Look­ing a gift horse in the mouth

The Star Early Edition - - NEWS - Stephen

FIRSTLY thank you for a great col­umn and a real pub­lic ser­vice to con­sumers.

I saw in one of your re­cent col­umns some com­plaints about the ex­piry of gift vouch­ers and cel­lu­lar data.

I thought I would share with you the en­ter­tain­ing ex­change I had with man­age­ment of a mall in Pre­to­ria.

Quite apart from the fact that my gift card was marked to ex­pire in less than the Con­sumer Pro­tec­tion Act’s min­i­mum of three years, the com­pany can­not pro­vide any rea­son­able ex­pla­na­tion for why the gift voucher needs to ex­pire at all.

Af­ter all, the mall has re­ceived the value of the voucher (I think R500 in this case) in cash, which has no doubt been de­posited into its bank ac­count.

It has now had about four years of com­pound in­ter­est on this amount and given its ex­pi­ra­tion pol­icy it will now also be re­ceiv­ing the prin­ci­pal amount of the gift voucher.

By my rough cal­cu­la­tions, my R500 gift voucher is now worth over R660 (based on a 7% sav­ings ac­count in­ter­est rate).

Given that the mall is un­will­ing or un­able to ex­plain what pos­si­ble op­er­a­tional costs it has to cover from pro­vid­ing say a 10-year ex­pi­ra­tion date, I can­not but con­clude that this is just an­other of those South African busi­ness prac­tices which are detri­men­tal to the con­sumer and which for too long we have sim­ply ac­cepted as an in­con­testable fact of life.

For me the R500 is im­ma­te­rial. I would hap­pily give it to char­ity, but the fact of the mat­ter seems to be that I have paid for the right to pur­chase goods or ser­vices at the mall, but have not been able to ac­tu­ally ac­cess said goods or ser­vices.

It is, of course, trite to suggest, as the mall no doubt will, that I should have used the voucher in the three-year pe­riod.

If only we lived in a per­fect world where this were the norm.

Com­pany can not say why card ex­pires at all

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