Shoppers are being warned by Croydon’s trading standards team that they should not hand over cash at mock auctions in the belief they are buying high-end goods.
In fact, it would be advisable for them to stay away from all such sales where the adage “If it looks too good to be true, it probably is” is especially pertinent.
The run-up to Christmas traditionally sees conmen taking out short-term leases on high-street shop units, or hiring halls, clubs or pubs for just a few hours, to stage one-day sales and mock auctions that invariably see bargain-hunting shoppers ripped off as they believe they are buying quality products, only to find that they have been sold cheap, sometimes dangerous, imitations.
Typically, such sales are to be found selling electrical goods – such as tablet computers, games consoles and ebook readers – or what appear, at a casual glance, to be high-end perfumes and cosmetics but, on closer inspection, turn out to be shoddy, low-quality wares.
Councillor Mark Watson, cabinet member for communities, safety and justice, said that shoppers had a duty to themselves not to be taken in by the outlandish promises made by rogue traders who set up scam sales.
“In addition to the old and the vulnerable, these conmen – because that is what they are – prey on the inexperience of younger shoppers who are probably not so aware of the scam being played out. Basically, their customers are usually those who can least afford to lose the money they’re spending in good faith.
“What all consumers must bear in mind, however, is that they need to protect themselves in these hard economic times and be aware that, at these sort of events, the box they’re leaving with might not contain what they expect.
“The expectation that the council or the police will be able to get their money back once they willingly throw it at these rogues to grab a bargain is not a reality. Once it goes, it’ll probably never be seen again.”
The trading standards team warns shoppers to be aware of the following signs that indicate all is not as it should be.
• Sales might be conducted behind closed doors, often with bouncers to prevent people leaving.
• Only cash will be accepted for payment, and no receipts will be issued.
• The quality – or quantity – of goods on offer bears no relation to the low selling price. If it seems too good to be true, it probably is.
• No refunds will be given, and there will be no observance of consumers’ rights.
• There will be no clear details of the business or individuals running the sale.