Be­ware snakeoil sales­men

Auckland City Harbour News - - OPINION -

Wa­ter is prob­a­bly my num­ber one grudge pur­chase.

I don’t mean the comes out of the tap.

That’s ex­pen­sive enough, but the price of the stuff in bot­tles at the su­per­mar­kets and dairies makes me wince.

So imag­ine my hor­ror when an Auck­land-based fi­nance com­pany was fined $77,200 ear­lier this year for its part in the door-todoor sale of wa­ter fil­ters by a com­pany called Love Springs.

Bless their cot­ton socks – the sales­peo­ple of Love Springs (I know, it sounds like a mar­i­tal aid) were telling peo­ple the lo­cal wa­ter caused can­cer, birth de­fects and mis­car­riages.

Oh, I knew the hawk­ing of wa­ter fil­ters was go­ing on – just like the door-to-door sale of over­priced vac­uum clean­ers and maths teach­ing soft­ware.

But the num­ber of debt con­tracts the fi­nance com­pany had is­sued to peo­ple who couldn’t af­ford to buy the wa­ter fil­ters with real money ut­terly stag­gered me – 21,523.

And each of those credit con­tracts was for $1595.

How come so many of us are so re­cep­tive to what I think of as low-level con­sumer preda­tors?

My own con­clu­sion on this both com­plex and sim­ple.

Com­plex be­cause peo­ple are com­plex in their mo­ti­va­tions, mis­con­cep­tions and mad­nesses and sim­ple be­cause a pro­por­tion of peo­ple have al­ways bought the

stuff that

is wares of the snakeoil sales­man and a pro­por­tion al­ways will.

And let’s not do the sales­men down. The best of them are as good at iden­ti­fy­ing gullible souls as a lion is at spot­ting the weak­est wilde­beest.

It seems to me that a set of prin­ci­ples can be brought to bear in self-de­fence.

Prin­ci­ple 1. Never bor­row to re­place a ne­ces­sity with a lux­ury.

Prin­ci­ple 2. Never pre-pay for lux­u­ries. (Time­shares are the best ex­am­ple of this. You are ef­fec­tively pre-buy­ing hol­i­days which makes no sense.)

Prin­ci­ple 3. Mar­ket­ing by tele­phone is in­tru­sive and wrong: Hang up on tele­phone sales­men. No ex­cep­tions. I have never been of­fered any­thing by phone that was not one of the fol­low­ing: A scam, un­nec­es­sary, a lux­ury or some­thing I would seek out for my­self when I needed it.

Prin­ci­ple 4: Your home is not a show­room: Put up a small sign on your gate read­ing: ‘‘Sales­peo­ple not wel­come’’. Give short-shrift to all door-to-door sales­men. Never in­vite them in.

Prin­ci­ple 5: Never sign up to any­thing on the spot. If you feel any pres­sure to do so some­thing is hor­ri­bly, hor­ri­bly wrong. You need time to think. You need to con­sult your ad­vis­ers (son/daugh­ter/ friend/the good peo­ple of the Com­merce Com­mis­sion, who­ever).

Prin­ci­ple 6: Never take pos­ses­sion of some­thing un­less you are 100 per cent cer­tain you want it. Never al­low a sales­man to leave a prod­uct with you.

Prin­ci­ple 7: Have tremen­dous cau­tion about any­one who claims to have ‘‘secret’’ or ‘‘in­sider’’ knowl­edge, or makes star­tling health claims. Al­most all are liars.

Fi­nally, and I think this is the most im­por­tant.

Prin­ci­ple 8: You dic­tate the terms of trade. You must be the one to de­cide what you need, when you need it, how you will set about buy­ing it and for what price.

Any­one who attempts to break into your life – whether by ap­pear­ing at your door, by email, by phone or by let­ter (yes, let­ter­based scams are com­mon) – is at­tempt­ing to hi­jack your plans.

They are at­tempt­ing to get you to spend out­side of your bud­get, on terms they dic­tate, at a time they have cho­sen. Send them pack­ing.

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