Saturday, 15 October 2016

What we learned at school

It only seems a few days ago that we closed the 2016 Consumer Watchdog Conference. All of us are still slightly high on the adrenaline that was pumping throughout the event and certainly my sense of time has gone a little screwy.

So many people deserve thanks for helping us to get it working but rather than list them all here you can see everything about them as well as photos in our Facebook group. Instead I think it’s worth revisiting some of the messages that were sent at the conference.

The conference was opened by the Honorable Minister of Basic Education, Dr Unity Dow. When you think about it, who else could open a conference calling itself “Back to School”? Her remarks were remarkably appropriate. Education is obviously about what goes on in schools but it’s also about a lifetime’s journey of personal development. As adults it’s just as important that we learn new things that will help us life happy, prosperous, healthy lives. Education isn’t just for kids, it’s for everyone.

Dr Patrick Benon, the CEO of Orange, the primary sponsor of the conference, spoke to the conference about the importance of technology in education. In a world rapidly approaching “the internet of things”, where more and more devices are going to be connected to the internet and therefore to each other, it’s important that as consumers we know what’s going on. The future offers us wonderful new technological facilities but it can also be used to cheat and harm us. The only way to get just the good things is to be educated about how this new world works.

Another lesson cam from Bilkiss Moorad, CEO of Botswana Life Insurance Ltd. Anyone who knows Bilkiss will know that she’s not a typical leader. Far from it. There are many words that spring to mind. Eccentric. Disruptive. Energizing. Different.

All of these are good things. As a business leader you really should ask yourself this. Do you want to be normal? Or do you want to be different? Do you want to compete head-to-head with your competitors or do you want to stand apart from them? Both are acceptable options but most of us yearn for companies that are brave enough to be different.

TK Tekane, MD of Botswana Savings Bank is another eccentric leader. His sheer drive and willingness to adopt and embrace change is wonderful to watch. His commitment to putting service and relationships at the core of a business is also remarkably admirable.

Then a hero of mine spoke. Someone who is prepared “to stand up and be counted” when it matters, even when the matter might not please everyone. Uyapo Ndadi needs little introduction. He’s a lawyer with a drive to campaign, lobby, bother and persuade those in power and “to stand up for the little guy”. His talk, that I’d asked him to limit to 20 minutes, ended up as an hour-long free legal clinic.

And then came Adam Jones, publisher of Wealth magazine. Adam is one of the country’s natural motivational speakers although I suspect he’d hate being called that. So many so-called motivational speakers have never actually run a business themselves, they just pontificate about doing so. Adam is an example of Marshall Mcluhan’s observation that “the medium is the message”. Wealth magazine offers vast amounts of advice and guidance on being successful but is also itself an example of that success.

Then a force of nature was unleashed. Anyone who knows Percy Raditladi will know at least some of his history, having created YaronaFM, managed G4S here in Botswana and later in Nigeria and being a serial entrepreneur. His willingness to take risks and, most importantly, to learn from every mistake he makes is an example to us all. Calculated risk-taking and conscientious learning can help you achieve almost anything. Percy is a perfect example of that.

He’s also the first person I’ve ever heard beginning to describe how he came up with a new business idea with the words “As I was lying in a hospital bed, recovering from being stabbed…”

Percy was followed by another example of how so many people are wrong about Botswana. Those pessimists who say we have no business-spirit in Botswana need to meet my former colleague, friend and hero, Nkata Seleka of Sleek Foods. Nkata is a perfect example of the fact that you are never too late to learn new things. Abandoning a career in IT, she started a food production company that now produces a range of relishes and sauces, here in Botswana, that you can find on the shelves of Spar, Choppies and Sefcash. Her story isn’t just about being a local food producer, or a lifelong learner, it’s about excellence. Her products are fantastic. Go out and buy some today. Just leave some of the Hot Tomato relish for me, OK?

We finished the first day of the conference with a regular speaker. The unique Kabelo Binns from Hotwire was on stage again. You only have to spend a little time with Kabelo to relaise you’re with someone who isn’t just happy to be different, he embraces it, it’s part of his personal and corporate brand. Energy, passion, drive, commitment and excellence were there as he spoke, living his brand.

And this was just the first day. Another day of workshops followed.

What we tried to do at the conference was to prove that all the skills, expertise and resources we need to offer the very best customer service in the world are already here in Botswana. That’s why we don’t import speakers from across borders. We’re trying to make a point. We have the experts already. We have the passion already. We have the skills already.

So let’s just use them!

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

Is the Gemini app a scam?

Could you please find me more information about Gemini App which I found in the website claiming to be turning people into millionaires instantly.... is it genuine or it's just another scam?

Thank You.

From what I can establish, Gemini is a piece of software that its producers say will trade online for you. Their promotional video makes a range of remarkable claims, including that it is “no loss trading software”, that you can use it “without a single losing trade”, that “it trades 100% by itself” and that “zero experience is required” in order to use it.

First things first. Online trading is a very good way to lose lots of money very quickly indeed. Whether it’s stocks and shares or the foreign currency markets, your money can grow but it can also shrink. Remarkably quickly.

Another thing about the markets that these people will neglect to tell you is who you are competing against. Yes, it IS a competition, particularly in the forex market. Do you really think you can beat the world-class experts that are employed by banks and investment companies? These companies seek out mathematical geniuses from universities around the world to help them develop the algorithms that their supercomputers then use to trade on their behalf. I don’t mean to be insulting but what makes you think you or I can beat these experts at their game?

You also have to ask yourself why the people behind an online trading scheme would want to share it with total stranger like us? If this scheme really is a “no loss trading software”, why aren’t they keeping it to themselves? What possible benefit is there to these guys from including us in their scheme? It’s obvious really. What they want is your money. They make money from you “investing” your hard-earned savings in their scheme.

That’s the lesson you should ask every time someone suggests you join a scheme like this one. Why would they want to share their secret with you? How do they benefit? Until you get a good answer to that question you should keep your money safely where it is right now.

Are online directories worth the money?

I would like to ask you about Yellow Business Directory, this is a company that is based in South Africa and they are getting Botswana Companies to advertise with them, My question and concern is that I am sure that they do not have a resident company within Botswana and they are raising their invoices in BWP Currency, when I asked the lady in the mail as she phoned me to ask if we will be advertising with them about the matter she dropped the phone.

I then called back and asked her about the matter again and she told me that they invoice in Pula because it our currency.

The reason why I send you this is because I am not sure how legal this is, maybe something to look into.

We’ve had many complaints over the years about companies running online directory services and they’ve been a very dubious group. Others have had very shady business practices, offering to “update” entries in their database, only to send over an invoice like yours claiming that the original “update” was a binding contract.

However, I’m not sure anything here is illegal but I wonder whether it makes any sense. The invoice from them that you sent was for a staggering P6,995 for a year in their online directory. How can they possibly justify that amount of money? The company you mention do actually have an online directory but I can’t see that it offers any business any real benefit, certainly not for the amount they charge. You’d be better off spending that money on getting a web developer to design you a nice web site and then people can find you on Google.

In your case (this guy runs a hotel) you certainly don’t need this company’s services. Keep working your reviews on Tripadvisor!

Sunday, 9 October 2016

Back to School!

On Tuesday and Wednesday of last week we held our annual Consumer Watchdog conference at the GICC in Gaborone. We had a range of speakers and workshop leaders who all had something important to say. The theme was “Back to School” and education underpinned everything that happened at the conference.

Hon. Minister of Education, Dr Unity Dow
For instance, we had speakers who spoke about the power of learning from mistakes. There’s a great quote from Steve jobs, the co-founder and mildly insane visionary from Apple. Discussing the approach he planned following his reappointment as head of the company he said “Some mistakes will be made along the way. That's good 'cos at least some decisions are being made along the way. And we'll find the mistakes. We'll fix them.”

Percy Raditladi
That’s ambitious but it’s more than just about taking decisions. I genuinely believe that we learn more from our failures than we do from our successes. One of the reasons is that, let’s face it, most of our successes are accidental whereas our failures are due to ignorance or inexperience. With luck and hard work both ignorance and inexperience can be remedied but accidental victories teach you nothing.

Other speakers spoke about the fact that it’s never too late in life to learn new skills. It doesn’t matter how old you are or what your professional background might be, there are always opportunities to develop news skills or improve old ones. I’ve met various people over the years who’ve done this. After decades working in one industry they have completely abandoned it and gone their own way, usually influenced by a hobby or passion that drew them away.

Nkata Seleka, Sleek Foods
Another topic that came up was the importance of technology in education. This is perhaps the biggest possible change in the way people, not just children, can learn and develop. Those of us old enough to remember the days before the widespread use of computers and the development of cellphones remember how difficult it was to get access to learning materials. Printed materials were expensive, heavy, cumbersome and easy damaged. Libraries weren’t always nearby and even when you got to the library there was no guarantee that the book you wanted would be there and not taken out by someone else ahead of you.

Dr Patrick Benon, Orange
Things have changed. It hasn’t reached everyone yet but fairly soon, even here in Botswana, education will be going electronic. My iPad has the capacity to hold an entire library’s stock of books. And if I lose the iPad or it breaks? I connect the replacement to my laptop or to the internet and the library automatically reappears. They also appear on every other computer or phone registered to my account. Yes, you might argue that iPads are expensive and you’d be correct, but given that the books I’ve bought have often been only half or a third of the price of their printed equivalents, the price of the device is effectively a lot cheaper.

TK Tekane, Botswana Savings Bank
This new way of distributing educational materials is going to be transformative. No longer will containers full of books need to be shipped by road, sea or air around the world when they just need to be loaded onto a server somewhere for download.

This is also going to have an effect on the way in which children are taught in schools. We simply won’t need the old approach of a teacher lecturing her students on facts, dates and figures. Instead, teachers are going to need to become guides who teach their learners HOW to learn and how to critically consider the material out there.

Bobby Tlhabiwe, Engen
The sad truth is that we’re in desperate need of education. So many of our friends, relatives and neighbours are falling victim to a range of scams and schemes that deprive them of money and often their feelings and the primary reason they fall for them is naivete. They’re not all stupid people, but they’re catastrophically gullible. They fail to question the things that are said to them and believe it when their “boyfriend” from Facebook says he’s sending her a shipment full goodies. They genuinely believe the person who calls claiming to be from the shipping agent saying she has to pay to release the package. They’re so convinced that the package and the laptop, iPhone, jewelry and cash it contains exists that they cough up the money.

Adam Jones, Wealth magazine
That’s one of the reasons we held a workshop at the conference on critical thinking and how it can protect people from abuse. It wasn’t just about scams, it also covered Ponzi schemes like Eurextrade and MMM Global, pyramid schemes like WorldVentures and multi-level marketing schemes. The best protection against all of these threats is education.

But who’s best placed to offer this education? No, it’s not the Ministry of Education. While it’s their job to include critical thinking and consumer rights in the curriculum that doesn’t help those of us who left school decades ago. I think that’s where business should take the lead. Who better to teach us about managing money than the experts. I think banks, insurance companies and legitimate micro-lenders should be getting off their rear ends and teaching their customers and the public in general on how money works. And how it doesn’t work.

Uyapo Ndadi, Ndadi Law Firm
The good news is that every one of the speakers at the conference understands this. Everyone one of them is not only a business leader but also a teacher. They teach their staff how to do things, not in classrooms or by sending them on horribly expensive training in far-flung places, but by example. Here’s a free lesson for business leaders who aren’t like the friends who spoke at the conference. You can’t expect your staff to work any harder than you do.

Bilkiss Moorad, Botswana Life Insurance Ltd
Her shoes
What was the best thing about the conference? The atmosphere. We didn’t just teach people we entertained them. There was music, dance, art and (this certainly isn’t a common thing at conferences) fun.

Join our Facebook group and I’ll show you proof of this.

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

Is Helping Hands International for real?

I’ve seen lots of adverts for Helping Hands International on Facebook. They say you get a free laptop or ipad, brand news cars and a house. Is this true?

What do you think? The advertisement from Helping Hands International does indeed make the claim that you can “benefit from” a “Free Laptop or ipad”, “Brand New Cars”, “Interest free Loan without collateral”, “Free International Trips” and a “House of your Own”.

What do they say you need to do to obtain all these things? Despite my best efforts, I can’t find any clue about how any of these things can be achieved.

Do they have any products to sell?

Multi-Level Marketing companies like Amway sell household products and Herbalife sell “health” products (although it’s cheaper and healthier just to buy yourself some fresh fruit) but with Helping Hands International there’s nothing. They sell nothing but illusions of wealth and prosperity.

In fact, their advertisement says there is “no selling of products, no monthly targets, no rejection, no failure and no experience is needed”.

Helping Hands International isn’t a Multi-Level Marketing scheme like Amway or Herbalife. It has no products and the business model is entirely based on recruiting people beneath you and them recruiting people beneath them with the promise of money magically flowing up the pyramid in your direction. That’s not multi-level marketing, that’s a pyramid scheme.

Another problem with them is that they’re liars. Their advertisement claims that they are “in partnership with Bill Gate Foundation, Hyundia Motors, Apple Corporation, HP”. Those are their spelling mistakes, not mine. They can’t even spell the names of the companies they claim support them. Which, of course, they don’t. There are no such partnerships.

So in summary, they’re a lying pyramid scheme that can’t type properly. Do you think you’ll make money from them? If you still do, please send the money you’d contribute to me instead. I won’t lie to you, I’ll spending on myself.

Where’s my roof?

I approached a local company for supply and roofing of my house, we agreed verbally for a deal worth P150,000 which I paid beforehand for the entire roofing including labour and they promised a time frame of two weeks at the most. Its been two and half months and my house is partly and improperly roofed. I'm always on their back demanding answers about the delay but they are beating around the bush. They have and are still delaying my project costing me extra expenses like rent because I would be staying in my house in two weeks wasn't it for their lies. Everything in on hold at my site since I cannot do anything till the roofing is all done and they dodging my calls now and send one or two guys to the site once in a week.

Thanks, please help.

You’ve got various options here. It depends how nice or nasty you want to be.

If you feel like being nice, I think you should write them a polite letter explaining your objections to their conduct and lack of performance, giving them fourteen days either to remedy the situation or to compensate you for their failure to deliver what you had agreed with them. Explain in the letter that you also need them to pay for any costs that the delay has caused you such as the rent you mention. Conclude your letter by saying that if they fail to do these things you will immediately, without any further notice, take legal action against them.

If you feel like being nastier then get yourself over to your nearest police station and insist on laying a charge against the company for “obtaining by false pretence”, contrary to Section 308 of The Penal Code or of “cheating”, contrary to Section 310. Either way you should insist that this is a criminal matter (not a civil one) and you need the Police to investigate. Get the cops to make the phone call while you wait.

Or we could just call him for you and explain what’s about to happen? I’m not sure whether that’s nice or nasty. Here’s a better idea. Let’s do all three!

Sunday, 2 October 2016

Are we independent?

Like everyone else I can’t help thinking about independence. Today, more than any other day, I can’t get this out of my head.

I don’t just mean the history of our country, we all know about that, I mean about just how independent we really are, both as a nation and as consumers. Are we truly independent?

In many respects we are. One of the things that first struck me when I started looking at the various laws that protect us as consumers was how well protected we are. The Consumer Protection Act and Regulations offer us a wide range of weapons to defend ourselves. When supporting consumers, we probably mention one or more of the Regulations at least every day.

The Control of Goods Act and then the subsequent, and horribly named, Control of Goods Act (Marking of Goods) Regulations were remarkably useful. It’s those Regulations that say that when goods are offered for sale on credit or any form of “deferred payment” that any advertisement must disclose “the total amount to be paid”. When we started Consumer Watchdog all those years ago this rule was ignored by ALL the stores. All of them. All they mentioned was the value of the instalments you had to make and how many months the torture would last for.

We contacted all of the stores and explained this to them. To be fair, some of them were very apologetic and promised to fix it as soon as possible and they did actually do so. A few were a little more reluctant. One country manager even excused his company by saying that they “abide by South African law”.

Well that’s nice. Honestly, it’s very nice when South African companies abide by South African law. But only when they’re in South Africa. In Botswana we abide by the laws of Botswana. That company seemed to think we were a South African dependency, maybe the tenth province. They didn’t think we were independent. They soon corrected their perception when we started announcing which companies chose to recognize our independence. And those that didn’t.

It’s a similar situation with prices. We’ve had so many people contact us over the last few years complaining about the common one-to-one Rand-Pula pricing practice. So many South African chains sell products in Botswana for the same number of currency units as they do in SA. Something sold in SA for R50 is sold for P50 here. Given that the Rand:Pula exchange rate is currently about 1.3, a R50 item should sell in Botswana for about P38.

In fact, this was such an issue that in December last year, the Ministry of Trade and Industry had a justifiable tantrum and told South African companies to stop it. They said that it was an “unfair trade practice whereby the Pula/ Rand exchange rate differential is not passed onto the consumer. Therefore businesses that are practicing this are advised to stop forthwith and failure to do so may result in their trade licenses being reviewed, which may lead to their suspension or cancellation”. They advised the public “not to accept paying for merchandise that is priced in the Rand or any foreign currency other than the Pula.”

A few months later that message was reiterated by none other than the President himself. From the highest level, the message is clear. We are an independent, sovereign nation that has its own rules and standards. We are not dependent on the charity of other nations and we do not deserve to be abused.

From another perspective we’re not even slightly independent. Whether the people who oppose globalization like it or not, we live in an enormously connected world. When I add an appointment to the calendar app on my phone it automatically wirelessly syncs with the calendar on my laptop. This is all done on a computer server somewhere in the world and I genuinely don’t know where that server might be. But I know it’s not in Botswana. My everyday life is reliant on the so-called cloud computing model that is a great example of how life is now global. The same goes for the Gmail, Yahoo or Hotmail email address you use, your email is stored somewhere far, far away, not in Botswana.

But this international dependency is the nature of existing in the 21st century and my personal view is that it’s a wonderful thing. It offers us tools that are genuinely useful.

We’re also obviously dependent on the rest of the world for almost all the food we eat, the beer we consume to excess and even some of the specialist professional skills we need.

But we’re not entirely dependent. At the Consumer Watchdog Conference at the GICC in Gaborone in just a few days time, we’ll have a range of speakers and specialists running in-depth workshops and every one of them is living and working in Botswana right now, today. Not one of them is flying in to Botswana to deliver their speech or their skills and that’s deliberate. One of the things we’re trying to achieve at the conference is to show that even though we live in an interconnected, globalized world, we already have all the necessary skills in Botswana to deliver the very best customer service.

I think the challenge we face is to combine the welcome dependency we have on the globalized world and our righteous desire to be treated as an independent nation. The good news is the people who’ve spoken at our conference over the last few years and the speakers this year are proof, if you need it, that in Botswana we have business leaders and thinkers who can easily face that challenge and overcome it.

So what about you? Are you prepared to defend our independence?

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

Are 4 Corners Alliance legit?

Have you heard of four corners. I understand one can make half million dollars in six months from just $18. Is this possible?

I first heard about 4 Corners Alliance last year. I was suspicious then and nothing has made me change my mind since.

4 Corners Alliance say that their scheme provides "a cutting edge financial education series, arming you with the groundbreaking knowledge you need to reach long term financial security". Sounds good, but a little vague, don’t you think? But I suspect they don’t want you to think too much about that. Instead they want you to think about money.

Their web site says that “you can make $500,000+ in 6 months”. They explain that all you need to do is “1. Join Four Corners Alliance Group for only a one-time payment of $18. 2. Invite 4 friends. 3. Help them refer 4 people. 4. They duplicate process 6 times. 5. You Earn $559,824.”

Doesn’t that sound exactly like a pyramid scheme to you? But perhaps I’m being prejudiced. Maybe there are products at the heart of this scheme? They say that “The products that 4 corners sell is a set of Financial Education Literacy which is downloadable in your back office. This is an automated system, it will sell the products for you once you invite 4 people. All you have to do is sit back and relax.”

As well as being terrible English, that sounds a bit too good to be true to me. Above all there’s the claim that you can miraculously convert $18 to more than $500,000 in just six months. Where do you think that money might come from? How on earth is that possible?

Here’s a simple truth. No scheme can make that sort of money. It’s a lie. 4 Corners Alliance is nothing more than a pyramid scheme. I urge you not to waste your time, effort and money.

My fridge doesn’t work!

I bought a Samsung 660L fridge in 2010 and the warranty was for a period of 5 years, between 2010 and 2015. Throughout the period of the warranty the fridge consistently had a problem. The freezer has always worked just fine but the other side is defective, it does not cool. On several occasions the fridge has been taken for repairs, it would be ok for a few months and present the same problem again. It is now out of the warranty and has presented the same problem making it unfit to use.

Kindly assist.

I suspect you might be out of luck. As you seem to recognize, the warranty has now expired and technically you are therefore not entitled to free support from the supplier of the fridge. I know this isn’t very comforting but what you should have done is to formally reject the fridge during the warranty period as not being “of merchantable quality” as required by Section 13 (1) (a) of the Consumer Protection Regulations. What, you might ask, does “merchantable quality” actually mean? The Regulations define it as “fit for the purposes for which commodities of that kind are usually purchased, as it is reasonable to expect in light of the relevant circumstances”. A fridge is meant to keep things cold and if it doesn’t then it’s not of merchantable quality.

By coincidence I’ve got almost exactly the same fridge and I even bought it from the same store as you. Just a matter of weeks after I bought it the fridge side of it went wrong, just like yours did. We mentioned “merchantable quality” to the store manager and the next day an entirely new replacement fridge was delivered.

Even though your fridge is no longer covered by the warranty I’ve contacted the store manager and asked if you can’t be assisted as a favour to you, given your long-running bad experience. I’ll contact you directly to tell you how they respond.

Saturday, 24 September 2016

Get angry

I’m a big believer in remaining calm. When you’re calm you more likely to think straight, come to rational decisions and not offend people, all good things. I’m also a believer in being compassionate, tolerant and understanding. When something goes wrong, maybe you’re let down or mistreated in a store, being calm and tolerant is by far the best way to get the matter resolved to your satisfaction. Most service providers are reasonable people who make occasional mistakes and getting angry with them is not going to help them resolve the problem. It might just make things worse. Diplomacy is better than warfare.

But there are exceptions. There are times when I think it’s reasonable to get angry.

I’m angry right now and I have been for a couple of weeks. It started with the horror of the tragic accident that occurred in Gaborone when a truck transporting sand tipped over and crushed a passing vehicle, instantly killing its occupant. If you though the situation couldn’t get worse, you’re wrong. A matter of hours later the victim’s mother and sister, having been informed of the tragic accident, were themselves killed in a separate accident. I’m not sure it’s possible to imagine the horror that family are now going through.

But I’m not just feeling compassion. I’m angry. Really, deeply, horribly angry. Apparently the accident was caused by an unknown vehicle running a red light and I think the time has come not just to be caring but to feel justifiable anger at the driver who caused the accident but also to every other person who does the same. Just three days after the accident I drove past the junction where the accident happened and incredibly, vehicles were still running those lights. In fact, during my 15-minute journey I saw three different vehicles who decided that red lights didn’t apply to them.

It’s out of control and it’s time we all got very angry about it. Our friends, family and neighbours are dying in horrible numbers largely because the rest of us either ignore the rules of the road or we tolerate others who do so. It’s time to stop being tolerant of bad drivers. It’s time for a complete change of heart.

I think it’s also acceptable to be angry about abuse. Like the company that sold a consumer two computers and a fax machine on 27th April but which haven’t yet been delivered. The customer told me “Since that time they have been telling us different stories saying that they are still waiting for delivery people to deliver our goods from South Africa” and that the manager of the company said “they cannot refund us our money as they operate as per orders, he was saying that if we cancel our order who is going to buy our order”.

Taking five months to deliver two perfectly ordinary computers and a fax machine is simply unacceptable, particularly when you’ve already got your customer’s money.

We suggested that the customer should formally cancel the order and explain to the company that Section 15 (1) (e) of the Consumer Protection Regulations says that when a deal is cancelled the supplier must “promptly restore” any payment that has been made.

She did this but met with complete arrogance. No, they said, you can’t have your money back. They even went so far as to engage attorneys to write her a letter saying that because they’d already paid their supplier in South Africa she would either need to wait or compensate them for any losses resulting from the cancellation.

This company is arrogant and contemptuous of their customer. They’re also incompetent. They thought it would be persuasive if they showed us proof that they’d paid their South African supplier for the goods. That was a mistake because it showed that they had only done so two months after she had paid them. All their response has achieved is to make everyone angry and an angry customer is just a customer more likely to want a fight.

I suspect that the moment I name this company, which I will do next week unless they see sense and stop being so arrogant, I’ll be the one getting an attorney’s letter alleging defamation, treason and war crimes. But you know what? I don’t care. I’m angry.

I’m also angry about hire purchase but that’s been the case for a very long time. Buying things on HP is a truly awful way to buy things. Even if everything goes well you’ll typically pay double the cash price of the item you’re buying but if there’s a problem and you default on your repayments things can get truly horrible. Not only will the goods be repossessed without notice or a court order (because the agreement you sign says that can happen) but you’ll still owe the store almost all the money. After they’ve auctioned the goods for a trivial amount and deducted that from your balance they’ll add on penalties, interest, debt collection fees and anything else the agreement permits. You can end up owing several times more than the cash price. You can end up losing vast amounts of money as well as your credit rating.

I’m even angrier at the way hire purchase customers are treated when their goods aren’t up to scratch. A colleague of mine recently bought a phone on hire purchase (if she’d told me I would have lent her the money to buy it for cash) and after just a couple of months it went wrong. She returned it to the store but two months later she still hadn’t got it back.

It’s not good enough. She and the rest of us were really angry. The result? We complained and she will be getting a full refund. Meanwhile we bought her a phone for cash.

Like I said, we all have to behave reasonable, tolerantly and kindly. But anger has its place as well and sometimes it gets the job done.