Weigh all options before a purchase

2010-07-17 09:11

A few days ago a relative of mine called asking that I ­help

him choose an ideal – meaning the cheapest – ­desktop or laptop computer.

The ideal computer he was considering comes with several options

from the very basic to what could be said to be a full house. I am not clued up

when it comes to computers.

Still, the first thing I had to establish was whether he needed a

computer with ­access to the internet. He did.

I then had an idea of what questions to raise with the salesperson

and trust that whatever would be recommended would meet my cousin’s needs. The

second most important aspect of our quest was to find something that had the

capacity to store a lot of information. You see, my cousin wants to move into

this technological age and, as such, will require internet access, which means

this transformation will cost him more than just purchasing hardware.

One of the first specials I came across cost from R300 to R500 per

month for a laptop, a modem and airtime. On top of the technical aspects, it was

an enticing offer with free calls and free access to a digital encyclopaedia.

Are these important? Is a cigarette lighter in a car important to a buyer?

Perhaps that space could be useful for a GPS device.

Looking at the cost of R300 per month, my cousin would end up

paying R10 800 over three years. This is about three times more than the price

of buying the computer without the freebies.

I suggested to the salespeople that they work out what the

repayments would be if we were to put down a deposit of R5 000. We were told

that was not an option. The reason is that they want to commit the consumer to a

long-term ­contract.

I then asked whether we would be allowed to inject a lump sum

payment if we were to sign the contract. Again their answer was no. I then

insisted on talking to a senior person who quickly offered us a R1 000 discount

on condition we signed a contract for airtime.

Later I realised that one could actually buy the computer, a modem

and then airtime as and when one required it. From my conversation with the

salespeople, I found that their offer fell outside the National Credit

Regulation Act.

According to the act, should a client wish to reduce the terms of a

contract, a client should be able to do so, especially as the objective would be

settling the debt quicker.

The lesson here is that the manner in which specials are advertised

is often misleading.

This kind of marketing is not limited to computers. Still, one also

needs to understand, ­especially with computers, that consumers are faced not

only with a product that ­depreciates in value overnight but that they could be

locked into a contract long after the technology has become useless.

My advice would be that one takes the time to explore other ways of

financing an item, ­understands the contractual ­requirements and decides

whether the purchase is good value for money.

  • Diale is a financial

    planner. He can be contacted on 078 775 0802

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