Down with up-selling: avoid getting loaded with unnecessary charges

31 July 2017 - 09:32
Unsuspecting consumers have ended up with credit agreements padded with long list of insurances, extra warranties and fees, all of which add to the total amount owing, with handsome interest.
Unsuspecting consumers have ended up with credit agreements padded with long list of insurances, extra warranties and fees, all of which add to the total amount owing, with handsome interest.
Image: iStock

Up-sell. That’s corporate-speak for strategies to make you part with more money than you otherwise would have, had they not dangled a little extra in front of you.

“Would you like to super-size that?” is the most famous up-sell line, but the spend-moreinvitation takes many other forms.

It ’s the “Would you like avocado with that?” from the waiter when you order a salad in arestaurant. They should tell you what that tasty little extra is going to cost you, but mostly they don ’t and you find out when the bill comes.

It ’s the salesman’s “It ’s best to take out an extended warranty on that” when you buy afridge or a washing machine, and the “We can have your smash-and-grab film fitted for you” when you’re buying a car from a dealership.

Some retailers have taken up-sell to ridiculous degrees, and many an unsuspecting consumer  has ended up with a credit agreement padded with a long list of insurances, extra warranties and fees, all of which add to the total amount owing, with handsome interest.

In many cases the consumer has no recollection of any of the extras being mentioned, much less explained to them at the time they committed to the deal — they just signed the agreement without reading it properly.

And the number of extra charges that get added to consumers’ accounts “in error” iscause for alarm.

Jacques van Staden of Forest Hills, Durban, contacted In Your Corner about his wife Tamryn’s Edgars account for July, which had been padded with almost R400 worth of insurances — personal accident, personal funeral, parent funeral and a “family provider” plan.

There were two amounts for each insurance, one the full premium and one a “partmonth ” premium, indicating that the policies were taken out during the course of June.But Tamryn van Staden didn’t authorise any of them. So her husband contested the add-ons with Edcon’s call centre.

“I was told that a third party loaded it and all they can do is remove the charges,” he said.“I requested an updated statement showing the removal, and I was told they can’t provide that, nor can they give me anything in writing confirming that the insurances were loaded onto the account in error and would be reversed.

I feel sorry for those people who pay without checking their statements and get furtherinto debt as a result.

“If this account was paid via debit order, the company would have debited the inflatedamount owing without any prior notification,” said Van Staden.

Responding, an Edcon spokesperson began with the company’s up-sell explanation.“Edcon holds partnerships with various service providers, thereby allowing us to offerall Edcon account holders insurance benefits at competitive rates.”

In this case, Edcon said, the company’s third party “service provider” used the contactcellphone number listed against Mrs van Staden ’s account and made a call to offerfinancial services products.“The agent continued with the sale of the products and failed to confirm the accountholder ’s details, thereby incorrectly enrolling the products onto Mrs van Staden’s account.”

The charges will be reversed on her account, said Edcon.“The processes followed by the third party were not in line with Edcon’s policy and procedures and any deviation from these processes are dealt with in a serious light.”Good to know, because what happened in this case is very concerning indeed.

It ’s true that the cellphone number which Edcon ’s third party agent used was once Tamryn van Staden’s and is no longer.

But every telesales call I’ve ever received or heard a recording of has begun with “Is thatMr/Ms —?” so the identity problem should have been apparent within seconds.And it’s mystifying, to say the least, that the sales call continued, and the premiums ended up on van Staden’s account despite the person answering the questions not being Tamryn van Staden.

That crucial detail must have been hard to miss, given that the woman who took thatsales call supposedly agreed to insurance policies that required her personal details.That insurance policies can be sold so sloppily is cause for huge concern.

Avoid these gut - bustersWhich foods are most likely to give you food poisoning? Attorney Bill Marler, a partner at a Washington-based food safety law firm who has litigated hundreds of food poisoning cases, has drawn up a list of foods heavoids as a result of his work.

There are some obvious ones on there:raw oysters, rare steak, raw eggs and unpasteurised milk.Then there’s ground meat (any bacteria that’s on the surface of the meat can be ground into it) and raw sprouts — for some reason, they’ve caused 30 bacterial outbreaks in the US in 20 years. But why precut fruit? Apparently cutting fruit increases its surface area, which means more of it gets handled and comes in contact with bacteria or other contaminates.

CONTACT WENDY:E-mail: @wendyknowler

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