Story and Pics By Prabath Attanayake
If you prefer to buy electrical items on easy payment terms there are any number of places for that within Sri Lanka. This story is not only about a woman who bought such items and faced a mishap because there is an indication of the market situation in it. As what is most important is to understand the story presenting her experience regarding the incident as it was related, I thought editing it later was
the most suitable thing to do.
While I was helping my sister at her home with certain chores a vehicle from an organization which sells electrical items on easy payment terms, where payments can be made in installments monthly came up to the house. The vehicle was filled with various types of electrical appliances. They gave us an explanation on all of those appliances. They told us that any one of those goods could be bought so that we could pay Rs 1,000 monthly. They also said that we could pay in installments only if we paid one fourth of the value of the appliance. They spoke to us very cordially. Anyway I was thinking of buying an oven on the easy payment scheme. It was stated on the oven that the brand was National and that it had been made in Japan. They showed us the catalogues and everything.
They gave an introduction of the company for which they were working as middlemen, as well. The National Company was located at the address 670/72A, Galle Road, Colombo 03. It was printed on their bill. There was also a mobile phone number on it. There were two telephone numbers in connection with the Japan Lanka Company as well. I had no reason to doubt them at all. Then I called my husband and asked him to come and look at the appliances. They said the oven was worth Rs 29,950. If I was going to buy this oven I would have to pay a sum of Rs 7,500 initially. It is only after that, that I would have to pay an installment of Rs 1,000 monthly. As a housewife I felt really attracted to it. Paying Rs 1,000 a month is a simple thing. During that time, this company will maintain contact with us. There were things like that too.
Then I thought, it does not matter, I will buy the oven. At that time I was at my eldest sister's house. The persons who came said we could go into the house and write out the bill. That was true. I thought that they were trying to find out where I lived and what I did. I said there was no problem and led them into the house.
They came into the house and wrote the bill and I promised to pay Rs 7,500. As it was afternoon and it was very hot I offered them two yogurts to eat as well. By that time my husband had returned. He also said it was worthwhile buying the oven to pay in installments. He said that then these persons would visit once a month. Then even if the oven broke it would not have mattered and we could get it exchanged. I paid Rs 7,500 and got the bill as well. They ate the yogurts and engaged in a general conversation and then told me the following.
We realize that you are good people. So, we have to help you out as well. The Company has offered us, if you bought an appliance paying the entire amount at once to give any item which is in our van free of charge. If you wish you can call the Company and find out whether that offer still stands. That meant that if I paid in full for the oven, I would be able to have any item in the van free. If it was truly something that would happen, it would be a good thing. Then I looked into the van to see what other appliances were there. Among the goods there the most costly was a Home Theater Set which was worth Rs 28,751. I thought that if I could borrow the money and pay in full the price of the oven which was Rs 29,950 I could get the Home Theater System free. However, the Home Theater Set was not of any known brand and it did not say where it had been manufactured. Therefore, I said I did not want it. My son who was close by and watching was also interested in the Home Theater System and was eager to buy it. However, as I was unwilling to buy a product with no details of the brand or manufacturer I did not buy it. Then they began bringing out various types of appliances, items like a Magic Bullet, a set of Non-Stick saucepans and so on. I already had those items. Then they asked me to buy the oven paying for it in full, and said that they would give two items worth Rs 10,000 free. I felt regret at that time. Then they introduced to me a modern type of hot plate. It cost Rs 19,090. I really liked that.
I said I would pay the full amount for the oven, if they gave the hot plate which cost Rs 19,090 free. They agreed to it. Now I had to find Rs 29,950. I called my sister and mother and asked them whether they had any money with them. It was a Sunday and I could not go to the bank either. Also due to some problem with my ATM Card I was unable to withdraw money too. My mother and sister had only Rs 12,000 between them. I had about Rs 7,000. While I was speaking to my mother and sister these people I felt had calculated the amount we had. Even if I got all that money I would have only Rs 20,000. Then I said it was alright and that I was not someone who liked to borrow money from anyone. And that I will buy the oven, paying the down payment of Rs 7,500. They spoke as if they regretted it too. Then they told me the following:
We realized that you really wanted to buy the oven. Everyone has money problems. We know about it because we are both married. I will do this for you. You have Rs 20,000 in hand now. I will write the Bill indicating that you paid the entire amount and bought the National oven. Then you will receive that hot plate free. We will take it and sell it to someone else for a lesser price. That is for about Rs 10,000. We will deduct that amount from you bill of Rs 29,950. That means if you pay us Rs 20,000 that will be satisfactory. But we are doing this to help you; so you cannot tell anyone about this. I spoke to my husband about it. He said it was okay if I did not have to face any loss and to ask for the guarantee card together with the bill. They wrote out a bill for Rs 29,950 and took the Rs 20,000 and went away.
After they had gone my husband asked where the guarantee card was. It was only then I recalled that they should have given me the guarantee card because the entire transaction was completed. I tried to call the number of the company Japan Lanka. There were two mobile phone numbers stated on the bill. On the top of it was the name and address of the National Company. There was a number that said hotline +94711 514...7. On further inspection I saw that, that too was a mobile phone number. As it was a Sunday I did not call the number of that Company but tried the number for Japan Lanka.
Of the two numbers, the first time the call was answered by a small child. It could happen. I saved that number on my phone. A little later I began to feel suspicious about this deal. I wondered why the two persons who came seemed extra friendly towards us. I thought I would call the National Company on the hot line and dialled. It was the same number as the Japan Lanka number. How could that be? How could the National Company and the company which sells their goods, the Japan Lanka Company have the same number? I realized I had got caught in a trap. Even today I cannot believe how persons who talk like that can cheat people. I may have suffered a loss. It did not matter. I could bear that. But I had the fear that someone else would have to face the same predicament. You can search and write and see.
I made inquiries in connection with her story. A friend from Thihariya came to assist me. I would not be exaggerating if I said that he was an experienced person regarding electrical goods being imported to this country. His story which had a connection to her story explains the trap she fell into.
The government charges a huge tax for goods that come directly to Sri Lanka from Japan. Therefore, it is difficult to bring Japanese electrical appliances and sell them here. First you have to be aware of that fact. On the other hand, even world recognized companies only manufacture their original goods to meet the demand in their country only and they do not target the world market in production. It is China which manufactures goods with the world market as their target. As a result it is a simple fact that in any country there are Chinese goods. What happens in this story is that, seals of world renowned companies are placed on Chinese goods and sold everywhere. It is a practical racket. An electrical appliance used in a home manufactured in China can be bought for about Rs 6,000. When a stock of 12 such appliances is bought a company provides at least one item free. They bring goods from China like that and emboss the seal of a Japanese Company on appliances and sell them in this country.
Even catalogues and boxes relevant to that company can be made in Sri Lanka. They take these items around the country and sell on easy payment schemes. When brought to Sri Lanka an item that costs Rs 6,000 is given on an easy payment scheme subsequent to an initial payment of Rs 8,000 being paid. If they sell 12 pieces a day on easy payment schemes thus, they make a profit of about Rs 6,000 from the free item. If a profit of Rs 750 is made on each of the 12 items, the profit there itself is Rs 8,000-8,500. Selling 12 Chinese items on easy payment terms means a profit of about Rs 15,000 per day. If people pay the installments properly without messing things up then they go scot free. When people in areas such as Colombo and Gampaha get taken in by these scams, it is no wonder that people of Chilaw, Embilipitiya, Hambantota, Nuwara Eliya get caught to them. That is the first racket. According to the story of the previous lady, the racket she got caught to is as follows.
When they come to a house where they think there is money, they somehow try to make a fast buck. That is why they introduce the system, one free for one purchase. Even if one was given free for an item that costs Rs 29,990 the cost of such an item is usually only about Rs 15,000. With the Chinese theory the profit for these racketeers is Rs 15,000. Saying that they will sell the free item is dragging the story further and they say part of it will be deducted from the item you purchased. According to that lady's story for an item that is worth Rs 29,990 is an item worth Rs 19,970. They write a bill saying the lady purchased the item for the full amount of Rs 29,990 and take only Rs 20,000. They say that they will cover the rest by selling the item worth Rs 19,970. However what the lady knows is the story they have made up on the surface and that she paid Rs 20,000 for an item that costs only Rs 7,500. These scammers have made a clean profit of Rs 12,500. These people would not sight the place ever again. Let us say that another two persons paid Rs 7,500 each and bought goods.
Let us also say that they were also from the same area close to that lady's house. These two rascals would not even come to collect money from the other two. Then a person who makes inquiries would feel that those who paid Rs 7,500 had a windfall. Even though they are not aware of it they too have suffered a loss. The lady suffered a big loss. These are the games that are played using the brain. Do you know what will happen if this scam is not understood properly? Those men will come once or twice a month and collect the money and will deceive another one or two persons and vanish. What do you say? Shall we buy a Chinese item with a Japanese name? Shall we pay monthly? Shall we pay the entire amount at once because of the 'free' item?