Saturday, 20 May 2017

Protect your technology

What impact would it have if your computer stopped working? If every computer in your business stopped functioning, could you continue? Would your business survive?

Given how many companies rely on technology for their communications, accounts, personnel records and customer databases, I suspect that if they failed most companies would simply fold.

Yes, you’ll say, we have backups of everything but what if they were corrupted as well?

Last week the BBC reported that “200,000 victims in 150 countries” had been infected by a piece of malware called WannaCry. The malicious software had affected hospitals throughout the UK and the attack “left hospitals and doctors unable to access patient data, and led to the cancellation of operations and medical appointments.” The attack also affected systems in several European countries and victims in Russia were hit hard.


WannaCry is an example of “ransomware”, a particularly vicious descendant of the old-fashioned computer virus. Once it gets onto the victim’s computer it then encrypts the contents. All the documents on the computer are still there but you can’t open them any more. Instead the victim is presented with a message saying that if they want to access their documents they need to pay the criminals behind the scheme the equivalent of P3,000 but not by any conventional means. Like all criminals who kidnap for ransom, they want paying in an untraceable form, in this case using Bitcoin.

This particular example is focussed specifically on Windows computers and it seems that the people most likely to be infected are either those using older version of Windows, or those who haven’t been downloading the regular security updates that Microsoft releases. It also does its best to spread itself across any network it finds itself occupying so once one computer is infected, all the others on the network can be infected as well.

A danger with ransomware that encrypts your data is that it can even encrypt your backups so it’s not as if you can just delete everything and restore them from yesterday’s backup.

So what would happen to your business if all your files were suddenly inaccessible? Would you be able to continue? How would you sell anything? How many customers would you have left by the end of the week?

The solution is simple. Secure your computers. Keep your software up to date, switch on the firewall that comes with all computers these days, use the anti-virus and anti-malware protection mechanisms that are freely available and then be careful. Don’t download anything from web sites you don’t already trust, don’t allow your staff to download software at all, fire anyone who downloads pirated music or video files and ban people from sticking their sticks into your available slots.

Yes, it’s just like protecting yourself from any other type of infection. Don’t allow alien substances to penetrate your defences.

So is this a consumer issue? Yes, of course it is.

I don’t want to be in a relationship with a bank, insurance company, pension scheme or government department that doesn’t protect itself against security threats, either conventional one such as break-ins and armed robberies but also modern ones such as cyber-attacks.

Why? Because one of the things they have that criminals want to steal is my information. They want to steal my user id and password for my bank’s online banking scheme so they can sign on and steal my money.

I also don’t want to leave myself unprotected. I don’t want hackers infecting my computer and either holding me to ransom, stealing my personal details or hijacking my computer and using it to spread their malware further.

Ironically protecting yourself from cyber infection is about as easy and cheap as it is to protect yourself against any other form of infection. If you use a modern release of Windows, it comes with built-in protection mechanisms. You can buy software on top of that but you really don’t need to, despite what many retailers will tell you.

Most importantly you must keep your version of Windows up-to-date. If you’re still using Windows XP then are asking for serious trouble. That hasn’t been safely protected for several years and you need to move to a more modern version.

But what if you can’t afford to do that? What if Windows 10 is out of your price range? What if a computer powerful enough to run it is also too pricey?


Then be radical. Go for the entirely legal, safe and free option. Yes, I DO mean free. Install a version of Unix such as Ubuntu or Linux. You can download this for free and it comes with the equivalent of Word, Excel and Powerpoint and it’s really easy to use. And it even runs on the oldest, lowest power machines you can find. I’ve done it several times and I have computers at home and in the office running it right now. And did I mention it’s entirely free? And did I also mention that like its distant cousin, the Mac, a computer running Unix is almost immune from viruses and malware?


Price really is no excuse for most people these days.

I think the lesson is that technology is at the heart of almost everything we do in 2017 and we need to catch up in order to protect ourselves. We need to understand the technology we use better and for some of us that’s easy but for many others it’s a scary, alien environment. That’s one of the reasons we see the curse of modern technological life: missing airtime and data. Yes, our cellphone network providers have occasionally had technological problems and have lost our data but on the vast majority of occasions it really was us that used the data, we just didn’t know we’d done it. Nobody had taken the time to explain how much data the Facebook app uses, how much video files use and how the setting within these apps can exhaust your data in moments, particularly now we have 4G networks.

I suppose you could wait for companies to start educating us about these things but I think it’s too important to wait. Start educating yourself on how to use your technology safely.

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

Whose job is it to fix my fridge?

Hello. Please advise. On March I bought a Samsung fridge and they delivered it to my house. Immediately after I switched it on it gave a horrible sound. I reported it to the store and they sent their agent to my house to check it and he told me it is the compressor. I then went to Samsung and asked about it and they told me its not the compressor and the fridge might have a fault. Then I reported this back to the store and they sent the same guy to my house. He came and opened it and then he told me if the sound persist I should call him. It did and I called him and he told me they have to collect it from my house to fix the problem at their office.

Well I demanded a refund or exchange because they are going in circles. I told them I can’t expect a new fridge to be fixed. Now the manager is telling me that if they have to give me a new fridge they have to be given authority by their agent. Firstly I didn’t buy a fridge from their agent and I did buy from them. What can I do?


I’m sorry for your trouble. Unfortunately, we hear this story very often. You buy something brand new and then it goes wrong and the store start doing their best to confuse you about your rights. The most important thing to understand is that you bought the fridge from the store. Not from their agent, not from the manufacturer, you bought it from the store and it’s therefore the store’s job to fix any problems that occur.

Section 17 (1) (d) of the Consumer Protection Regulations says that an unfair business practice if a supplier causes “a probability of confusion or of misunderstanding as to the legal rights, obligations, or remedies of a party to a transaction”. Telling you that you must speak to another company, that they need to involve someone else in their decision-making, that you have to run around and do their work for them is an unfair business practice, don’t you think?

Unfortunately, one weakness in the Consumer Protection Regulations, an area where we fall behind some other countries, is that when something like this happens you don’t have the right to demand a particular solution. The store has the right to decide which of the three Rs they offer you: a repair, replacement or a refund. You don’t get to make that choice. Meanwhile you deserve a working fridge.

We’ll get in touch with the store for you and see fi they can’t be a bit more helpful and give you what you deserve.

Where’s the two hundred grand?

I just want to find out if it's possible to help my dad on a banking issue. The bank over deducted close to P200 000 and they actually agree that they made a mistake in making him pay over and above the actual owed sum but instead of paying him back the money, they have been giving him the run around for over 6 months now.

What happened is that my dad took a loan some years back but even after completing the payment, they continued deducting for over 10 years and when my dad eventually figured out what was going on, they apologised but continued to deduct and only stopped after a while. What can he do?


I’m glad I was sitting down when I read your message.

That really is a staggering level of incompetence. I admit I’m not an expert on banking computer systems but surely the system knows to stop deducting when the outstanding balance reaches zero? Unless they entered the wrong details when they first set up the loan but either way they’ve let your father down badly.

Secondly, when an organisation realises that they’ve made a mistake, particularly one as massive as this, I think they should be doing their best to fix it now. Right now. Not after they’ve had a cup of tea, not next week, next month or just when they feel like doing so. It needs to be fixed the moment they’ve checked the facts and ensured they’re not being scammed. And then they need to apologize. And no, I don’t mean an apology from a low-level member of staff. For a mistake that cost P200,000 I would expect the CEO on the phone expressing their concern, regret, humble apologies and a promise that it will never happen again.

And don’t forget that your Dad could have been earning interest on that P200,000 so I’d expect them to pay him that as well.

Saturday, 13 May 2017

Get it in writing!

We get a lot of people contacting us with complaints and we’re used to the emotions by now. We can cope with the anxiety, disappointment and confusion consumers are experiencing. We can deal with their anger and desire for retribution. What I sometimes find difficult to manage are my own emotions. In particular that sinking feeling in my stomach when a consumer tells me “No, it was a verbal agreement, we didn’t put anything in writing”.

Whenever I hear or read this I know life is going to be difficult. It almost always means that the consumer is completely out of luck.

We recently got the following enquiry from a member of our Facebook group.
“Hello, I was wondering if you could give me advice. I had a verbal agreement with someone early in December 2016 to sell him my car for P20 000 and he was supposed to pay the full amount by then end of December 2016. He has been telling us he is expecting money from somewhere to pay but of lately he is not picking my calls, he reads and ignores my messages including Whatsapp messages. And today I decided to call his girlfriend asking her to talk to him for me. I then received a call from him saying he is returning the car as it was giving him problems. So my worry is what if the car is no longer in a good condition?”
So you gave away your car to someone who didn’t pay you any money up front? You gave him your car without any record of any agreement between the two of you explaining who now owned it, how much he would pay and the conditions of the sale? And now he’s going to return it with mechanical problems?

Congratulations, you just lent someone your car for several months and he broke it.

And that’s the end of it.

The lack of a written agreement means there is no court that will help you. There is nothing to prove that you didn’t just lend him the vehicle. Even the least reputable attorney will probably suggest that you take back the car and live with the disappointment.

Another reader had a more complicated issue. She said:
“Hello Richard I have an issue with my ex landlord that I need advice on. She is refusing to repay my security deposit. I moved into the house in March 2015 and signed a lease agreement that stipulated that rents increases by 10% every year. Now during the signing of the lease the landlord verbally said that she won't increase rent after the first year. I moved out of the house in December after staying in the house for 1 year + 6 months. Now my landlord has gone back on her word and says I should back pay all the 10% increments from March 2016 which marks my one year stay in the house. So my question is do I really have to pay her all the 10% increments even though verbally she had said she won’t increase rent after the first year and in the past six months not once has she complained that I'm not paying the increased amount. It is only now that I have moved out of the house and I want my security back that she is bringing this up.”
Yes, I’m sorry, but you DO have to pay her the increments because that’s what you agreed to do. In writing. The so-called verbal agreement you had with the landlord doesn’t exist. It’s only a memory from two years ago. The only record is in your head and that doesn’t qualify as evidence that a court would listen to, particularly when there’s a written agreement that says something different. In fact, a court isn’t even allowed to consider your verbal agreement. The “parol rule” of evidence says that “when a transaction has been reduced into writing, the writing is regarded as the exclusive memorial of the transaction and no evidence may be given to contradict, alter, add or vary its terms”.

A verbal agreement that contradicts a written agreement doesn’t exist. It’s not an agreement at all. Forget it, it effectively didn’t happen.

Here’s a final example.

A consumer came to our office a couple of years ago and asked for our help in reclaiming some money she’d lent to a guy. He’d been a regular customer in her store and she’d grown to know him fairly well. But only as a customer, nothing more that I know of.

One time he’d asked her if she could lend him some money. Yes, I know, your alarm bells are ringing, aren’t they? Would you hand over money to someone like this? I know I wouldn’t.

Anyway, she said yes and they went to the bank to transfer the money he wanted from her account directly into his.

And that was the last she saw of her money. It was more than a year later that she came to us and he had now gone quiet on her. What could she do, she wanted to know?

I put my metaphorical amateur detective hat on and started asking some questions. When, who, where and above all, how much? How much had she lent him?

“One point five”, she told me.

Ok, I thought to myself, that’s hardly the end of the world, is it? It’s not a sum that’s going to ruin her, I thought.

But then I realised. She didn’t mean one point five thousand Pula. She meant one point five million. One and a half million Pula. To a guy she barely knew. And with no written agreement.

I think she must have realised from my face (I’m not that good an actor) that I was stunned. Rendered speechless. I promise you I did NOT use the phrase “Why does your mother allow you out alone?”

Please, I beg you to learn this very simple lesson. It won’t always solve every problem but it will go a very long way to help you if you get every financial transaction in writing. Everything. When you lend someone money, sell your car, even when you sell an old phone to an acquaintance, put the agreement in writing. You’ll thank me, I promise.

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

Is my phone broken?

Hi Richard! I bought a cellphone on 8 April 2017 and returned it back on 11 April after I experienced some faults on it. I used the phone only 2 days. Up to date they didn't help me. Today the shop manager told me that it will be couriered back to me since the manufacturer didn't see any fault on the phone and they insist I take the phone. The only option they have is that they can only refund me if they too found the fault I was talking about. Is it fair Richard?


Well, yes, it probably is. Up to a point.

Section 13 (1) (a) of the Consumer Protection Regulations says that a store must sell goods and services that are “of merchantable quality”. The Regulations define that as “fit for the purposes for which commodities of that kind are usually purchased, as it is reasonable to expect in light of the relevant circumstances”. Put simply it means that a cellphone should do what a cellphone is meant to do. Obviously some cellphones do more than others but that’s where the “relevant circumstances” are important.

You didn’t say what exactly the faults were on your phone that prompted you to take it back but I assume they were fairly serious?

The general rule in these circumstances is that the store has three choices, the three Rs. They can offer you a replacement, a repair or a refund if it can be shown that there’s something wrong with the phone. Obviously they don’t have to do anything if there’s evidence that either you damaged the phone or there’s nothing actually wrong with it.

I suggest that you go to the store and examine the phone together and see if the faults you noticed are still there. If the faults are still there then you should firmly reject the suggestion that you take it back. You then tell them that you want one of the three Rs and ask them which they choose. On the other hand if the manufacturer is right and there’s nothing actually wrong with it then it’s time to take it home.

Once or twice?

Good day Mr. Harriman. Kindly assist me with an issue I have here. I received an SMS from the hospital saying I have an outstanding bill. On enquiry I was told that my medical aid short paid my claim.

How it happened was that my husband went to the hospital on the 14th February but was there until after midnight. Therefore the bill was only prepared on the 15th February. He had to go back on the 15th (around 7am) because the pain was back. He got another bill for that.

The medical aid say they cannot pay twice for same consultation. Who do we fight here sir: the hospital for billing him twice for a continuation; or the medical aid for refusing to pay because he had to go back as he got sick again?


Are you serious? That’s the most ridiculous thing I’ve seen all day and I’ve seen a lot of deeply silly things today.

I think you should go back to your medical aid and demand that they speak to the hospital and look at the admission times and the details of what actually happened with your husband. With luck their systems will show that he was there on two different occasions having slightly different treatment, probably even by different staff members.

I’m very often surprised by quite how ridiculous some organisations can be. We all understand that they need to have rules but when they are misinterpreted like this they seem to forget that it’s us, the customers who are inconvenienced when it’s their job to take the inconvenience on our behalf. Isn’t that why we pay them such large amounts of money?

If they don’t give you any joy let me know and we’ll get in touch with them and suggest they need to visit the hospital in person. The Psychiatry Department.

Friday, 5 May 2017

The power of cash

I like cash.

I don’t mean that I like money, which actually I do, but I mean I still like having notes in my wallet. I also like online banking, cellphone banking, eWallet and all the other modern ways of moving money from A to B. But I still like cash.

I like it because it makes life easier in filling stations (I have an irrational fear of filling up and then finding that their point of sale devices aren’t working), coffee shops (where I spend much of my life) and, most importantly, any place where I want to leave a tip.

Someone contacted us recently about the issue of tipping. She asked:
“Please advise. I had a conversation with a waiter who told me that if a client pays with a card and the tip is included in the bill they are charged for the POS transaction, i.e. the waiter pays for the POS transaction. I found that very weird. So what the restaurant has done is they have passed on the 3% that they get charged to the waiter. Another scenario is that if a customer walks in has meal and for whatever reason the customer doesn't pay, and comes back they following day to pay they get a P200 fine. These kids don't earn much and all of this isn't fair according to the way I see it.”
If this is true then I share her outrage. It’s immoral, indecent and just plain wrong to punish the waiter because a customer decided to pay with their card. Yes, we probably all know that the bank charge a small fee to a store that uses a point of sale device, but that’s the cost of doing business, something the business should accept. Passing on that cost to the waiter is disgraceful.

Maybe there’s a very good reason for always carrying some cash to tip the waiters in that restaurant. In fact let’s just do that in every restaurant until we can make sure that no restaurant is behaving so badly.

Cash is also good in another sense. This time I don’t mean notes and coins but I mean money that’s yours, not someone else’s.

People sometimes accuse me of being obsessed by certain subjects and it’s possible I do repeat myself about them but that’s because I believe they’re important. I won’t stop talking about scams, Ponzi schemes and pyramid schemes, multi-level marketing schemes and so-called “alternative” health products because I sincerely believe (and I’m right) that they threaten our well-being.

But a more direct threat to the average guy is something more ordinary, more mundane.

Hire purchase.

I know I’ve written this before but I make no apology for doing so again. And again and again. Hire purchase is the worst possible way of buying something. It really is.

To begin with there’s something that stores don’t explain fully and is often hidden deep in the hire purchase contract you sign. The goods you buy don’t belong to you until you pay the final instalment. Until that moment, the stove, fridge, TV or laptop you think belongs to you in fact still belongs to the store. That’s why it’s called “hire” purchase. For the two years you’re struggling to make the monthly payments, you’re just hiring the item. That’s why, if you default, the store is entitled to come and repossess it without going to court. All they’re doing is taking possession of something they own, not you.

Another thing they often don’t make perfectly clear is that if they repossess the goods, the debt doesn’t disappear. You’ll still owe either close to the outstanding balance or perhaps even more.

Let’s do the maths. Let’s say you take a liking to a TV that is on sale in a store for cash for P3,000. If you buy it on hire purchase you’ll probably spend twice the cash price, let’s assume a total of P6,000.

I’m not making this up. Already you’re paying 100% more than the cash price, just for the convenience of hiring a TV that, once you finally own it, will be two years old and that would have cost you P3,000 more than if you’d bought it for cash.

But’s only if you’re lucky not to lose your job, have your business collapse or suddenly have a disaster that meant you can’t make the payments.

If any of these things happened, maybe after a year, halfway through the hire purchase period, the store can just come round to your house and take it back. No court order, no deputy sheriff, no procedure, just a guy in a truck taking your TV away. And you still owe them half the total cost, still P3,000.

What they then do is sell the TV to recover some of the money you still owe them. But remember that the TV is now a year old, second hand and probably not in perfect condition. If you’re lucky they’ll get P500 for it. That leaves you still owing P2,500.

What often now happens is that the consumer thinks it’s all over. The TV has been repossessed so they think the debt has gone with it. Wrong. What happens is that the debt actually increases as the store adds on interest, penalties, debt collection costs and the fees charged by the law firm they’ll eventually engage. At the very least the charges will exceed the money they got from selling the TV, leaving you owing exactly what you would have owed if you still had the TV, probably a lot more. But you don’t still have the TV. You’re paying for an empty space in your sitting room.

The solution is simple. Don’t buy things on hire purchase. If you possibly can, save the same amount of money you’d spend on hire purchase for a year and you can then buy the thing for cash. If you can’t wait that long then buy something second-hand. Whatever you do, don’t sign a hire purchase agreement. It’ll cost you an enormous amount of cash you could be spending on something much better. Like living a financially stable lifestyle.

The Voice - Consumer's Voice

Where’s his money?

My friend moved his account to another bank last week because they offered us in my company a special loan scheme. The problem is that we have is that we are always paid on the 26th of each and every month but it’s been 3 days and his salary haven’t reported in his new bank account.

We checked with our payroll manager to see if the account number was correct and even went to the bank. The bank realised that the problem is with their system and they promised that they will fix it. Instead of contacting him he is the one who is always contacting them and they will always have some excuse to take his calls. Yesterday he went to the bank and he was told the money will report in the evening but nothing has appeared yet. He contacted the person who is dealing with his account but she gave an excuse saying they are in a meeting. These friend of mine have stop orders and things to pay but the bank seems like it doesn’t care enough, please help him.


Yes, I think you’re right. The bank doesn’t seem to care at all.

It’s the mark of a sensible, mature and ultimately successful company that when they make a mistake, as this bank appears to have done, they do their very best to fix it as quickly as possible. It’s the mark of a useless, uncaring, doomed-to-fail organisation that they fail to respond adequately, go into childish denial, or as in this case, just stop talking to their customers.

I suggest that you escalate this situation. Clearly the person you’ve been dealing with hasn’t given your friend’s situation sufficient attention. Your friend should call the branch and politely ask to speak to the manager. He should explain that their bank is causing him great inconvenience and disturbance and is wasting his time. If he isn’t able to speak to the branch manager then he should escalate further and call the Managing Directors office at Head Office. If that doesn’t work, then contact us again and we’ll see what we can do.

I’ve been blacklisted

I purchased a television on credit. Unfortunately due to ill health I could not pay the instalment as per our agreement. This led to the store handing over my name to the credit bureau. Four months back I managed to settle my outstanding balances. My expectation was that after settling my balance the store will update my payment profile at ITC. Up to now they have not done that. My major problem is that I can not be assisted on credit by any company because the store has not updated my payment profile. I have talked to them on a number of occasions but my efforts did not bear any fruit, hence I am now seeking assistance from your office.


For everyone’s benefit I should explain how credit bureaux work. Despite what many people think, they don’t just “blacklist” people. In fact, they hold a vast amount of information on all of us, both bad information such as when you defaulted on a loan, but also good information like the fact that you completed a loan successfully. That allows a prospective lender to get a full picture of you before they make a decision on whether to lend you money.

The other thing they do is hold complete history, or at least they try to. If you default on your instalments they’ll record that this happened. They should also record that some while later you caught up with your arrears and the debt was settled. That way a potential lender will see that you had a problem but also that you fixed it which might make them look on you more favourably.

The problem is that we hear quite often of stories just like yours. Once you’ve cleared your debt the store fails to update the information held by the credit bureaux. The MD of one of the bureaux once told me that it can take up to 28 days to make the update but in your case it’s taken a lot longer than it should have done. I suggest that you escalate this to the Managing Director or Regional Manager of the chain and see if a little pressure can be applied. Yes, you failed by not honouring your agreement but not you’ve caught up it’s time to allow you to move on.

If that doesn’t work, let me know and we’ll make some calls.

Saturday, 29 April 2017

Doing something right?

I once saw an interview with the head of an international human rights organisation and he said that he knew he was doing something right when on the same day a fascist dictator called him a communist and a communist dictator called him a fascist.

Sometimes we get that feeling as well. We just know we’re doing something right.

The first piece of good news was about Xango, a juice marketed using a multi level marketing scheme. We reported and broadcast about Xango in February and March, warning people to avoid it. If you believed what its salespeople were saying, Xango really is miraculous. Its proponents say it can “combat” cancer, diabetes, leukemia, Alzheimers and dementia and can even “improve HIV” although I don’t think they’ve thought that last claim through properly. It can “improve HIV”? I’m not sure that’s what they really mean. However, whatever they think it can do, it obviously can’t do any of these things. If it could, someone would have been awarded the Nobel Prize for Medicine by now and probably the Nobel Prize for Peace as well. They would deserve both. And for P350 for each bottle I’d expect something wonderful to happen with every sip.

Products like Xango are dangerous and the people selling them should be ashamed of the things they’re doing but the good news is that they’ll soon stop. In March the Xango head office sent out an urgent message down through their pyramid instructing them “to remove all health claims about Xango ASAP”. Clearly they realised that such claims were dangerous. Or maybe just likely to threaten their profits.

Just last week things went even further. A press release from the Ministry of Health and Wellness pointed out that Xango juice was being “sold across the country without the approval of the Ministry of Health as a medicinal product”. It went on to say that the public “should be aware that the product is just fruit juice blend and does not have proven medicinal properties and therefore cannot be marketed and sold as such.” They ended by asking people to report anyone making these preposterous claims about Xango juice to the Drugs Regulatory Unit, the Food Control Unit and the Police.

The silly thing is that if they’d just sold it as a fruit juice that’s full of vitamins and nutrients and that tastes really good nobody would have had a problem, certainly not me. It was those dangerous claims that outlawed the product.

So a pat on the back goes to the Ministry of Health and Wellness for taking action to protect us all.

Another sign we’re doing something right was the opposite experience. We got attacked.

Earlier this month we commented on an award scheme called the “International Quality Summit Award”, run by a company in Spain called “Business Initiative Directions”. Various people had received surprise emails from BID, announcing that they’d won an award and inviting them to collect it at a gala dinner in New York. It was never entirely clear how they’d won, what criteria had been used to decide the winners and what qualified the company to award anything.


In Mmegi a few weeks ago I mentioned this and also reported the extraordinary cost of receiving the award.

The attachments in the award email explained how award winners would get to attend the two-day event in New York. They would start by paying the company “participation costs of 4,200 euros” to attend. That’s about P45,000 and for that they’ll get “Two invitations for the IQS Gala Dinner Ceremony”, a trophy, a certificate, a manual of graphics they can use to market their award, a press release, some photos of the winners getting the award, “two gold-plated lapel pins”, an opportunity to speak at the ceremony and two nights in the Marriot Marquis Hotel where the ceremony will take place.


The small print then explained that the hotel accommodation “will be provided in one double occupancy room”. So, in summary, for P45,000 the winners get dinner for two people, two nights in a hotel room that they must share with a colleague, a trophy, two lapel pins, some photos and a whole lot of paper. And then there’s the travel costs. In total, I reckoned the total cost of receiving the award would be about P75,000.

But maybe that’s what it costs BID to run the event? I don’t think so. I checked the hotel and the costs of the room would be about P6,000 and even when you add on the hire of the conference rooms and all the trinkets winners receive, I suspect that BID make a profit of at least P30,000 for every award they give away to the companies fool enough to part with that sort of cash for the privilege of attending.

So that’s the background. Then came their response. On their Facebook group they posted a long, rather incoherent message about us.
“The so called Consumer Watchdog Botswana is part of BES a company that provides consultancy and marketing oriented services for companies. They are NOT an NGO and what they really are is the enforcer of sorts for BES. A communication bully that denounces companies and organizations and forces them to buy BES services to be release from their constant online attacks.”
They go on to suggest that what we do is to use “the fake NGO Consumer Watchdog Botswana to denounce a company, claiming that they have low quality, that their are a scam or any other absurd claim. Then they use BES to offer services in marketing and training ‘to improve’ the company.”

They end by saying that we “are not evil per se, but it is shameful that they have to blackmail companies into it.”

Obviously none of this is true but do you get the impression they’re angry? I’m not surprised. Not only did we call into question the merits and values of their awards schemes but I imagine they’re unhappy about something you find on Google. If you search for “Business Initiative Directions” the first hit is their web site and the second is a warning about them from us in 2010.

You know you’re doing something right when the bad guys get angry and attempt to get their revenge.