The one thing that customers want is FairTrade. They have a right to get value for the money they spend to buy a product or service. Fairness and trade justice are important values in our world today because there is so much injustice and unfair trade. Not only are the poor cheated and exploited by the traders and commercial buyers of their farm produce and the farmers are paid a pittance, the traders mark up the cost of the products by hundreds of percentage points. They make unjust and unfair profit at the expense of the customer. There is a serious failure to have Fair Trade in everyday life when we go to the market or buy manufactured products.
That’s why there is a saying “Buyer Beware.” That tells us that the seller is likely to charge an unfair high price. They are prone to over-charge the customer, to cheat and commit fraud. That is why Fair Trade based on honesty, transparency and a sense of justice is the important value we need in society today.
There are laws that protect the customer but implementing it, like most laws, is very difficult so, “buyer beware.” The advise is to be skeptical of the offers and the sales talk of vendors and to bargain for a lower price and get a discount as much as. Also it is important to carefully read the warranty on the product and the terms and see that you agree to the terms before you buy. The Warranty Law is the law that protects the customer but it too has provisions that can cancel the rights of the customer.
It’s the same challenge for the buyer of consumer products. The workers and assemblers get paid low wages and the sellers and distributers in the retail shops make the huge profits by adding on profit margins. In Fair Trade, there is the guarantee that any manufactured product certified Fair Trade they buy is of quality, durable and comes with after sales service. These genuine services and durable products are becoming scarcer. More and more it seems that companies are building appliances with what is known as “planned obeisance,” a product is built with a short life span and after perhaps two to three years it stops working. The one-year warranty is then useless and the customer has to pay huge expense for repair or buy a new appliance or product. That’s what the manufacturer wants us to do- buy a new appliance and throw away the old.
Many a warranty is only for service and does not include the parts needed and if they do offer to repair it, retailers take months to have it done and the customer loses the use of the product without compensation. The customer has no redress and may have to pay for parts. Companies ought to state their warranty terms and conditions clearly and transparently beside the products.
Appliance repairs for washing machines, for example, are very expensive and parts are always needed as many products are now electronic. Customers have to avoid products and brands that have a short life span. Don’t believe the advertisements, sales talk and empty promises. Ask your friends for advice based on their experience with their brands. Do not believe the promises on the stickers on the appliance promising guarantees and warranties unless the warranty is in writing and says it is for parts and service, most do not. The one year or more warranty ought be signed by a senior manager of the sales company pledging parts and service.
But the guarantee, according to Philippine law, will not be for more than one year in most cases. The warranty or guarantee is mostly just for repair service, the customer has to buy the expensive parts. In SM, they offer an extended guarantee for one year on an appliance for an extra payment that depends on the value of the product. It is for part and services.
Samsung has a washing machine with a sticker that says 11 years warranty. When you ask what is guaranteed, they say the motor. Ask if that guarantee is in writing and includes parts and service and the salesperson says no, it is not given in writing and does not include parts. Are promises just smart manipulation of a customer with promises and to make a sale and earn a commission? After that there is no real service and care. If you have a repair done under warranty it has to be proven by the customer that it did not happen through neglect or the fault of the customer. The company can deny you a repair or replacement. You have no recourse. It is not Fair Trade.
What can a disappointed or cheated customer do? Go to court and sue the company for not honoring a guarantee for a broken appliance? Yes, it’s a good idea if it is an expensive item. The customer that feels cheated can file a small claim case and the company will then cave in and honor the warranty as it does not want the bad publicity. In most cases of broken products, it is not financially feasible so we customers are victims of the selling corporations when their appliances break down.
One example is our washing machine, Whirlpool, (model 122491, serial No.C311 40001), bought in Abensons, Olongapo. It costs Php 35,000 pesos in US dollars at today’s rate that is equivalent to $685. It was bought 2 years and 7 months ago and broke down. The Abensons manager assigned a repair man to inspect it from a small shop in Subic Municipality and diagnose the problem for a fee of 500 peso. His bill to repair the Whirlpool Washing machine is Php 18,900 equivalent to US $370.12, enough to buy another model machine. That is the point- they want you to buy more.
So you are advised to consider this experience when you are purchasing a washing machine but never a Whirlpool washing machine as it only works for about two to three years.
Apple Mac is also another company selling expensive computers with what appears to be planned obeisance or declaration that the model is obsolete after a number of years. For Apple, it is seven years after the end of production. The Apple website has a long list of obsolete products. Even top of the line models have a shelf-life and after five years or six years, they inevitably breakdown.
This is hardly Fair Trade. Failed screen problems or the computer hard disk goes down and the computer does not boot up, there is no hope for repair. If a customer goes to the Power Mac shop in Makati, Metro Manila, they check the serial number and inform you it is an old machine, out of date and no parts and no repair possible. It has been phased out.
The machine just needs a repair and it would work for several years longer but no, they want you to buy a new one from your dead laptop. Your files could be lost and you have to go to another company to get your files extracted. That’s their strategy, it seems, and it’s unfair and a bad one. Some countries like Turkey, Ireland and the US state of California have passed consumer protection laws that demand the repair service be available. In Olongapo City, Apple Mac in Harbor Point Mall has no service center and tells customers to go the Manila Power Mac Center, an eight hours drive away even if your Mac is under warranty.
Sony Corporation will sell you expensive products in Harbor Point Mall but they too have no qualified service center and advise you to go to a local repair shop or to a Sony Service Center where it could take months to repair your camera or laptop. These local shops are incompetent and charge up to Php 500 to inspect and tell you the appliance is broken and will cost a big fortune to repair. Just as we experienced with Whirlpool.