Some sellers of goods employ scams to rob consumers

By Ms Eileen Cox
Guyana Chronicle
November 14, 2002

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SCHOOL education is designed to equip young people for life in an adult world. They acquire knowledge and skills that will allow them to earn a living. For some years consumer advocates have been claiming that this not enough for the world today. In today's world people have lost their morals. There is a get-rich-quick syndrome that drives sellers of consumer goods to employ all types of scams to rob consumers of their legitimate expectations.

It is well known that persons offering small electrical equipment for sale, radios, tape recorders and the like, travel abroad and are able to acquire discarded goods, which they spruce up, place in new cases and import into Guyana as first-hand goods with first-hand prices. The goods are not designed to give service for any length of time. ‘Seconds’ in shoes are purchased and sold at such high prices that the buyers are convinced that they are absolutely new goods.

There are other means of enticing consumers to part with their hard-earned money. Goods taken on hire purchase can be obtained with little or no down payment. The purchaser is happy for the first month as she enjoys a "freeness". At the end of the next month, when the first installment is due, there is a major problem. How does the purchaser pay the installment and also meet the rent and other commitments?

It appears that it is too late in life to teach many consumers how to budget and spend their money wisely. There are many lessons to be learnt. Today a high price no longer guarantees quality. Consumers have to be taught to read labels and to keep in mind the instructions that are given. Little do they know that in today's world there are manufacturers who sell under names very similar to well known brand names. This is particularly true in the pharmaceutical industry. So, consumers have to beware.

In addition to the above, there are other attitudes that we, as consumers, have to change. Most of us are inclined to waste water. We place a pot in the sink and because there is only a drip we turn aside and attend to other chores. When we return, the water is overflowing. Even the Guyana Water Inc. wastes gallons of water. We observe the major leaks on our roads and are appalled that it is taking the corporation weeks to end the loss of treated water.

In the developed world communities collect glass bottles, old newspapers, plastics, foil. We waste these or send them to the garbage heap. A friend brought a plastic from Sainsbury's, a large grocery chain in the United Kingdom. Believe it or not, Sainsbury's introduced a penny-back scheme and collected the sum of 670,000 pounds Sterling, which was donated to charity. Sainsbury's offered a penny for each plastic bag re-used by a customer. The customer could either keep the penny or donate it to charity. Charity gained 670,000 pounds Sterling.

In Guyana we waste these plastic bags or send them to the garbage heap. While many of us place them into garbage bins, others are paying $10 in the marketplaces for each plastic bag. Isn't it wasteful?

Let us look at egg trays. We receive egg trays at some supermarkets when we purchase a dozen eggs. How do we dispose of them? It is wasteful to just discard perfectly clean eggs trays. I collected those that I brought home until someone said that perhaps an egg vendor in the market would find them useful. So said, so done. I took them to an egg vendor and she was happy to receive the trays.

As we prepare for life in our schools and for changes in the pattern of living, there is much room for learning. Our education can never be completed. While there is fear and anxiety around us, we can prepare ourselves for an integrated Caribbean and for the influx of Brazilians. Oxford University Press has prepared Spanish cassettes for those who desire to learn Latin American Spanish. The study by cassette can be done at your own time.

Consumers, especially businessmen in particular, will need to prepare themselves for the flood of Brazilians who will enter Guyana when the road is completed. Are they leaving it to the Brazilians to learn English or are they equipping themselves to handle new business in Portuguese?

There is great satisfaction in learning to speak a foreign language. Few of us enjoy that satisfaction. With cassettes, we can make a change. Let us get down to making changes in our way of life. We need to equip ourselves for the new life -- the One World that we dreamt of years ago.

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