Johannesburg - Back in the early 1990s, a friend of mine, who was living in Italy, paid a street hawker a bargain price for a video camera in a sealed box, only to discover that he’d bought a piece of wood in the shape of a video camera.
The internet has made things a whole lot easier for electronics shysters.
Many, as I’ve been warning in this column of late, simply place online adverts pretending to have “bargain” cameras or tablets for sale, issuing professional-looking invoices to those who respond, then, when the money has been paid by the victim, claim that further amounts need to be paid for tax and other made-up costs until the victim realises they’ve been had.
Here’s a new one to watch out for, as widely reported in the UK media in the past week.
Young father Peter Clatworthy paid £450 (R7 614) for a limited-edition XBox One he saw advertised on eBay, plus £8 for postage, but what he got was just a photo of the console.
The advert had sneakily included the word “photo”, as in: “XBox One Fifa Day One Edition, Photo Brand New UK 2012”, and included an image of the console.
The scam artist went as far as writing “Thank you for your purchase” on the back of the photo.
eBay has since banned the seller and ensured that Clatworthy was refunded, but it seemed he’d missed his chance of getting the sought-after console for his son in time for Christmas.
Enter electronics company CeX, which has since donated an XBox One to Clatworthy.
“This shows there are some nice, kind people out there and it’s really overwhelming,” Clatworthy said. “I can’t thank them enough.”
A CeX spokesperson told the Nottingham Post: “As soon as any new technology comes out that is hard to get hold of, you are bound to get a scam.
“Many people are looking to take advantage of people shopping online and trying to get something for Christmas in a hurry.”
A well-timed warning, that.
But this being a time when we South Africans are focusing on kindness and compassion, the story got me thinking about some of the “nice, kind people” who have responded to some of the heartbreaking consumer stories I’ve reported on.
There was the high-profile PRO who, on reading about the man who was forced to cash in his insurance policy to pay a tow-truck company which wouldn’t release his car until he paid them an extortionate towing and storage fee, paid him the full amount, allowing his policy to be reinstated.
She chose to remain anonymous.
When a Durban family was conned by a rogue pool contractor who’d taken their money and left them with a dangerous hole in the ground, a swimming pool company, landscaper and tiling company banded together to create a magnificent pool area for them.
Remember Brett Archibald, the South African who in April fell off a tour boat off Indonesia during a bout of seasickness? It was in the wee hours and unbeknown to his nine mates – and he ended up treading water for 27 hours before being rescued by an Australian charter boat.
Archibald’s wife and his mate on board, who co-ordinated the rescue efforts from the tour boat, and later Archibald himself, after his rescue, ran up massive cellphone bills during that emotional time, all of which were written off by the respective cellphone networks.
When a couple was scammed by a security system installer who failed to deliver anything, a systems supplier and an installer banded together to give them a system far superior to the one the con artist quoted them for – at no charge.
And a few months ago, when a nurse mistakenly gave a stranger R5 000 by keying in the wrong bank account number at an ATM, and the stranger refused to refund it, a woman came forward and offered to give her R5 000, and an attorney offered her help, free of charge, in getting justice.
In the end, she got her money back after her bank’s intervention.
Thank you, all, for your kindness. - The Star