Tuesday 8 November 2011

Britain is a country where old men fall prey to doorstep villains

Two bosses of a Derbyshire company which sold 'mobility aids' have been jailed for a total of seven years after admitting using 'unfair and aggressive sales tactics' on hundreds of vulnerable and disabled old people who were bullied into buying items costing thousands of pounds.

Salesmen who worked for the company had to use a handbook called 'The Door', written by the sales manager, packed with cynical tricks and scare tactics and advised them how to play on the pensioners’ emotions and fears to close deals for stairlifts, scooters, reclining chairs, beds and massage units. Working on a 'commission-only' wage and desperate to make sales, they would offer items priced massively above market value and then offer big discounts only if customers agreed to order straight away.

One example from the handbook, stated that when trying to sell stairlifts the salesmen were to ask customers :

" How long it would take for someone to find you if you had a fall and were left in a big pile at the bottom of the stairs ?"

Derby Crown Court heard how the company made about 1,000 sales across the country last year and how the County Council trading standards launched an investigation after receiving dozens of complaints of sharp practices, which included salesmen describing themselves as ‘advisers’ to would-be customers. Then sales pitches could last hours, as the old person's resistance was worn down.

Ernest Watson, disabled and 82 years old, spent 3 hours arguing with a salesman and at one stage he was so distraught as the salesman sat in silence waiting for the deal to be agreed, that he considered pressing the 'panic button' at his warden-assisted flat and then exhausted, parted with £2,000 for a 'massage chair'.

When the firm’s office, now closed, was raided by the Council last year, investigators discovered that the company had invested in extensive lists of phone numbers for people over the age of 60 and staff would then call to pretend they were doing a survey.

Paul Niblock, the Council’s investigating officer, said :

* potential customer would be quizzed about their living arrangements.

* there would then be a second call, usually the next day, to say : “We have an adviser in the area – can we come and show you our products?”

* the handbook told the salesman at the end of their sales pitch, which could last as long as five hours, to send their customer away to make a cup of tea and 'whether you drink it or not, the tea will give you 30 minutes to close your deal. They will not expect you to leave their house if you have a drink.’

One of the company directors sent to prison.

My earlier post about rogue traders :

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