As a Financial Mentor (Budget Advisor) and the Education Facilitator for Hamilton Budgeting Advisory Trust, I witness weekly the effects mobile shopping trucks have on our community.
Yes the community as a whole not just certain areas. I will explain this statement later on.
The people who drive these Red or White Aladdin’s Cave on Wheels, they prey on the weak, vulnerable, lower socio economic areas of not just the city but the outlying areas as well. In fact the outlying areas suffer the most because they are the more vulnerable.
Why are they vulnerable?
Because they are the people who don’t have the cars, or money to put into the cars to make them legally driveable, or just don’t have a budget to pay for petrol to travel into the city to get the better deals.
And then there is the fact that they don’t have cash to spend on clothes, manchester etc. or they have a poor credit rating, therefore no ability to get a non-shark lender loan.
So what is the draw of the Red or White Aladdin’s Cave on wheels?
You can get it now and pay later. “But wait there’s more if you purchase this item we will chuck in this item for free!”
The elderly, infirmed, gullible, the poor are ushered to the opening of the cave and then they can shop inside at the leisure of their discretion, booking up everything available to their hearts desire.
I have a sole parent client who went into the cave two Christmases ago to buy a selection of clothes and toys for her children. It is now September 2017 and she owes $700! For three sets of clothes and six towels. These were originally $225.00 when purchased. If she had gone to Kmart, the Warehouse, Postie Plus etc and put these items on layby she would have only paid the $225.00 or probably less as the items are cheaper in those stores. Yes some of the responsibility lies with the client as we know Christmas comes every 365 days of the year, we have 365 days to save.
When I put that fact to clients they go yeah you’re right Christmas comes same time every year.
So it is a community and social problem, lack of education, lack of people power, why don’t people just go out onto the street and tell those damn Caves to !#$% OFF!
I have a house bound elderly client barely has enough money to pay her rent, power and insurances. Lives on $22 per week to feed herself and purchase general grocery items who wanted some companionship, so she settled for a 42 inch TV but wait one of Aladdin’s men told her he could throw in a vacuum cleaner for free if she went up to a 50 inch TV ! She can barely get around to vacuum her little one bedroom unit but she still got it anyway.
I met her two days after the deal went down because a concerned neighbour made her book an appointment with our service. By the end of our 1 ½ hour appointment I had them come back and get that 50 inch TV. I told the company that there was a serious breach of responsible lending and threatened them with exposure to Consumer NZ. Never had so many apologies ever in an hour.
A heart-warming ending but how many other vulnerable people in our community get stung?
Another case I have had is a client who had paid off her account in full with the additional 44.49% interest on top, well done to her, had an extra $20 deducted from her final account. When she contacted them to show that she had paid the bill in full, they apologised profusely and suggested to her that she now has credit and would she like to purchase other items from inside the cave.
She continually called for a week daily to ask them to reimburse her credit, nothing happened so she decided that she better seek some advice from our service.
I called this outfit and they had the cheek to tell me to write a letter on her behalf requesting the reimbursement. They put the blame on her overpayment, believing this to be their right to keep her money and use it on credit in their system.
I write letters to the Cave operators often telling them to back off my clients once their debt is cleared and never to deal with my clients again. And as I pen this off there will be another vulnerable family being approached and ushered to the Cave.
The sooner a bylaw is put in place that bans mobile caves from frequenting the lower socio economic areas or something similar the better. You never see the Mobile Caves in Rototuna!
Penned by Ursula Pollock
Financial Mentor/Education Officer
Hamilton Budgeting Advisory Trust