(First Published in New Era Newspaper - 24 September 2014)
The past few weeks I have been reminded about an old English proverb/nursery rhyme that goes: “If wishes were horses, beggars would ride; If turnips were watches, I'd wear one by my side; If, If's and And's were pots and pans, there would be no need for tinkers.”
My grandfather often told me this while growing up and he meant for me to understand that it is useless to wish on something as better results will only be achieved through actions. Of course, I always had a dream in my head and believed that one day my wish would turn into horse (and I also thought the rhyme said thinkers rather than tinkers). The past few weeks one of my wishes did become a horse: A small lump sum of money came to my wife and she was able to invite me on a shopping spree. We started by purchasing all the main furniture such as fridge, microwave, deep freezer, bed and matrass, as well as completely new pots, pans, cutlery and the Russell Hobbs toaster and kettle. We even had enough left over to buy that big screen television, television decoder and the George Foreman grill. I have never understood “retail therapy” but am now convinced this is an exercise that can really bring pleasure as long as you do it with cash and not a credit purchase which creates a monthly payment.
Yep you read it right, I suggest retail therapy or shop till you drop – IF you can do it with cash in hand and not on credit.
After our purchases, it did a precursory look at the furniture we bought and the monthly payments that we would have to pay if it was bought on credit. If we had purchased for an amount of N$ 28 999, our deposit would have been in the region of N$ 2,900 and our monthly payments would have amounted to N$ 2,184 per month for 24 months. If you add this up, our purchase would have cost us a total of N$ 55, 316. You should read that again. We would be paying interest and other charges to the value of N$ 26,317. That means if we had paid this over the normal 24 months we would be paying almost double the value of the furniture. Phew. Finance charges are expensive.
When we as consumers wish to purchase goods or products, we often do not have the money readily available to pay for our goods in one go. Therefore, retailers have come up with the concept of consumer credit which means the creditor or seller trusts the consumer enough to provide us with the goods and services we desire and expect us to pay off this amount at some time in the future. In exchange for this service (which is in fact lending the consumer money to buy from them), the supplier of credit is allowed to charge a certain amount of interest on the amount they have lent to you as the consumer.
Governments (as well as religions) have recognised that the consumer is at a distinct disadvantage as they are in the position of wanting, and would probably do almost anything to get the product or service. The credit supplier can in this case charge a very high rate that would in fact be unethical or even be considered immoral. In cases like this, the term we use for such practices is called USURY. The government, through the Namibian Financial Institutions Supervisory Authority (NAMFISA) is the organisation responsible for regulating these types of transactions. If you have purchased any goods or services through a credit agreement and you feel that you might have been overcharged when the interest and other charges are added, you should contact the regulator and make your complaint heard.