This got my attention. The honourable Fluffy in true form but he probably knows a lot more than most of us.
I always want to know where a vendor is physically located so that’s my first question: ‘Please provide me with your address’ …
I also check the payment method.
If they accept credit cards via Paygate / Peach Payments / someone local I’m more trusting, because at least SOME business info is required to setup such an account. You might still lose your money, but you should have a better paper trail and your bank will assist in outright fraud or non-delivery cases for up to six months post transaction as I recall.
EFT-only is dodgy, although I’ve seen Rand limits for credit card transactions. The banks are very unforgiving of regretted EFTs. Then your only recourse is typically lawyers or the police.
Stitch Payments or any other instant EFT where you give them your bank account details seems super dodgy. Not sure who would be on the hook where, but it’s probably you for breaching your bank’s TOS by handing over passwords.
None of this really helps you when a registered business is a bad actor where they sometimes deliver and sometimes don’t. There’s a couple of names (people) floating around on forums and HelloPeter that you should avoid, but it’s risky calling them out since bad actors don’t like a light shining on them.
Please avoid Sunsmart Solar (South Africa) and Heatsmart (South Africa)
Both of these are run by professional scammer Jonathan Clive Stephenson of Solarbay and Hellosolar.
See public service warnings on hello peter and hello-solar.co.za
If they accept credit cards via Paygate / Peach Payments …
Sunsmart did accept card payments via paygate, but due to complaints that’s been blocked.
Theoretically/Normally if you pay with a credit card and there was fraud involved the bank will happily make you whole because someone stole the banks money.
If you paid with your debit card you are out of luck because it was your money.
The problem is that Sunsmart / Heatsmart / Solarbay / Hellosolar will partial deliver a few small items and then use delay tactics by give excuses like:
- I’ll be on-site next week as I’m just completing an installation…
- We on the way, it’s been crazy busy…
- I have to do software updates on the Inverter, so I can’t be on site, see you next week
- Sorry, we playing catch up due to weather setting installations back
- I’ve caught Covid-19 and have to be in isolation for 2 weeks (Sends some photos of Covid testing)
- Installation team member has died from Covid – just arranging the funeral – sorry will be there next week
- I’m busy organizing everything. Had to return to Cape Town. Will be back in Johannesburg next week.
- Thanks for your patience, but the installation team is now on builder’s holidays (16 Dec – 16 Jan).
- Have a wonderful Xmas and see you in January when the team is back.
- The installation team has let me down, I’m recruiting new workers and have to get them the certified “PV Green Card”, will take two weeks and then we will be there.
- I was scammed by a rogue supplier and am trying to recover from my loss.
- My partner in Johannesburg (Themba Phillip Tsotetsi) is nowhere to be found, I will be in Johannesburg to do the install myself.
- Sorry for missing the deadlines, I lost my mother-in-law, will be up after the funeral.
- I’m busy organizing for the supplier to deliver the equipment directly to you. (I ask for the courier details / supplier address so I can collect – but these aren’t forthcoming).
- My business has gone to shit because of bad Hello Peter reviews – can your remove the review so I can pick up my business.
- I was on my way when I had an accident – do you want photos of the damaged car?
- I’m trying my best, will you accept a different inverter as that model is out of stock
- This is a delay tactic whilst the customer researches if the replacement is OK.
- This will go back and forth a few times.
- Oops that inverter is for Off-Grid, can I rather offer you a Hybrid inverter – more delays whilst models are discussed.
- The battery I was going to install has been recalled…
- Sorry for the late reply – I had a funeral for my Gran….
- As soon as the inverter is ready, they will book it out to you.
- There is a stock shortage of inverters…
- I’ve just finished 2 sites, waiting for cashflow to I can complete your site…
- I’m pushing as hard as I can, it’s tough going, I promise I’ll get you you…
Being an understanding person you wait. By the time you get fed up, 4+ weeks have passed and by then the payfast transfer has been processed to the scammer and your money is gone. You contact payfast but it’s too late.
if you not sure or the deal is too good or the deal has an expiry (eg black Friday, Xmas, Easter deals), arrange a COD or pay the money into a lawyers trust / escrow account with a guarantee of payment on delivery.
That one is a pretty big red flag! That means he used your money to complete another job, and he is now waiting for money on the next job so he can complete yours. That’s not how you do business. If a transfer attorney told you that the deposit you placed on that house was sadly used to pay salaries, and he’s waiting for the next sale so he can roll it forward (this sort of thing happens sometimes, they dig into trust accounts), it would land such a person in prison.
I fully understand that sometimes such things are done out of desperation, and perhaps not with malice intended, but it’s simply a slippery slope, one that becomes impossible to stop once you’ve gotten away with it a few times.
Sometimes it amazes me how long people succeed in doing this, or how they even manage to start a new business. There’s an outfit out in Noordhoek area that’s done this a few times…
Anyway, I think it shows again how the statement “it is not personal, it’s business” is just downright false. Business is always about people. Business is always personal.
Those are all actual real excuses given by Jonathan of Solarbay (now at Sunsmart)
I lost R90,000
Still upset about it
The amount of ill-will and damage to your company that you can buy with a 5 digit number is amazing… I sometimes wonder why people do it.
hI @system32 I feel terribly sorry for your loss, but what you have said above will not work for me. I will under no circumstances deliver material to your site without being paid in full. I have done work where the spares were over 1M and the client had to pay upfront. He did ask for references of big jobs like his before he paid the money over. I was in a position of offering him a list of over 400 clients he could phone for references, and he did phone them.
If a client ask me if he could pay the money into a trust, I would tell him straight to find another installer, as I dont have the time, energy or money to fight a lawyer firm for my money.
Cash for spares upfront, Balance of account after commissioning, period, no negotiation!!
I wish there was something I could do to relieve your pain, but to advice people to pay the money into a trust, will hurt the industry.
My recommendation to anyone reading this post, do your homework, if a supplier cant supply a list of at least 50 previous clients, drop him and move on, your at risk. Pay 20-30k more and have a reputable installer. Make the time to phone at least 20 of his references, at the end of the day, its your money and your responsibility.
@system32 , I take my hat off to you for bringing this into the open, this should happen more often so that the customers have a better view on whats happening out there. Please let me know if i can help in any way.
I understand the situation smaller installers have with cashflow requiring pre-payment.
But after being scammed my attitude is COD or nothing, when the kit arrives at my door I give you a big bag of money…
In terms of the scam, I did a fair amount of due diligence before paying:
- Checked CPIC - records checked out
- Professional web site - checked out
- Bank account ownership - checked out
- Checked facebook - decent reviews
- Phoned a reference (ones that he gave me) - checked out
- PV Green card - yes
- Checked hello peter - no reviews
- Prices being offered were regular, with a small discount for Black Friday - so “not too good to be true”
- Product & industry knowledge - good
All the checks were normal - this scammer had been around and has plenty of experience, more experience & knowledge than most customers / consumers.
He seems to scam about 15 to 20 people before things catch up and require rebranding and starting again - every 6 months or so.
In 24 months We Drill Africa, solarbay, hellosolar and now heatsmart and sunsmart.
SAPS / NPA have let consumers down (plenty of SAPS fraud cases lodged) and it’s impacting trust in reputable installers.
When I started off, this was the case, but not anymore. I can send you the complete order, but won’t, because I am not willing to take the risk. Not one of my suppliers ( multi billion rand company’s) are willing to take a risk on me spending over 10m a year with them. Basic industry standard, you pay we send.
If you feel the way you do (I respect that), stay away from online shops and rather deal with a supplier with a walk in shop. Walk in, buy, pay, they load your hardware and you are off.
I don’t know one supplier in SA that will supply on a COD basis unless your account has been CGIC cleared and insured.
Reputable suppliers include but are not limited to Rectifier, Segen, Herholdtz, Get Off Grid, Solar and Inverter warehouse, current automation, Sonop Solar, sustainable and the list goes on. On our forum is a guy called @TheTerribleTriplet , I would recommend anybody to buy from him.
You have to be an installer to buy from some of those mentioned, but not all of them.
Forums are very good character references for sellers/installers. Thank you.
Same here though, if the EFT has not cleared (and POPs are ignored), I don’t purchase any goods. May reserve them, but that’s about it.
And if the goods are delivered by a courier, I strongly recommend insurance coverage.