Valentine’s Day Shopping- Follow your heart but take your brain with you

February 11, 2019

Valentine’s Day is a complex event for many people buying gifts, especially young    consumers.  What traditionally began as an expression of love centuries ago is now a highly commercialized, modern-day consumerist splurge called Valentine’s Day.

Buying gifts is one way many of us show affection on Valentine’s Day. Despite the romantic spirit of the mass-marketed day, the emotions consumers share online and offline, along with the ensuing decisions on what to buy, shows complexities of consumer psychology such as perceived obligations, escalating expectations and ambivalence that may turn to shopping resistance. 

 Every year on 14 February, couples all over the world celebrate this romantic event by sending Valentine’s Day cards, roses, bouquets, chocolates, gifts and spending special time together to celebrate their love for each other. This means big business for a lot of companies, however consumers need to be cautious with their dollars. 

With the special day just around the corner, consumers will be lured into buying goods and services through discounts, special giveaways and promotions. Towns and cities are already abuzz with love-filled and eye-catching red and white themed decorations, window displays, music and lights.

While this is evident as a norm for festive occasions, consumers get carried away by the heavy commercialisation of the event. Consumers fall prey to unscrupulous and deceptive traders who see such events as another way to make a quick buck at the expense of joyful consumers.

This was the unfortunate case for a Fijian living abroad who had transferred money to a local florist company to deliver flowers to his wife. However, this did not eventuate. On top of this, the company failed to inform the consumer about the non-delivery of ordered flowers.

When the Council investigated the matter, the company stated that they were not able to deliver some orders due to a delay from their suppliers. Regardless, the company continued to accept payments from consumers.

According to Section 88(1) of the Fijian Competition and Consumer Commission Act 2010, “A person shall not, in trade or commerce, accept payment or other consideration for goods or services where, at the time of the acceptance – (a) the person intends (i) not to supply the goods or services; or (ii) to supply goods or services materially different from the goods or services in respect of which the payment or other consideration is accepted.”

While the Council assisted the consumer in obtaining refund from the company, nothing could be done to mend the special moment that was ruined for the couple.

In another case, a complainant from Labasa purchased a cake from a supermarket only to discover later that it was stale and putrid. The complainant was disappointed and dissatisfied with getting a bad product in return for his precious dollars. He then sought assistance from the Council to get a redress from the trader who turned a joyous occasion into discontent. The Council mediated between the two parties which led to the supermarket providing a refund to the complainant.     

Due to the emotional factor attached to these purchases, it is important that traders inform consumers well in advance whether or not they will be able to deliver as expected. This will allow consumers to make other arrangements for the extra special day.

From such grievances the Council reiterates its call to all traders to be honest and act in a way that enables all consumers to make free and informed purchasing decisions.

Moreover, there are many ways that consumers can save money and not be drawn in with the commercialization of Valentine’s Day.

Saving Tips

– Spending quality time with each other;

– Making an effort to prepare a beautiful and meaningful Do It Yourself (DIY) Valentine’s Day gift;

– Make a Valentine’s Day card to make it more meaningful than a purchased one;

– Gifting an affordable bouquet of local flowers readily available in markets around the country;

– Plan a special outing or create a romantic setting at home;

– Do activities you both love;

– It’s the small gestures that count; they don’t go unnoticed.

The Council urges consumers to be vigilant at all times and pay attention to detail while selecting the perfect gift for their loved ones.

It is important for consumers to plan and prepare a budget, be wary of advertisements that seem too good to be true, do comparative shopping, do some research on reputable traders, inspect goods properly, and ask as many questions as possible.

It is also important to avoid impulse buying, check that the displayed prices correspond with the counter prices and keep receipts after   purchase to help in getting redress in case there are problems with the goods.

Consumers with complaints about dissatisfactory services or unethical business practices are encouraged to lodge their complaints with the Council on its toll free National Consumer Helpline, 155.