Here’s a consumer tip which will save you a lot of money, and hassles: get into the habit of making sure that your interactions with companies are well documented.
In other words, important bits of information relating to purchases and contracts must be recorded, either in writing, by way of photograph, or voice recorded – or all three.
The advent of smart cellphone technology has made documentation incredibly easy.
If a salesman makes you a promise, especially one that sounds a bit too good to be true, whip out your cellphone, hit whatever your record application is called, and ask him or her to repeat it.
If they refuse, walk away from the deal.
If you sign an agreement to buy something, say a sofa, based on a sample you’ve seen on a showroom floor or at a retail show, take a photo of the item so that if what you get weeks or months down the line doesn’t resemble it, you’ve got proof.
If you arrive at the holiday accommodation you booked online and it doesn’t look anything like the photos on the website, take your own photos as evidence.
Getting back to salespeople, the incentive of a commission leads some to be somewhat economical with the truth in their sales pitches.
That, coupled with the fact that most consumers don’t read the fine print of contracts before putting their signatures to them, is a recipe for disaster.
Because in the absence of any proof of what a salesperson promised – such as “if you don’t like it you can cancel for a full refund” – only what’s written in the contract counts, legally, as people quickly realise when they try to claim what was promised.
Which brings me to Joel Napo Mokoetle’s recent experience in Makro’s Germiston store.
He spotted a Samsung fridge while browsing in the store, and, while checking it out, he was approached by a saleswoman, who told him he’d be better off buying another model of Samsung fridge/freezer with a “mini bar”, which was on promotion.
“I told her I’m not interested in having a fridge because it’s on special; I want a fridge that meets my requirements irrespective of whether it’s on special or not,” he told me.
That’s when a colleague joined the saleswoman, adding a deal sweetener – the “special” fridge also came with a free bar fridge, he said.
That convinced Mokoetle and his wife to buy that “special” fridge, having first asked that they be shown the free bar fridge.
The couple paid extra for delivery of the fridges to their nearby home, and an extended warranty.
The delivery didn’t happen on the promised day, which annoyed Mokoetle, who’d taken time off work in anticipation, and when the fridge was delivered, a day later than agreed, there was no sign of the free bar fridge.
When he queried this with the saleswoman, she claimed the offer was a mistake.
On checking his paperwork relating to the fridge purchase, there was no mention of the bar fridge.
“What infuriates me is that my wife and I decided to buy that particular fridge based on the misinformation provided by Makro’s sales people.
“How do I go about ensuring I receive what was promised?”
I took up the case with Makro’s head office, suggesting that in the absence of any proof of the bar fridge offer, security camera footage may show the salespeople pointing out a bar fridge to the couple, which would back up their story.
A Makro spokesman got back to me to say that the company had run a “similar promotion” where customers got a bar fridge with the purchase of a regular fridge.
“This promotion had ended and an honest error was made by the salesman when he committed to giving the customer a bar fridge with their purchase,” she said.
As a “gesture of goodwill”, Makro will honour the deal and give the Mokoetles that bar fridge.
So remember, if you’re made a tantalising offer, make sure that there is a written record of it before signing the deal and making payment.
In this case, the free bar fridge should have been noted on the invoice.
And I do so like the idea of consumers whipping out their cellphones when salespeople make grand promises, hitting record and asking them to repeat that “for quality purposes”.