If you feel forced into a purchase by a strong direct marketing pitch, there is a recourse

2014-01-14 00:00

PENSIONER Vera Pedler popped into Hillcrest Corner to pay her monthly accounts and ended up spending R7 250 on cosmetics that she didn’t want following a strong direct marketing pitch.

This was after a young La Diamant Cosmetics salesperson approached Pedler (72) at the store’s promotional kiosk in early December with the promise of a free sample.

“He asked if he could give me a sample of eye cream and I didn’t want to be rude so I said yes,” Pedler said.

He gave his name as “Gallos” and asked her to sit down.

“I told him I didn’t have time because my husband was waiting downstairs for me,” Pedler said.

Nevertheless, she sat down.

“He took cotton wool and wiped off all my make-up. He was talking and talking and I could hardly get a word in edgeways,” Pedler said.

“He asked what make-up I used and claimed I was spending about R750 a month, which is ridiculous,” Pedler said.

He advised that if she switched to his products she would only have to spend R300 a month.

“He said it would take away all my wrinkles, but no make-up is going to give me young skin again.

“I was getting panicky and flustered because it was getting late. He told me one of the creams was R550 and I told him I can’t make any decisions without discussing it with my husband and that it was very expensive,” Pedler said.

His response was that the cosmetics were on “special offer for today only”.

“He had his calculator and said ‘What credit card do you have? Show me your credit card’. I took one card out and he said it was no good and then I took out my credit card and he said ‘with this one you will only pay R300 a month’,” Pedler said.

“I turned around and he already had my card in the machine and said ‘put your pin number in’. I was starting a panic attack and just wanted to get away.”

So, Pedler complied.

But what happened next led to her being charged R7 250.

“He put a pen in my hand and told me I must write instructions on the boxes,” Pedler said.

Pedler said she had objected, saying the instructions were inside but he insisted that they were “complicated” and that she must write.

When Pedler got home with the nine jars of cosmetics and discussed the sale with her husband, Dick, they decided to return the goods.

“Instead of issuing an invoice, Gallos issued a hand-written statement, which indicated him as the seller and with no VAT number recorded. ‘No refund on sale promotion’ was written on the statement,” Dick said.

However, he alleged that his wife had been “bullied” and was determined to immediately get a refund. The company denied that she was bullied.

Dick said store manager Miguel Maloof refused to entertain the refund, saying the boxes had been “defaced”.

A distraught Pedler said she later completely cleared all but two of the boxes of the ink, yet the company had refused to budge. When I tried repeatedly to elicit a response from Gallos, and the store manager, via e-mail and cellphone, with no success, I decided to visit the store with the Pedlers to speak to the manager. The manager on duty, Daniel Aluf, after an intense discussion about the Consumer Protection Act and the allegation that Gallos had forced Pedler to write on the boxes, he agreed to the refund.

Aluf had initially argued that the products were not in a saleable condition, but agreed to the refund, saying it was Pedler’s word against his salesperson. He declined to allow the salesperson to enter the discussion.

“I don’t want an unhappy customer because an unhappy customer gives bad energies and bad business,” Aluf said. He said the store usually offered customers refunds with no quibble.

Pedler was relieved. “It’s been a very unpleasant experience. I wish they hadn’t caused such a performance.”

So exactly what does the

CPA require in such cases?

• When concluding a sale, direct marketers must inform customers of their right to a “cooling off” period, within which the agreement may be cancelled “without reason or penalty”.

• The customer must notify the supplier of the cancellation, “in writing or another recorded form” within five business days of delivery, or of the transaction being concluded, whichever is the later date.

• The supplier must then refund the customer in full within 15 days of cancellation or receipt of the returned goods, and may only in certain instances charge “a reasonable amount” for use of the goods, such as if they have been opened and repackaged.

Send your consumer complaints to Lyse Comins at consumer@3i.co.za.

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