regard to this?

One thing you don’t mention is whether you were in arrears at the time the laptop was stolen from your house. If you were in arrears at that time, then the small print in the hire purchase agreement you signed will say that the insurance cover isn’t there any longer. That’s normal. The insurance doesn’t apply if you’ve fallen behind with your payments.

Unfortunately, this would even be true if the laptop was stolen. That’s one of the most horrible aspects of buying things on hire purchase. Even if the items you bought are stolen, damaged or destroyed, you still have to keep making the payments. Worse than that, if the goods are repossessed you’ll still owe the store money. Repossessed items are usually sold for a tiny fraction of the amount you pay for them and that’s deducted from the balance you owe but that will inevitably leave a lot that you still owe. When you add on interest, penalty charges, debt collection fees and all the other charges the store will add you can end up owing a fortune, many times more than the original value of the items you bought. It’s one of the many reasons hire purchase is such a horrible way to buy things.

We’ll get in touch with the store for you and see what they can tell us and if they can help.

Is this a real job?

I have been searching for a job overseas and recently got an email offer from Duke Energy. They offer me $8,500 per month and other benefits but they want me to pay a visa fee. It seems to good to be true, gut feeling, and I will gladly appreciate it if you could help me.

I’m sorry but this is certainly an advance fee scam. There are several clues.

Although Duke Energy is a genuine company based in North Carolina, USA, this is not who you’ve been dealing with.

To begin with, the various email addresses they been using to contact you aren’t what you would expect (, Someone who really worked for Duke Energy would have emailed you from

The quality of language used is often also a good clue. Do you really think a genuine, professional American company would say “We are satisfied working with you and also keen to the interesting answers given to the interview questions that were sent to you for this employment"?

Most importantly, this is not how real companies hire staff. Real companies always insist on a face-to-face interview with anyone they want to employ. International recruitment companies will often use something like Skype initially but there will always be a traditional face-to-face interview. In your case they say they selected you for a high-paid job using no more than an emailed questionnaire? That’s not how things works in real life.

Another fact is that companies looking to hire people always pay for everything. Recruits never pay anything. Never.

I know it sounds tempting (it’s meant to), but the offer they made you is simply unbelievable. They said they’ll offer you $8,500 per month, free accommodation, medical care, family education, airfares, shipping costs, savings investment plan, medical insurance, dental insurance, vision care insurance, life insurance, disability cover, social and recreational facilities and a vehicle. All to someone they had never actually met? I don’t think so.

What they are seeking is the visa fee they demand you pay. That is the “advance fee” that gives the scam its name.