Back to school they go

IT’S that time of the year again when parents, guardians and most importantly, students of all ages prepare for the new school term.

The norm in most households during this time is to seek out the best deals and bargains on offer.

Still, consumers have been advised to stay vigilant while making purchases.

According to Consumer Council of Fiji CEO Premila Kumar, for many families, getting ready to go back to school was not only a time-consuming process but also an expensive one.

“The cost of ‘going back to school’ keeps on increasing every year,” she said.

“Many parents have already begun eyeing the back to school fliers and advertisements.

“Whether their kids start kindergarten or head off to the university this year, parents always make sure they provide the best of everything their children need.

“Believe it or not, you might already have plenty of school supplies lying around your house.

“Closets, desk drawers and rooms might hold hidden treasures that can save you money. Consumers are advised to reuse these school supplies if you have two or more children that go to school.

“If you have only one child, donate those items to anyone you know who can use those school items.

“For example, textbooks, shoes, sandals, school uniforms etcetera.”

Ms Kumar says parents need to speak with children about money-based values.

“As your kids grow older, they will insist on having the latest and greatest. They may request expensive labelled backpacks and stationery, and name-brand or character-focused apparels.

“Although your kids crave these items, these character-focused products will quickly destroy your back to school budget.

“If you start teaching your kids about money management at a young age, they will grow up to understand and espouse these values.”

She says consumers are also urged to examine the quality and condition of books and stationery when they are out shopping during the busy period.

Ms Kumar says they need to ensure they get value for money.

“Moreover, they should always check their receipts for the actual amounts they pay for their items.

“This will also avoid further running around and stress.

“The council received a complaint where a complainant bought an exercise book from a particular bookshop in Suva.

“However, after reaching home, he noticed that the back cover of the book was torn. The council’s intervention enabled the complainant to obtain a new book from the bookshop as a replacement.

“Another case involved a complainant who bought a calculator from a stationery shop in Labasa, where he was not issued any receipt.

“The complainant was satisfied that the calculator worked fine prior to his purchase.

“After taking the calculator home, the complainant noticed that some of the buttons on the calculator were not working. Since the complainant did not have any receipt on him, the company denied any form of redress to him. Ultimately, upon the council’s intervention, the trader finally agreed to replace the item and issue a receipt to the complainant.”

Consumers have been requested to ask traders questions if they are confused about the products they purchase or the price they pay for them.

“They must always make informed decisions. Needless to say consumers should ask for receipts for every purchase they make.

“This will be their evidence to seek redress for damaged or faulty items.

“Consumers are advised to report anything suspicious to the council at any of our offices in Suva, Lautoka and Labasa or dial the National Consumer Helpline — toll-free number, 155.”

So what can consumers do?

Ms Kumar suggests the following tips:

* Round up all of the office and school supplies you already own. Put them in a central location, like a plastic bin or on the dining room table. This will help you make a list of items that you already have and need not buy again. Keep this list in your purse or wallet, or in the car, so you do not forget about it when you shop for school supplies.

* In addition, go through your children’s wardrobe and start sorting out the uniforms and other essentials. Uniforms that the children have outgrown, and worn clothing, can be given away or tossed. Once you complete this supply sweep, you will have a clearer picture of what you actually need to buy. Ideally, this will prevent you from buying something you already have on-hand.

* When shopping around, consumers are advised to use cash instead of credit cards to pay for back to school supplies. Paying for supplies with cash allows you to keep an eye on your funds. Not to mention to stay within your budget.

* Begin shopping by focusing on the essential items, including required school supplies or required textbooks, for college students.

More Stories