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Wednesday, April 17, 2024

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BEYOND SIGHT: Cutting Corners

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By Monsi A. Serrano

The Department Trade and Industry deserves to be lauded for putting an end to expiry dates on gift certificates, gift checks and consumable cash cards. This further protects consumers from abusive and greedy companies that have enriched themselves from unclaimed cash equivalents. For a long time, this had prospered due to the clout of big businesses on people in high places of government. I just hope that those who will be affected will not try to play around with the new directive of DTI, lest the pitiful consumers will again be at the losing end.

In hindsight, lawmakers are the ones who should have taken the initiative to enact this as a law or amend RA 7394. I really find the expiration of gift certificates and gift cards that a consumer purchases disgusting, selfish and greedy. Imagine, you already paid for something that has not been used and yet they will put an end date to what your money is worth? What shall we call these companies who do that? GREEDY!

Sadly, these companies are bragging about their wealth published in Forbes magazine, as well as their generosity to the church and other charitable institutions and foundations (which sometimes they also created for tax shield purposes) they support and even holding holy mass in their malls. They are not far from the Pharisees and Sadducees who blow their trumpets every time they do acts of charity. The only difference is that these companies are worse, because they know deep in their hearts that the money they share and acquired are windfall profit from the gift checks, certificates and cards purchased from them.

For how many years have they been abusing this system of putting expiry dates on gift checks, certificates and cards? Long enough to build many malls in the forest where they can wantonly destroy the environment by cutting down the trees, bribe corrupt politicians, and in the areas they know they can take advantage of.

Indeed, only in the Philippines does this kind of business practice of putting expiry dates on gift checks, certificates and cards happen. In the US, this has not been allowed as well as in Canada where I lived for some time. Actually, common sense dictates that this kind of practice should not be permitted in the Philippines. Abuses from the establishments and companies become prevalent in the country because instead of the government protecting the consumers, they protect the companies that abuse the consumers. Let me cite so more examples.

In Skyway, the E-Pass that we use requires to auto-debit in the credit card every time the balance becomes below P500 pesos. That is just fine as long as the service is okay. But the sad part is that, the E-Pass is supposed to make it easier and faster for those who avail it, but on several occasions that you need it very badly, the technical glitches happen. Is it bad timing or bad luck? Too much of a coincidence to experience that, I’d say. What’s worse is that other E-Pass users are affected. The cue becomes longer than expected, and inevitably, others become impatient and start blowing their horns. On several occasions when the E-Pass doesn’t work and is manually encoded, the staff made further trouble by keying-in the wrong code!

Now, here is the question? Are those hassled get compensated? Never. There are apologies even from the staff or management. Do the Skyway personnel report the problem? In cases like this, how can consumers be compensated for the malpractices or screw-ups? Whenever there are toll rate increases, the consumers are the ones who are affected and yet these companies do not do their part in improving their service.

Last week, I used my SureSeats account to easily get a movie ticket and choose the seats I want. When I was about to get the ticket, to my dismay, the regular line for non M Pass and SureSeats holders is shorter and faster than the line intended to provide quicker service. I find it funny and at the same time annoying. But the agony did not end there. Inside the movie house, the temperature was not conducive to watch a good movie. I wanted to take off my clothes just to feel comfortable. Of course, I did not in fear of getting arrested for public scandal. I was tempted to do it and wanted to challenge the owner of the cinema if they could blame me for doing so. I wonder if the owners and officers of this establishment are aware how discomforting the temperature in their movie house is to their patrons. But would they truly care? I hope they do and teach their cinema officers to practice “MBWA” or Management By Walking Around. Do they report the true state of the cinema if there is a problem in the air-conditioning unit or do they opt to sweep the dirt under the rug?

This kind of business practice of cutting corners has become a chronic malady in the country. Consumers have to beg the companies that they patronize. When will the true essence of the cliché, “The Customer is King,” be realized? When will these erring companies be sanctioned or penalized? Is the government really serious in doing something to protect consumers? What are the politicians doing to protect their constituents from these kinds of abuses? Do they really care or do they just do a lip service? Why do companies have to cut corners at the expense of their consumers? True, there are always ways to cut corners but definitely not to the point of compromising the quality of service that your customers pay and expect to get from you.

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