What’s happened to Woolies’ viennas, cost of missing a car service and fixed contracts need-to-know
Consumer journalist Wendy Knowler’s ‘watch-outs of the week’
In this weekly segment of bite-sized chunks of useful information, consumer journalist Wendy Knowler summarises news you can use:
What’s happened to Woolies’ viennas?
It’s always distressing when one of your favourite products is suddenly not in stock and you can’t get to the bottom of what happened.
George started his e-mail to me: “I have a huge concern.”
He’s been trying to buy Woolworths’ smoked and red viennas since early December, but they are consistently out of stock.
“I did contact Woolworths’ head office in this regard, but the only answer I got was that they have problems with the suppliers.
“Why were all the smoked viennas and red viennas suddenly withdrawn? Is there something Woolworths is hiding from us?”
That’s the problem with a lack of information — it leads to conspiracy theories.
Here’s what Woolworths told me when I queried the vanished viennas: “Woolworths offers customers a variety of viennas produced for us by a number of suppliers.
“Unfortunately, one of our deli meat suppliers changed their production operation in September at very short notice, causing us to lose production of a number of products, including smoked viennas and salamis.
“While we have reintroduced salami sticks, we are looking to redevelop a number of products with new suppliers to have them back on shelf for customers as soon as possible.”
However, there’s bad news for George and other red vienna fans: “This product has been permanently eliminated due to poor sales.”
Beechwood smoked German viennas and smoked chicken viennas are in full supply, “although product may sell out in stores from time to time”.
Cost of missing a car service
Did you know that if you fail to stick to the service schedule dictated by the manufacturer of your car, the manufacturer’s warranty can be cancelled?
That’s what happened to Kylie. She wanted to trade in her hatchback, and the dealership initially agreed, but when they took a look at the car’s service book, they called off the deal as she had failed to service the car for more than a year.
Generally, dealerships don’t do much to explain to buyers how to ensure they don’t unwittingly miss a service or act in a way that would lead to cancellation of their warranties and service/maintenance plans.
Motor manufacturers stipulate service intervals in terms of time (for example, every 12 months) or mileage (for example, every 15,000km) — whichever comes first.
If you drive a lot, you may have to service your car in shorter intervals than a year, but if you don’t drive much you are still compelled to service your car every 12 months, regardless of your low mileage.
Please monitor this carefully, because the cost of not getting your in-warranty car serviced when you should is potentially massive.
When you’re buying a used car with a claimed balance of manufacturer’s warranty, make a point of carefully checking its service record. If there are gaps, that warranty is invalid.
Cellphone contract doesn’t cancel on its own
Many consumers wrongly assume their cellphone or gym contracts automatically end when their “initial period” — usually 24 months — is up.
It’s a very costly mistake because “fixed term” contracts don’t “expire” — not unless you give the service provider 30 days’ written or telephonic notice.
If you don’t, the contract is kept alive, but on a month-to-month basis, and you are liable for the monthly subscription, whether or not you use the service. You can, however, cancel by giving 30 days' notice without having to pay a cancellation penalty.
Mphona is one of many who have learnt this the hard way.
“I had a contract phone with Telkom for 24 months which I completed paying, and then I received an e-mail advising I’m due for an upgrade, which I did not want,” she wrote.
“But Telkom never cancelled my contract and I have been advised I was supposed to call and cancel it myself.
“I’ve since been told I need to pay an outstanding balance on the contract before I can cancel, but I refuse to pay for what I have not received.”
I had to advise her to pay up, cancel in writing and chalk it up to experience.