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How to be a Smart Consumer

The market place offers a bewildering variety of choices and there is no single right answer.
When you go shopping it is helpful to recognize that the retailer has a head start on you. He/she knows how much the item costs from the supplier, how much profit is included in the asking price and the minimum price that they are willing to sell the product for. You walk into the shop and all you know is the asking price. You are definitely at a disadvantage! Therefore to make a right choice, you should-

  • Be Informed
  • Be Economical
  • Evaluate your needs
  • Assess personal and environmental safety.

It is also important to realise that any choice you make will be predetermined to a certain extent by the following factors:

  • Peer pressure
  • Advertisement and media
  • Loan availability and pressure from finance companies

However, if you are aware of this, then you will be able to concentrate on more positive factors when making a choice.

Before you buy

  • Decide in advance exactly what you want and what you can afford.
  • Don’t buy on impulse or under pressure. Do your research
  • Analyze what you need and what product or service features are important to you
  • Review product test results and other information from consumer experts.
  • Get advice and price quotes from several sellers. Compare stores - this way you can get a feel of the market and calmly decide on how much you want to pay.
  • Check for any extra charges, such as delivery fees, installation and service costs.
  • Read and understand any contract or legal document you are asked to sign. Make sure there are no blank spaces. Insist that any extras you are promised orally be put in writing.
  • Ask the sales persons to explain the store’s return or exchange policy.
  • Resist sales pressure. If you have done your research properly, you will be less influenced by a sales pitch.
  • Take your time when shopping. You can always go home and think about it first before making a major purchase.

After You Buy
What you do after you buy can be as important as what you do before you buy. These steps will help you avoid as well as deal with any problems that might pop up.

  • Save all papers that you get with your purchase. Keep all contracts, sales receipts, manuals and warranty documents.
  • Ensure that the Warranty card is stamped with the seal of the Service provider, date of purchase, term of warranty period. Any card without these details render the warranty null and void.
  • Read and follow product and service instructions. The way you use or take care of a product might affect your warranty rights.

Consumer Tips:
A savvy consumer is always on the alert for con artists and other shady efforts to separate you from your money. To protect your money and avoid being a victim of fraud, keep these things in mind:
1. A deal that sounds too good to be true usually is! Offers that often fall into this category are promises to fix your credit problems, business/job opportunities, risk free investments, and free travel.
2. Think twice before sharing personal information. Protect your privacy and avoid unauthorized use of your personal information.

In case of a problem …
If you happen to encounter a problem on purchase of a product or service, this is what you should do:

  • Find out who is responsible for the problem
  • Collect the name and address of the dealer/seller and the manufacturer
  • Document your complaint – write letters of complaint to the shop manager / Dealer / Manufacturer / Service
  • Provider clearly stating
  • The nature of your problem
  • Evidence of having purchased goods or services to be provided
  • The relief claimed – repair / replacement / refund / compensation
  • A deadline for replying
  • Send the letter by registered post with acknowledgement due
  • Always insist on a written reply from the opposite party
  • Where applicable, after expiry of deadline you must notify the concerned authorities / government department
  • Immediately initiate action to protect your rights. You could contact a local consumer group for help in doing this, if necessary
  • If you have taken legal action, publicize the result, so that others gain awareness from your experience.

Problems can often be voiced and even solved, over the telephone but this will leave no record of your complaint especially if the trader / service provider denies that the matter was brought to his / her notice. If you do make telephone complaints, please do keep a record of the time, date, name of person you spoke to and the outcome.

 
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