by Jyasmin Calub-Bautista
A 74-year old Los Baños resident filed a complaint against Univox Enterprise, a store located at Centtro Mall along Lopez Avenue in Brgy. Batong Malake, after its sales staff allegedly used “fast-paced itemization and demo” tactics to convince him to buy PhP 76,900 worth of assorted kitchen and health gadgets.
According to the complaint report filed on November 13 at the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) Negosyo Center – Los Baños, the Univox sales staff approached the man as he was leaving Savemore Supermarket on November 7. They invited him to claim a free umbrella at the Univox store at the second floor of Centtro Mall.
At the Univox store, the elderly man was invited to sit in a massage chair as sales staff turned it on and explained its merits. When the man said he was not buying the chair, another staff applied a massage gadget on his arm, while the store supervisor asked him to pick from a stack of cards and told him that he had won a PhP 2,000 discount coupon.
“In rapid sequence, talking, product demo and loud music, they added one after another the other items,” read the statement. At the end of the sales pitch, the man was convinced to purchase the massage chair, an energy cooker, a multipurpose cooker, a cutlery set, a cookware set, a beauty massager, and a body fat scale, for a “special sale price” of “only PhP 76,900”. A Univox staff member accompanied the man to a local bank, where he withdrew cash to pay for the items.
“My wife was shocked when I told her my experience and insisted, na-budol-budol ka (you were scammed),” the man’s statement read.
The complaint has been forwarded to the DTI Consumer Protection Division.
Expired business name, products without ICC stickers
After filing the complaint, the man and his wife went to the store to return the items, accompanied by a police officer and DTI business counselor Miladie Peñaloza-Peñarubia. According to Peñarubia, their office is checking records to confirm whether the store’s business permit is still valid, and has warned other Laguna-based Negosyo Centers about the complaint. “Ang kailangan namin ay strong evidence, yung complaints talaga na nakarecord,” Peñarubia added.
Peñarubia also noted that some appliances such as rice cookers being sold in the store do not have an Import Commodity Clearance (ICC) sticker. Under DTI’s Department Administrative Order (DAO) No. 4. S. 2008, manufacturers and importers of home appliances such as electric fans, flat irons, kitchen machines, audio and video products, washing machines, and air conditioners are required to secure a certification from the Bureau of Product Standards before they can sell their products in the Philippine market.
After returning the items, the complainant was told that his money would be returned by November 24. “We will be checking if the payment was settled,” Peñarubia said.
Aggressive sales tactics
“Para siyang form of hypnotism eh, hahawakan ka sa balikat, papalakpakan ka, dudumugin ka nila, to the end na mako-convice ka kasi ang dami nila na nagko convince sa iyo. Ganun yung style nila,” Peñarubia said. “For you to release PhP 77,000 (in such a short time), wala ka sa normal na pag-iisip mo,” she added.
Penarubia noted that the same tactics had been used by another store with similar products. The said store’s Los Baños branch was ordered shut down in 2007 after complaints were filed by former customers.
Univox Marketing Team Leader Jaime Cañete claims that their sales tactics are not a “budol-budol” scam as some allege. “Ang process ng company is kami nag-iinvite, tapos demonstration the products, then, package offer, promo. Direct ano kami, selling. There is a malaking difference between budol-budol and direct advertising. Kasi sa budol-budol, kinuhanan siya ng pera pero wala siyang naiuwing product, walang kapalit. So sa amin naman, may bayad, tapos may product. Bumili sya ng items, parang ganun,” Cañete said.
An online search for the name of “Univox Enterprise” and the aforementioned store revealed numerous blog and social media posts by people who felt that they had been “scammed”, “victimized”, and “fooled” by sales staff at the companies’ branches in Laguna, Cavite, Metro Manila, Cagayan Province, Cebu, and Iloilo. In many of the cases, attempts to return the items were thwarted by sales staff.
A similar complaint against Univox was filed at the Los Baños DTI Office last year by a UP Los Baños employee, who was induced to buy PhP 20,000 worth of Univox products. The victim submitted a notarized hardcopy of the complaint against Univox at the Los Baños municipal office and an electronic copy to the DTI Sta. Cruz Office. With the assistance of the Los Baños municipal government and Mayor Caesar Perez, the complainant was able to get her money back.
Peñarubia is encouraging other customers to come forward and file formal complaints, especially those who were unable to recover their money. “The way for us to limit these kinds of activities is for them to complain so that we will have enough evidence to shut the store down,” she said.
Complainants may get in touch with Miladie Peñaloza-Peñarubia, business counselor at the DTI Negosyo Center. The office is located in front of the Los Baños Municipal Hall, National Highway, Brgy. Timugan. Los Baños, Laguna. They may also call the office at (049) 559-0254 or email [email protected].