Handing over hard-earned cash at pop-up shops and mock auctions for a “Christmas bargain” could be about as much good as burning it, Croydon’s trading standards team is warning.
One of the less-happy traditions of the run-up to Christmas is the annual spate of one-day sales and mock auctions by con artists determined to part shoppers with their money by selling poor-quality goods.
They take out short-term leases on high-street shop units, or hire halls, clubs or pubs for just a few hours, to stage events 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.
This year, shoppers are being urged to resist the temptation to 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. If there are no customers, the rogue traders will move on.
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 Hamida Ali, cabinet member for communities, safety and justice, said that shoppers had a responsibility to not be taken in by the claims and promises made by rogue traders who set up scam sales.
“The consumers who are most often exploited by the grand-sounding sales patter are usually those who can least afford to lose the money they’re spending in good faith.
“In addition to older and vulnerable people, these con artists – 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.
“What all consumers must remember is that they need to protect themselves 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 back the money they’ve lost to grab a bargain is unlikely. 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 manned by bouncers to prevent people leaving.
- Cash will be the only form of payment accepted, 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.