Home Opinion and Features The pain of promised pain relief

The pain of promised pain relief


GREY MUTTER: When a consumer buys an item from a store and the next day regrets spending so much money, or simply does not like the item, the consumer cannot return the item simply because they have had a change of heart. A change of heart is not a legal reason to return an item, writes Lance Fredericks.

Picture: Jenny Friedrichs from Pixabay

THINGS certainly work differently in the big city. This past weekend, this country bumpkin had to make a trip to Gauteng. If I could sum up the visit in a single word, that word would be ‘painful’.

Driving in Gauteng is not for the faint-hearted. Minutes after pulling out of your driveway, you will find yourself on a highway hurtling along amongst four lanes of traffic with cars zipping, zooming and zig-zagging all over the place … painful.

Now imagine yourself barrelling down a highway at 100km/h, overtaking slower cars in the left lane, with a row of cars lined up behind you and faster cars dashing by on your right, when all of a sudden, the car ahead of you just cruises there preventing you from going anywhere.

This actually happened to me around five times this weekend, and each time … each and every time, the reason for the drivers just cruising and holding back traffic was because – going at 80-90km/h – they were driving and texting, seemingly without a care in the world. No one told a yokel like me that big city folk are that sophisticated!

I tried to imagine how much could happen at that speed with an inattentive driver and then, with my nerves even more on edge, decided to add prayer to my already overloaded multitasking schedule.

But I guess we plattelanders have to accept that the city dwellers are more sophisticated. They are able to manipulate and wind us around their fingers at will. It’s the law of the concrete jungle, I suppose.

In fact, recently a big city firm, this time from Cape Town, set up a kiosk at one of our malls. The young people at the kiosk will accost passers-by, apply pads and electrodes to them to “relieve pain”. Then, with sales skills as smooth as smoorsnoek, they will convince interested parties to buy their amazing products, assuring them that they will not regret it.

A person I know recently bought such a device after the sales rep convinced her that THIS was the product she needed to relieve her pain. He had not seen her X-rays, not looked at her scans nor read the medical reports but assured her that for the “reasonable” price of only R2,800 she was on her way to a pain-free future.

You know how companies in big cities train their sales reps. This guy had an answer for every question and assurances to soothe any objections; and the overwhelmed lady’s card was swiped – ‘ka-ching’!

A few days later she called me, asking if I could help her return the item because reading through the manual she had become concerned because of her heart condition.

I went to the mall and started asking one of the reps about their sales policies. When he noticed that I didn’t have on my gullible-buyer face, he was quick to tell me that there were “no refunds”. I could not believe that an item with so much money, sold in such a hurry, had the same return policy as underwear and suppositories!

When I tried to explain that the dear old lady who bought the device was not properly informed of all the ins and outs of the device and the ‘gaan klim ’n boom’ return policy, he directed me to someone I could speak to.

I contacted the person. “Good morning sir,” I wrote. “I am enquiring on behalf of someone who recently purchased one of your devices from one of your salespeople at a mall in Kimberley. Is there any way this product can be returned for a refund, as the old lady’s doctor advised her against using it due to her heart condition?”

The person from the pamphlet echoed his sale’s rep’s statement: “I’m sorry, but we do not do refunds.”

Then he shared a snapshot of their return policy … a return policy that is not visible at their mall kiosk. At least I did not see it, and I was looking!

Company’s return policies are pretty straightforward. Familiarise yourself with it before you purchase anything. Picture: Supplied.

A summary of the policy reads: “The safety and efficacy of our products have been proven … all sales are final … as with all electronic devices, once a customer removes them from the point of purchase, they are not eligible for return … ”

I guess since it’s their policy, there’s nothing we can do about it. There it is in black and white and digital.

By the way, in their own device’s ‘manual’ it says: “You should stop using the device and should consult with your physician if you experience adverse reactions from this device.”

A “safe” device with adverse reactions? I guess that means that after giving almost R3,000 to a person who never did research about your medical condition, you just have to slip this device to the back of the closet and forget about it.

The Consumer Protection Act (CPA) does, however, give the customer a faint glimmer of hope. It states, “In terms of s16 of the CPA, if a consumer has bought goods as a result of direct marketing, then for a period of 5 days after receiving the goods, the consumer can: return the goods, cancel the entire contract without penalty, and receive a full refund.”

However, the same article warns: “It is important to note that there is no general right of return. For example, when a consumer buys an item from a store and the next day regret spending so much money, or simply does not like the item, the consumer cannot return the item simply because they have had a change of heart … A change of heart is not a legal reason to return an item.”

At the end of the day, the lady that bought the device is now stuck with it, heart condition and all, simply because the company that sold it to her declared (I have yet to see the proof) that the “safety and efficacy” of their products “have been proven”.

So just a polite caution to shoppers, when you are meandering through the malls and you are approached by a polite, confident, eloquent young person selling you a product that he (or she) promises is the answer to everything that ails or concerns you from bunions to back-ache, and from hair-loss to haemorrhoids; before they pull you aside, before they touch you, before they get to weave their magic, hypnotic spell, ask them questions.

Ask what the item costs, ask them about their return policy. I mean, you even have the right to ask them if they have reliable medical knowledge about your specific condition and how they gained that knowledge.

The old adage always proves reliable when a pushy salesman has you cornered, it will be handy to bear it in mind: “If the promise seems too good to be true, it probably is!”

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