NO-vember: Beware the Black Friday, Black November and Singles' Day spending traps
Consumer journalist Wendy Knowler’s ‘watchouts of the week’
In this weekly segment of bite-sized chunks of useful information, consumer journalist Wendy Knowler summarises news you can use.
Just say NO-vember
At first, Black Friday was just a one-day spend-fest at the end of November in the name of nabbing a sensational bargain — and kicking off the festive spending season.
Then it became a week, and now it’s Black November, spreading the FOMO across an entire month.
As if that’s not enough to prompt promotion fatigue, a number of local retailers got onto the Singles' Day bandwagon for the first time on Thursday. This is a Chinese celebration day held on November 11 every year — supposedly because all those 1s resemble lonely sticks — and it has morphed into a massive “Spoil Yourself” retail therapy day worldwide.
And that’s all before we get to Christmas.
So here’s the sobering “watchout”: the SA Reserve Bank has forecast that the repo rate will nearly double in the next two years, which will add 3% to your current interest rate, in small, steady increases.
Already credit has become a lifeline to ease the stretch between paydays, with consumers allocating 66.7% of their disposable income to paying their debts, says Michelle Dickens, CEO of TPN credit bureau, which specialises in vetting tenants for rental properties.
Currently 20% of unsecure credit agreements are six months or more in arrears — that’s 25-million credit cards, garage cards and store cards.
Only 70% of cardholders are managing to pay their minimum monthly balance repayment.
All in all, most of us would do well to resist the pressure to snap up “bargains” and give a hard no to the hard-sell this No-vember.
If you're shopping for bargains online, choose your payment method wisely
Last week the SA Banking Risk Information Centre (Sabric) released its annual report for 2020, which revealed, among many things, that while credit card fraud decreased by 27% from 2019 to 2020, debit card fraud increased by 22% for the same period.
That’s because lockdown shifted a massive number of consumers to online shopping, but many chose to use their debit cards instead of credit cards “where the funds were already in their account, rather than spending on their credit cards which they would have to pay back later”, Sabric said.
That created what Sabric terms “more opportunities for criminals”, because while consumers can apply to their credit card companies, via their banks, for chargeback — a refund — if they don’t get what they paid for, there is no such protection when consumers use a debit card for online purchases.
If you can’t pay with a credit card, doing extra homework on the e-retailer before you hit Pay is a must — there are far too many dodgy operators lurking online, making online shopping a very high-risk exercise for those who venture beyond the relative safety of the likes of Takealot, Mr Price and Woolworths.
What not to pack in your check-in luggage
I’m a huge fan of only ever travelling with luggage you can take on board a plane with you, to avoid missing connecting flights, pilferage, lost or damaged bags and other travel disasters.
But there are times when that’s just not possible, so if you’ll be checking in a bag when flying this festive season, here’s how to increase your chances of not arriving at your destination with fewer possessions than you left home with.
Wrap your check-in luggage: the extra time needed to get inside it may deter a rogue baggage handler.
Avoid packing expensive branded sneakers, high-end fragrances or expensive leather jackets into your check-in luggage — those items top the criminals’ shopping list.
In December they’ll also be looking for Christmas gifts, so either pack those into your carry-on bag, or shop online and have the gifts delivered to your Christmas destination.
There’s a strong correlation between flight delays and luggage pilferage. Luggage that’s waiting to be loaded onto a plane for some time plays into criminals’ hands. So you may want to check out which airlines have the best — and the worst — on-time performance (OTP).
The Airports Company of SA (Acsa) makes this easy by publishing on its website the OTP stats of domestic airlines, both for the previous month and for the year to date, and for all domestic airports.
A flight is regarded as having departed on time if the plane pushes back from its parking spot within 15 minutes of the stated departure time, which is fairly generous.
Check out the various domestic airlines’ performance here.
In October, at Joburg’s OR Tambo International Airport, the most on-time airline was Flysafair at 97.59% and the least on-time airline was British Airways (domestic) at 79.16%.