“The boys who sold me a dud are tricksters for sure, people who know their trade on the streets. I wanted to buy a smart phone of any kind but because new ones are costly I chose to buy from the streets since prices are negotiable there. I went to Ximex Mall along Angwa Street but the prices were on the higher side than I was prepared to pay. I then went to the White House Building on the corner of Cameron Street and Albion Avenue. There are also boys who mill around buying and selling all sorts of electronic gadgets just like at the Ximex Mall. That is where I lost my money.
“I ran into a young man who appeared friendly and charming. When I told him that I wanted to buy a smart phone he said he had them and advised me to wait as he claimed they were hidden for the fear of the police and city council raids. He brought four phones and I chose one which I duly paid for. I only realized that I had been sold a dummy after I got to the Media Centre and it was not responding when I tried charging it. When I opened I found nothing inside but mud.”
His story is not an isolated one.
Herman Musara, a student at a local college, also fell victim to the tricksters but was fortunate to bump into the conman whom he gave a thorough beating before demanding his money back.
“I was also tricked at the Ximex Mall. I bought a C3 Nokia model which was stuffed with mud yet I had actually had been shown a genuine phone. I was fortunateto meet the trickster some time later, needless to say I beat him up and demanded my money back,” he said.
How do seemingly educated people fall victims to con tricks? Pride Rhem, a newspaper vendor close to the White House building, explained how many have fallen victim. “The con artists there are friendly and they use all sorts of names to entice you such as mudhara (big man). When a client tells them that they need a phone, they readily bring a genuine working phone and are quick to peg favourable prices which are negotiable. When the prospective buyer is satisfied, they quickly swap the genuine phone with a fake one that appears exactly the same. The swapping takes place when the clients are taking money from either their pockets or wallets. Soon after the transactions they disappear into thin air,” he said.
The Consumer Council of Zimbabwe Director Rosemary Siyachitema has urged the consumers to avoid buying from the streets, as it is difficult to seek recourse in the event of falling foul to tricksters.
“We advise customers to buy from shops that give guarantees purchased goods. That goes a long way in curbing unnecessary problems in the event a consumer is short-changed. Many are falling prey to conmen because they want cheap goods. Consumers should also be wary of shops that do not give refunds,” she said.
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*not his real name
Picture: Graham van de Ruit