- The Consumer Affairs Commission (CAC) is encouraging shoppers to learn and exercise their rights as consumers and practise good money management, as they make their back-to-school purchases.
- Speaking with JIS News, Communications Specialist at the CAC, Dorothy Campbell, emphasises the need for consumers to be more knowledgeable, discriminating and vigilant when making purchases.
- She encourages parents to ensure that they get value for their money and are able to get some redress in the event that they have bought the wrong item or a substandard one.
The Consumer Affairs Commission (CAC) is encouraging shoppers to learn and exercise their rights as consumers and practise good money management, as they make their back-to-school purchases.
Speaking with JIS News, Communications Specialist at the CAC, Dorothy Campbell, emphasises the need for consumers to be more knowledgeable, discriminating and vigilant when making purchases.
“This is important, especially at this time when the volume of purchases is highly unusual and parents are under a lot of pressure to find the finances to fulfil all the needs of their children,” she says.
She encourages parents to ensure that they get value for their money and are able to get some redress in the event that they have bought the wrong item or a substandard one.
“During the rush and excitement that come with back-to-school shopping, persons give away their rights or forget their responsibility as a consumer, until some defective or substandard items find way into their homes,” Miss Campbell points out.
She stresses the need for consumers to demand receipts from vendors, as this is proof that an item was purchased and is critical if they need to seek redress.
The receipt, she notes further, should have certain basic information, including the amount paid, date of purchase and description of goods purchased.
On the matter of the refund and return of items, Miss Campbell advises consumers to be vigilant and find out the policy of stores as it relates to returning an item.
She cautions consumers to ensure that items being returned are in the same condition that they were received and that receipts are provided as proof of purchase.
For the return and exchange of textbooks, the Communications Specialist advises that, “when you purchase textbooks, do not be in a hurry to write your child’s name in the books until you are exactly sure that it is the correct text, as there are cases when persons pick up the wrong edition.”
She points out that where books have to be returned, it is left to the discretion of the bookstore to determine whether the item has been returned in a condition to resell.
“As it relates to other items, such as uniforms, shoes and computers, keep your receipts, make sure every bit of information is on them, so you can match back your purchase,” she implores.
With most of the back-to-school budget going towards textbooks, Miss Campbell says parents should shop for the best prices.
She advises them to make use of the CAC’s Annual School Textbook Survey, which will be available at: www.cac.gov.jm.
The survey will assist parents in “ascertaining where the best prices on new books are available, in their parish or town,” she tells JIS News, while urging parents to do comparison shopping by calling or visiting bookstores in order to get the most competitive prices.
She says it is also important to “match the author’s name, the volume, the book number, whether it is Book One or Book Two, (and) whether or not it is the revised edition. They have to check for these things, because each year, or very soon after one edition, you have a new edition being published.”
Miss Campbell says parents should also ensure that textbooks are wrapped, kept in good condition, and that no permanent marks are made in them. This way, you can sell or exchange them next term, thus reducing next year’s back-to-school expenses.
She also advises parents to explore all the possible options for sourcing textbooks, including the school book rental scheme, second hand books from family and friends, as well as from stores offering second hand books for sale.
“We want to encourage persons to be smart, work out what is necessary, what is needed, manage the amount you have wisely, and remember the miscellaneous costs that pop up in the middle of the semester…don’t spend on the things that are not important for learning,” she warns.
In terms of general recommendations for back-to-school shopping,
Miss Campbell advises parents to “network with the school, teachers or parents, to find out what are the necessary items…the things that your child needs to have (on) the first morning of school.”
“Make sure you understand what those things are, in order to determine the things that you can wait to acquire at the next pay cheque or within the next few months,” she says.
“Try and find out exactly what the kids need for the term, and start with that immediate term. Do not try to shop for everything for the entire year and put yourself under unnecessary stress,” she notes.
Parents, she advises, should make a list of what is available at the school, since the institutions will, more often than not, provide items at a lower price than on the open market.
A list, she adds, also allows parents to practice controlled shopping and prevent them from depending on memory and overspending.
Another option, she informs, is for parents to seek advice from other parents, whose children attend the same school. This, she notes, may result in a further benefit, as those parents may offer second hand books and supplies.
Miss Campbell also advises parents to pool with friends or other parents, in buying basic school supplies such as pencils, pens, art and craft items, and
scrap books, in order to secure them at wholesale or bargain rates.
The Communications Specialist stresses the need for persons to procure items that are of a high quality that will last for some time.
“When you go out to shop for school items, make sure you understand the quality that you are picking up. Poor quality items only last a short time then you have to replace them. It costs you more to replace these items than if you had just bought something of a better quality at a higher price,” she reasons.
Miss Campbell offers the following tips:
- For school supplies, take advantage of bargains and buy multiple quantities that the child may need further in the year.
- If you purchase two pairs of shoes, pants or shirts, buy the second pair a size or two larger, as the child may grow by the time he or she is ready to use these items;
- When buying notebooks, try getting those with hard covers as they tend to last longer;
- Before purchasing new uniforms, examine those the child already has to see if they can still be worn, then decide how many additional ones are needed. (Some schools have ready-made uniforms available on sale to their students. This may prove less expensive than buying the fabric and accessories and having the garments made by a professional tailor or dressmaker).
- When buying shoes, ensure they are of quality workmanship and fit properly. Avoid impulse shopping and ensure that you are getting the best quality.
Check shoes for stitched or glued soles. Check to ensure that eyelets, laces and or buckles do not break or fall off easily.
- Do not be fooled into thinking that ‘brand names’ are synonymous with better quality; the generic or not so popular brands may last longer. Insist on comfort and durability then incorporate style.
- When buying ready-made clothes or having them made, ensure that buttons are sewn on strongly, zips work easily, there is a seam allowance, and that there are no loose threads to give the clothes an untidy appearance;
- When buying bags, you may be tempted to choose a stylish bag, rather than how practical and durable the design and fabric are. Remember these bags need to be durable enough for the weight of textbooks and other supplies.