Ask Before You Buy
11/02/2007 | Seemingly all day long, every day, the crane sways back and forth moving crate after crate from shipping freight to waiting vehicle. The forklift and transport trucks’ beeps and motorized whirls are constant. It is no small irony that Consumer Affairs’ offices are right across the street from Bermuda’s commercial dockyard; for each crate unloaded represents a small percentage of consumers who will eventually wind up at our offices bitterly complaining about their experiences with the products that made their way from across the street, to store, to them.
But with each varied tale of heartache and woe, no matter what the product, no matter what the store involved, there is usually one common factor in each transaction gone wrong: consumers didn’t take the initiative to be informed before they bought. Perhaps we could save ourselves a lot of work if we just went across the street and placed bright red “ASK BEFORE YOU BUY” stickers on all the products being unloaded for retail distribution. The fine print on the stickers would read along these lines:
Before you buy this product, please consider the following:
• Check the return policy of the store before you buy this. The store reserves the right to determine how long you have to return a product and whether you’re entitled to a full refund, store credit or exchange.
• Save all paperwork involved in this sales transaction, such as quotes, invoices and receipts. In some cases, you may need this paperwork several years later, so best to have a filing cabinet drawer dedicated to such documents.
• Don’t just consider price or style when looking at this product- compare quality, service costs, and other factors. Research comparable products for safety, energy efficiency, warranty and repair policies.
• Be home when this product is delivered so that you can inspect it at that time and send it back if the product is faulty or was damaged in transit. If you do keep the product, contact the store immediately to try and have the issue resolved.
• If this is a vehicle, don’t customize it until you’ve checked with your dealership first. It may negate the warranty agreement and jeopardize the safety features of the vehicle.
• If this is a toy, look for a CE (Conformité Européenne) mark- the mandatory European marking for toys that verifies that the product has gone through rigorous safety testing. The American equivalent is UL (Underwriters Laboratories). Also, check the age restrictions to ensure this toy is suitable for your child’s age.
• This product, including spare parts, must be of satisfactory quality, or the consumer is entitled to a repair, replacement or compensation under the Sale of Goods Act and it must be a safe consumer item under the Consumer Protection Act 1999.
Arguably, the sticker would completely cover most products, making them quite less attractive at the retail stand. But considering the heartache that consumers would be spared, maybe that’s not such bad thing.