Saturday 27 March 2021

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

Won't they change my shoes?

Kindly assist. Almost 2 weeks ago a bought 2 pairs of shoes from a store at Riverwalk. I am between sizes 5 and 6 depending on the cut. I had been allowed to try on the shoes in the store and a 6 was a perfect fit for the other shoe, while the other pair was a bit tight. I thought it was because my feet were a bit swollen at the time and would fit well when the swelling has gone down. I was wrong, it seems they are a small cut. I then went back to the store after a week as I was away on a business trip only to be told I cannot exchange the shoes as I did not have the receipt. I understand that their policy requires I should have a receipt, unfortunately I must have thrown it out.

The shoe has never been worn and still in the box and all I need it to exchange it for a more fitting size. Twice I have been to the store and they are plainly refusing to exchange for me. I have met the supervisor only, who told me he narrated my request to the manager who still insists they cannot help me. I am so frustrated as I really like the shoes and they were a bit expensive at just under P500. Thank you in advance for your assistance and stay blessed.

I know why stores say you can't return something without a receipt. They believe that some customers are lying, cheating crooks who do their best to steal money from stores by trying to return things they didn't actually buy there. But how often does that really happen? I don't believe that it's a common thing. All it does is insult the majority of us who are decent, honest people who just want a fair deal.

My problem is also that it's a bit lazy. Surely stores can see in their computer systems that I came and spent money in their store on a particular product on the date I claimed? Is it really that difficult? Surely their returns policy should talk about "proof of purchase" rather than a receipt?

The good news is that I contacted the MD of the company and he took a look at the situation, made a phone call or two and he told me "Thank you very much for this. We have since contacted the customer and sorted the issue."

There's a lesson for every company, every store, restaurant, supplier of anything. When things go wrong, treat the customer with respect, don't start by assuming they're a crook and do your best to find a solution. It's a shame that it took the MD to fix it but all's well that ends well.

Must I pay for storage?

Hi Mr Harriman I need help. I bought roofing materials last year in the first lockdown. Because of the lockdown restrictions we agreed that they keep the materials for me until I'm in the roofing stage or I started roofing. To my surprise in early February I sent the builders to go fetch materials and I'm now told I have to pay an extra 12k. They are now saying its for storage. it wasn't agreed on coz I could have taken them earlier to avoid the extra charges.

Is this OK or I'm being crooked by the shop manager?

The only thing that matters here is what was agreed in writing. There's a general rule that once an agreement is in writing that writing is all of the agreement. Verbal agreements and unilateral decisions by one party don't matter. One party to an agreement can't just make things up or decide that they want to add something to the agreement without the consent of the other party.

Meanwhile, it is quite common for suppliers to charge you a storage fee and that's probably reasonable. The goods you bought were taking up space in their warehouse and that cost them money. BUT they needed to tell you that first and get you to agree to it. You could have taken an informed decision about whether to take the goods then or later.

I think you should tell them that you never agreed to a storage fee and they can't enforce a charge you didn't agree to. Let's see how they react to a consumer who knows their rights.

Sunday 21 March 2021

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

They damaged the laptop they were trying to repair!

Kindly help me here with advice. My cousin recently bought a laptop from a furniture store in Maun and within the first few weeks, it started having problems with the charging system. She returned it and yesterday they called her to come collect it but now it comes with scratches on its cover. When she ask about them they say, it is because it was transported to the Technician without its box. Is that really a good thing for them to say? Is there anything she can do, like getting an exchange for a new one or refund because now it is stressing her. Your advice would be much appreciated Sir.

Is that really a good thing for them to say? Obviously not.

Is there anything she can do? Yes. She can get angry.

Firstly, the store was obviously required to fix the laptop as it was still under warranty. At least they tried to do that.

However, Section 14 (1) (b) of the Consumer Protection Act says that when a supplier like this one 
"undertakes to perform any services for or on behalf of a consumer, the consumer has a right to … performance of the services in a manner and quality that consumers are reasonably entitled to expect".
I think it's reasonable for a consumer like you and me to expect a repair done under warranty NOT to involve further damaging the product being repaired, don't you?

Their feeble excuse that it was transported without its box is just silly. The should have found another box. They're a furniture store, aren't they? They should be experts in packing. They should be Olympic Gold Medal quality packagers. It's simple unacceptable that they were so careless that they caused new damage to an already faulty laptop.

I suggest that we both contact the store and explain this to them using very simple, short words so that even they can understand that they needed to take some care with your property.

Whether they replace the laptop, fix it or give her a refund is up to them but they need to choose one of those options very quickly.

Where's my couch?

Good day Richard, I need your assistance on this matter. In December we bought an L-shaped couch from a bedding store in North Gate mall. Within 2 weeks the couch started tearing up and we notified them of this in January since we were away for the holidays. They came to collect the couch on February 10th after a whole month of struggling to get them to collect it. They gave us a 2-seater couch for the interim and promised that we will get the same couch that we had initially bought but with a different material. Its been over a month now and we are still waiting. I called again this morning they promised to call back but still no communication from them.

Their response was that they are fighting the supplier over the issue. So we are the ones who are now suffering because of it.

It's not good enough.

The facts are very simple, simple enough even for this store to understand. They sold you something faulty and the Consumer Protection Act says very clearly that in this situation they need either to repair it, replace it or refund you. They were within their rights to repair it I guess but they also have an obligation to do so promptly. Section 14 (1) (a) of the Consumer Protection Act says a supplier like these should offer the "timely performance and completion" of any services they deliver.

And a second point. Who cares what their supplier is doing? Did you buy the couch from this store or their supplier? You bought it from the store and it's THEIR job to respect your rights. They can fight as much as they like with their supplier behind the scenes but it shouldn't be your responsibility or concern.

Again, lets both contact the store and offer them some free education on their obligations. 

Saturday 13 March 2021

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

Where's my borehole?

May you kindly help me by contacting a company. We have paid them in November 2019 a sum exceeding P100,000 for drilling a borehole at our field. They came to do the work in February 2020 and for 3 weeks they were still at our place and could not do anything right. They were not able to give us a finished product ie. a borehole with water due to the fact that they left the rods in the well and all those things. In a nutshell, we didn't get value for our money. So they agreed to come a drill another borehole for us.

Richard, little did we know that 2 years down the line we will still be without a borehole and still chasing a company with all the resources but do not want to fulfil their promise. To cut the long story short the 2 Directors always put us from pillar to post and as of Friday 26th February 2021 they are not picking up our calls. A Director promised that they will come to our place very soon and on probing him as to when exactly, he did not want to commit.

Now from 1st March he is not answering our calls for why? Only he knows. So please can you intervene and tell them that we are losing our patience and we are forced to ask for a refund if they are unable to come to our field/place this weekend?

I think the time has come to get angry. You paid this company an enormous amount of mon
ey to do a job for you that they have failed to do.

Section 14 (1) of the Consumer Protection Act says that when
"a supplier undertakes to perform any services for or on behalf of a consumer, the consumer has a right to … timely performance and completion of those services (and) timely notice of any unavoidable delay". 
It also says that consumers can expect:
"performance of the services in a manner and quality that consumers are reasonably entitled to expect".
Cleary this company has failed all of those tests and needs to face up to their obligations.And what are those obligations? The Act goes further. It says that when a supplier "fails to perform a service to the standards" they are required to:
"remedy any defect in the quality of the services" (or to) "refund the consumer a reasonable portion of the price paid for the services performed and goods supplied, having regard to the extent of the failure". 
So let's do our best to educate this supplier on their obligations to you under the Consumer Protection Act and, perhaps more importantly, because of their moral obligation to offer decent customer service.

Update. Despite giving me blue ticks on WhatsApp, they have chosen not to respond to any of my messages and they're giving me the same treatment they gave you. I think we can assume they don't give a damn about their customers. Do they care about their reputation because if they're not careful they might not have one for much longer. 

Where's my trailer?

I'm need of help. Last Year around March I bought a trailer from a company in South Africa which I paid 40k for so now the problem is due to borders been closed and we didn't manage to courier it. He kept telling me that he already made the trailer. By December we then agreed that if he doesn't courier the trailer he will send the money back. Until today he's unresponsive and no longer taking my calls. I wanted to know the steps I can take to reach him.

How many times must this be said? The last year has been very difficult for us all and many suppliers have had an extremely hard time. They've faced border restrictions, transport issues and staffing problems. Our South African cousins have faced lockdowns just as we have. It's no surprise that suppliers like this one have experienced problems satisfying their customers. We all understand that.

But that's no excuse for being useless. This company has made repeated promises that they have failed to keep and they still have a large amount of your money. It's time to start demanding that they do the decent thing. They can either deliver the trailer or they can send you back your money in full. We should both contact them and insist that they do the right thing immediately. That's if they want to continue having customers in Botswana.

Saturday 6 March 2021

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

Can I be cleared?

I would like to enquire if you can assist me to get ITC clearance, after settling full payment of the account.

I have fully paid a furniture store account on December 2020, which was handed to some debt collectors. Still to date I find my name listed under ITC. I trying to seek help from the debt collectors, there's no assistance. What do I do?

The most important thing you can do is to keep talking.

Credit reference bureaux like TransUnion and the others make money by holding records of customers and their debts that they can share with other potential lenders. Lenders like banks, micro-lenders and furniture stores pay these bureaux to record and then share our data so they can all lend money more carefully.

Are they allowed to do this? Yes, 100% they are. They can do this because we said they can. Hidden in our loan agreements, hire purchase contracts or credit agreements is a clause saying that if we fail to pay our instalments then they can register this with these credit reference companies. If you don't believe me then go and check your contracts right now. It's true.

The good news for the future is that the new Data Protection Act will force these companies to be much more open about this and will force them to allow us to see what the hold on us. However, despite being a very powerful piece of law, it's still not enforceable (Government, what are you doing about this?).

Another bit of good news is that credit reference bureaux do a good job for the majority of people who pay their debts carefully and without problems. They make it easier for these people to get loans because lenders can see who is most likely to be an easy, uncomplicated, profitable customer. They also allow lenders to keep interest rates a little lower by avoiding bad debtors.

In your case there seems to have been a mistake. If it's true that you have paid off your debt then the furniture store needs to update your records and call off their debt collectors. Today.

And for those of us who DO owe money to debt collectors? The lesson is simple. Talk to them. If you owe money to someone the very worst thing you can do is try to avoid it. Talk to them and you might be surprised how reasonable they might be. Most lenders would rather get something back instead of nothing. They'd rather get their money slowly rather than never at all.

How can I spot a scam?

(Several people asked me to post this warning again.)

There aren't many pyramid and Ponzi schemes active right now but you can be sure they'll be here very soon, doing their best to recruit people by promising them vast profits. A few months ago Crowd1 was busy, despite being declared illegal in various countries around the world. You might also remember people desperately trying to recruit others into a "WhatsApp gifting" scam that promised to multiply the money people paid to join. Both were just scams that relied on gullible victims joining and then recruiting multiple levels of victims beneath them.

Here's a simple recommendation. Whenever someone invites you to join their money-making scheme, ask yourself WHY they're inviting you. If they've found a way of making money, why are they sharing it with you instead of keeping it to themselves? The answer is very simple. Anyone inviting you to join their scheme is trying to make money FROM you, not WITH you.

Another clue is products. Real businesses have products and services. Scams don't. Or if they do, or they only pretend to have them, but they don't really matter. They are primarily interested in recruiting other people and then getting them to recruit even more. You'll often hear the promoters of these schemes defend themselves by insisting their scheme isn't a pyramid scheme because there are products. Others will say it's legitimate because anyone can earn more than the people above them in the pyramid. That's all excuses. What matters most is the word "primarily". Section 9 of the Consumer Protection Act says that if "participants in the scheme receive compensation derived primarily from their respective recruitment of other persons as participants" then it's a pyramid scheme. It's not difficult.

Then there's the Bitcoin angle. As I've said before, Bitcoin is a legitimate but very high-risk cryptocurrency that is a fascinating vision of how money might work in the future. However, it must never be seen as an investment and it's surrounded by a huge number of scams, pyramid schemes and Ponzi schemes. A good example was BitClub Network, whose founders are being prosecuted in the USA for running a scam that stole $722 million from victims around the world. That actually had no connection to Bitcoin at all, it was just an enormous Ponzi scheme and there were plenty of victims in Botswana.

The simplest lesson is to be skeptical. Don't believe anyone who claims you can make large amounts of money with little effort or just by recruiting other people. Anyone who claims this is either lying, deluded, na├»ve or desperate. Don't believe it!