One value truly lacking in the world today.
Gone are the days of handshake agreements and giving people your word.
Instead, we require written quotes and detailed summaries to protect ourselves, ensure everything is clear and no confusion exists.
It’s a sad state of affairs for those who are old-school.
Why promise something you cannot deliver?
But that’s the way the world is nowadays, where selfish behaviour is all too common.
So, what must we do and consider in order to protect ourselves before any transaction, agreement, or undertaking?
Do Your Homework
A friend purchased furniture from a long-standing and (what was believed to be) reputable company. When the transaction occurred back in March, staff were all smiles advising delivery should occur within eleven weeks.
Fast forward to now, late June, and well past the expected delivery date. Notification is received that issues have occurred, pushing expected delivery to a now tentative mid-August; effectively double the original estimate.
She wrote an email to the store seeking compensation for their mistake and her inconvenience. It’s only a fair ask, given those items should be in her possession by now.
A salesperson from the store attempted to call her during business hours.
Five times in a row.
On the fifth attempt, whilst in the middle of something at work but sensing it must be urgent, she answered.
The guy was rude and dismissive. Repeatedly, she told him she couldn’t talk as he continued to speak over her saying, “This will only take fifty seconds of your time,” then proceeding to give his counter offer.
Becoming aware of this, I looked up the store’s Google reviews and sure enough, it ain’t the first time this has happened. Recent reviews highlight the same delays and poor post-sale customer service.
Digging a little further, I looked up their head office reviews. The majority one-star, one customer noting he contacted head office after encountering issues with staff. What did they do? Refer his matter back to the store.
Yes, we’re all aware issues can arise and delays can be expected given the current climate. But staff already knew of these extended delays. They’ve been dealing with disgruntled customers for almost a year over this very issue, yet did not advise customers upon purchase that further delays could be expected. That’s dishonest and deceitful.
My friend took her matter further up the chain, her case eventually reaching the area manager. She was able to negotiate:
- A July delivery date; and
- A discount and extended warranty.
You don’t ask, you don’t get.
This experience is more of a pain in the ass than a horror story. You may have encountered far worse. But occurrences like this can be prevented by doing our homework beforehand.
Let’s look at some tips.
Consumer Goods, Services and the Hospitality Industry
Going somewhere? Buying something? Many of us seek guidance and the experiences of fellow consumers through online reviews. However, companies know this and purchase fake reviews for their place, product, or experience to appear favourable over a variety of review websites.
Adrian wrote an excellent piece on how to spot fake reviews when using platforms such as Amazon, Product Review, and Trip Advisor. A lot comes down to common sense, however, things to look out for include:
- Extreme titles and relatively one-sided reviews
- Poorly written (spelling, grammar, and punctuation) reviews
- Reviewers with only one review in total (i.e. the one you’re reading)
Never just glance at a product’s star rating without reading some reviews as many may be fake. Other things I consider:
Circumstances may have changed over time. New management could be in place. There’s a change of menu, new policies and procedures better or worse than previous. A (beauty) product could have a change of formula.
Star ratings reflect the average of all reviews over time, possibly years. What’s to say the product isn’t what it used to be? Sorting by and reading newer reviews may highlight recent changes not made apparent when glancing over reviews and ratings.
Look for relatability between you and the reviewer. When researching experiences (things to do, places to eat/stay), look for reviewers from your country. Take note of their age and sex for a more informed assessment of a review. An eighteen-year-old who’s never experienced five-star may provide a more glowing review than someone older and well-travelled. A reviewer may be there to party vs on a quiet getaway. Look for similar experiences you’re seeking.
Also, your definition of three, four and five stars may differ. I’ve stayed in places overseas that wouldn’t be given their star rating if it were uʍop ɹǝpun. Reading reviews from fellow country folk (who share similar living standards) may give you a more relatable review than someone from a country much different to yours would.
Cross-reference reviews over several platforms. Use sites and channels you trust and regular to get varied opinions. Recognise people may be incentivised to review products favourably without disclosing the details.
Your experience and opinion of something may differ if it were given for free vs you purchasing it with your own money. Could this be the case with that review you’re reading?
The bigger the purchase, the greater the research.
I had a colleague who needed to buy a car, walked into a car yard, and purchased a second-hand vehicle then and there. Sure, he looked it over and took it for a test drive, but that’s about it.
Did anything go wrong?
A vehicle may be one of the most expensive items you own, therefore when purchasing used items requiring registration (car, motorcycle, boat, caravan), diligence is required to ensure you’re not buying a lemon that will cause you grief in the future.
Here are some tips:
Check the history of the vehicle - whether it’s been stolen, in an accident, written off or whether encumbrances are outstanding (i.e. there’s finance tied to the vehicle). Purchasing a vehicle with outstanding debt makes it your responsibility and could result in seizure if unsettled. Regulations may differ in your country so best check what’s applicable to you.
Take the vehicle for a test drive. Not only will it give you a feel for the size and performance, but in a used vehicle may highlight issues requiring attention. Know what to listen to and look for.
Consider a pre-purchase inspection from a qualified agent. If you’re not mechanically minded, it’s well worth it for peace of mind whilst possibly saving you thousands in the long run if looking at the wrong vehicle. You’ll get a comprehensive report outlining the overall condition and issues requiring attention. If issues were highlighted, you can query costs involved for repair and if (in the opinion of the mechanic) the vehicle is worth purchasing.
Always request or provide a receipt in a private sale which both parties sign. As per NSW Fair Trading’s advice when buying a car:
“Remember that the receipt is the only proof that you now own the vehicle. The Roads and Maritime Services certificate of registration shows only the person who takes responsibility for the vehicle, it does not prove ownership.”
Whether seeking finance, where or what to invest in, money matters need to be carefully considered and constantly reviewed. Bank rates always change so if I’m able to get a better deal elsewhere, I will. My loyalty doesn’t lie with a particular bank but to people in my team, in this case, my mortgage broker who I’ve worked with for almost a decade.
Take control, know where your money is going and how it’s performing. Regarding investments, education and knowledge always come first. This is your money we’re talking about. If you don’t know the lingo and processes, what do you actually know?
And remember, if the deal sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
There’s no such thing as easy money.
Know Your Rights
Some accept what they’re given. They might rant on social media or give a negative review, but that’s about it.
If I’m paying for goods or services, I expect to get what I paid for. Many companies are serial offenders who get away with it because people don’t know their rights or don’t bother doing anything about it.
Know your rights as a consumer.
Here, uʍop ɹǝpun we have the Australian Competition & Consumer Commission (ACCC).
Underneath that, each state and territory has its own Department of Fair Trading (consumer affairs).
Habs explains the difference.
Anything consumer-related, contact Fair Trading, and before calling, have an idea of what outcome you’re after. They act as a mediator and providing a free service, can only do so much.
If you’re unsure, seek legal advice.
I had an issue a few years back with my mobile phone plan. I needed to change providers immediately, but the plan was within a month of the two-year contract ending.
It was going to cost me a three-hundred-dollar early termination fee.
At times, it’s difficult to get anywhere with telephone support because they’re following a script or procedures.
I recorded the details of the call, hung up, then called the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman (TIO) and explained my case. On the phone maybe fifteen minutes.
I get an email an hour or so later from the Ombudsman letting me know I’ll be receiving a phone call from (someone higher up) and thanks for using the TIO.
Sure enough, (someone higher up) called, apologised and we negotiated a fairer compromise.
Know your rights, read the fine print and if something doesn’t sound right and you don’t act on the spot, follow it up.
Companies may not pay attention to social media, so your cries go unnoticed.
Bring up the law, however, and you'll get their attention.
Everyone’s trying to make a buck so will use every trick in the book to get your money in their pockets.
Ever bought something online where it was way smaller than you thought it would be?
Do your homework, read the fine print.