No rest for the wicked
A woman who paid R3800 for a hair weave in mid-November and still hasn't received it; a man who paid R2700 for a tombstone in 2014 which has yet to be erected; and a husband who mistakenly transferred R3000 via EFT six months ago to a company instead of his wife, and cannot get it back.
These are a few of the many Pay Back the Money cases which have landed in my inbox in the past week in response to my invitation to readers to tell me about their battle to get legitimate refunds out of companies. I'm doing my best to get to all of them.
The bigger companies are easier to get hold of and easier, for me at least, to get a response - and recompense. It's the others that take time and effort, lots of it.
Take the case of Velaphi Vilakazi of Ermelo. He bought a tombstone from a company called Urgent Tombstones of Groblersdal, paying for it in full - R2730 - by the end of July 2014, and he has the invoice and the receipt to prove it.
The contract stated that the tombstone, for a relative, would be erected within 60 days of full payment, but that has never happened, he says.
"When I called them they always asked me to send slips and then they said they would erect it the following week, but it never happened," he said.
"I went to the Small Claims Court in Ermelo but I could not be helped because they closed the shop where I bought the tombstone and now the nearest branch is 200km away.
"There are a lot of people that are in my situation with this company," said Vilakazi.
I sent an e-mail to the address on the company's website and it came back undelivered, and the contact numbers are a dead end.
It's a shocking betrayal - taking money for something as important and heartfelt as a tombstone, and then failing to deliver.
I'm including this story in the hope that it will lead to justice and closure for this family, one way or the other.
Zola Yozi of Khayelitsha paid R3800 in mid-November for a hair weave which she'd seen advertised on Instagram, and the Joburg-based owner of the company was supposed to have sent the weave to Yozi via Postnet.
I managed to get hold of the owner, who claimed that the landlord of her rented premises had taken her goods and changed the locks (an illegal act, incidentally), and that she had lost everything and was trying to rebuild her business.
I told the owner that since she hadn't made contact with Yozi, and hadn't refunded a cent in four months, it smelt of fraud. She undertook to contact Yozi and start refunding her. I'm giving her a break for now.
I'm all for encouraging and supporting small businesses, but doing transactions online with an unknown entity is very risky indeed.
Parow resident Brandon Roelf' s experience is sadly not uncommon. He logged onto his bank's website to transfer R3000 to his wife's account but hit another saved beneficiary - an electronics company - instead.
That was more than six months ago, and despite the company acknowledging receiving the money the owner hasn't seen fit to pay it back.
What's sorely lacking is empathy for Roelf, a one-time customer of the company. It's an easy mistake to make with beneficiaries' lists. The money was not earned by the company and keeping it is a form of theft. I'm trying to convince the company of that. To be continued ...
On taking up a similar case a few years ago, the company owner told me he'd kept the money because he was being treated for cancer. How's that for warped justification of a wrongful act.