Saturday 8 July 2023

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

Can't they refund me?

Good morning Mr Richard. May you kindly advise me here. I bought a coat (size 36) through laybye at a store at Fields Mall. I collected the coat on the 24th June but I realised it's too big for me when I wear it. On the 30th June I went to ask for exchange at the same shop. When I got there I could not find a smaller size (size 34). The manager called other Gaborone stores but they didn't have the size 34 as well, then I asked them if I can get something else for the same price I bought the coat (P499). They told me the coat is now on special at P349 so I can only get something at P349 not P499 that I paid. While I was still there waiting for the manager to make some enquiries then the story changed that I can't get anything different because it was on laybye so I can only get the same coat but different size. I asked them where am I going to get size 34 because he called other stores they don't have that size. They said in that case there is nothing they can do because exchange of that coat is going to mess up their books so I'm here with the coat that doesn't fit me. Please help.

Hi. This is complicated.

As readers of The Voice will know Section 16 (2) of the Consumer Protection Act says that a consumer can return an item to a store for a replacement, refund or repair but ONLY if the item they bought is either faulty or if it was mis-sold somehow. It's really important to understand that as consumers we don't have a right to demand a replacement or refund (or a repair but that's not relevant here) if the item we bought was in good condition and the store did nothing wrong. If we made a mistake, we pay the price.

Of course some stores might be considerate and allow you to return something but that's just good customer service, not a right we have. It's why we need to be extremely careful before buying something. I think the best solution is to approach the store, be as nice and friendly as possible and see if they can't be a bit more understanding? I'll also contact the owner and see if they're prepared to be a little bit kinder.

Did they abuse her rights?

On the 15th June, my 6 year old niece took sweets from a store in Mochudi while she was with another child. The security noticed and detained her. When her mother was called to the shop, she could not get the child as the manager said she was charging her 5 times the value of the sweets. She had to leave her crying helpless child who was at that time put at the manager's office as she had no money with her. My brother accompanied her to the shop and after a while the child was released after they blatantly refused to be charged over. Also the shop manager at first wanted to call the police but later changed their mind. Also after paying, they were not given the sweets and the receipt which I view as theft.

My complaints are here. The child was traumatised. The store only gave us the receipt on the 29th June after we consulted the Social Work department of the local council. The store manager says it store policy to charge people caught stealing 5 times more but he cannot show it to us written in black and white.

I want to get justice for my niece who cries every time we go to the shop. She wants nothing to do with the shop, manager and security. Please advice how tackle this issue and get justice for my traumatised niece, looking at her age.

Yet another complicated situation. Firstly, I entirely agree that your niece was very badly treated by the store and I can understand how she must be traumatized. However, the store were, I believe, entitled to detain her until a responsible adult was able to attend. I'm not an attorney but I know that the Penal Code says that someone "under the age of eight years is not criminally responsible for any act or omission" but that doesn't mean she can just be let go. You admit that she stole something and that can't be overlooked.

I think both you and the store got a couple of things wrong. You and your niece had no rights to those sweets, she'd earlier tried to steal them. It's not the store that's guilty of theft. And the store has no right to impose a fine on someone who steals things. Only a court can impose a fine.

I think you and your family need to have a serious conversation with your niece. And the store needs to stop thinking they are the Police, social services and the courts combined.

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