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How to File a Complaint Against Dodgy Businesses (Surprise: It Works!)

It IS possible to file for complaints against businesses with dodgy practices of any form, that can range from transactions to labor practices. My biggest thanks to Ms. Cheng, a “real customer with valid complaints” as she says, who informed me of the mediation process any consumer can resort to, with the assistance of the Department of Trade and Industry’s Fair Trade Enforcement Bureau (FTEB).

It’s enlightening to know there still exists government agencies passionate about their work, who do all they can to give a voice to consumers who do not have the money to bring the case to courts.

Remember, DTI can’t do anything until people file for complaints.

Here is how you can bring your complaint to the Fair Trade Enforcement Bureau (FTEB): 

A. Email the bureau [ ftebmediation@dti.gov.ph ] along with the following requirements:

  • Complete name, address and contact number of complainant
  • Complete name, address and contact number of respondent
  • Narration of facts
  • Demand
  • Scanned proof of transaction/s
  • Scanned government-issued ID of the complainant

B. You will receive an acknowledgement email that your complaint has been received.

C. You will receive an email that your complaint is now in the process of mediation, and you will be informed of the schedules for you to meet with the respondent at DTI FTEB.

D. Follow-up on your case at +63 (02) 975-7965, or visit FTEB’s office at Ground Floor, UPRC Building, 315 Sen. Gil Puyat Avenue, Makati City.

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Know, too, that this is the Philippines where consumer rights are almost non-existent. Why? Philippine society being largely built on the padrino (patronage) system, long cited as the major drag on the country’s development. However, I think it’s still worth anyone’s while to step up for themselves. Who knows?

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Why I’m Nearly Giving Up Dealing with Businesspeople in the Philippines

As featured on Rappler on May 19, 2016 🙂

As a new entrepreneur, I’ve always looked up to long-time financially successful businesspeople in the Philippines who have managed to come in tide with the highs and lows of the Philippine economy. I’ve always wondered how they got to where they are today, and what it really takes to become a successful businessperson.

As I was starting, I took an idealistic stance and became 1,000% vigilant of every single cent coming in and out of the enterprise. Although I was bold in my moves, I’ve always sided with risks that didn’t involve much money. It depends on the type of business for sure, but I never really believed in the idea that so much money is needed to successfully fuel an enterprise.

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RSA Business Solutions: thankful to keep it going in this small business-unfriendly Philippines

Six months on with running a small business, I met these two long-time entrepreneurs who would talk me into doing investments with them. With people who have been running a logistics company for 10+ years, I thought I was in the right hands. After meetings that have spanned for a couple of months, I decided to go for it. Although it was a lot of money for me to spend for, the idea of partnering with people I look up to stung a feel-good vibe on me. I felt I did the right move.

A month on from the formal signing of papers, I’ve waited for the promise of investment returns. We’ve been calling, SMSing and emailing back and forth. I was told to wait, that the running of investments should start soon. I was ironically invited to their new showroom opening. I was showered with gifts for my birthday and Christmas.

However with all these, not a single peso arrived. I tried to move on and focus on what I had to do. Things I’ve greatly worked hard for came to nothing.

That’s Scenario 1.

Now back to two years ago. I was a regular employee and didn’t have much salary-wise. However, I spent nearly every waking time doing ghostwriting so it ended up paying well.

With my bit of savings, I used this to buy a full package ticket to Russia for my family in time for my Dad’s birthday. Although it was a big blow on my savings, it felt right as I knew it was the perfect “Thank You” present for my Dad.

I was issued receipts and travel vouchers. I gave our preferred travel dates, sent our scanned passports, and filled up the visa application forms. We were supposed to have our visas processed. We were supposed to pack our bags. We were supposed to leave.

Two years on, we are still given so many excuses.

That’s Scenario 2.

I’ve recently accepted a long-term contract with a real estate developer in the set-up and management of their network systems. In the business since 1980, I’ve had high hopes of our positive partnership together. Everyone was congratulating our team and everyone was just so ecstatic to start.

Sure, it was a good leverage for our small enterprise. It was super good for our portfolio. When it came to owning payment responsibilities though, they have no problem at all with missing their payments and not even giving some notice. They made breaching of contracts and late payments so commonplace and normal that my email reminders and our legal counsel’s debt recovery letter never seemed to faze them in any way.

This, with a 36-year strong real estate company.

That’s Scenario 3.

What’s so common with these three scenarios?

First off, it makes me question the business practices of these “market leaders” who are supposed to inspire budding entrepreneurs in their journeys. When market leaders make it so common to miss payments, breach contracts, undercut workers and deceive customers, how are we supposed to trust every other business out there?

Secondly, I am just so surprised that these businesspeople can stomach deceiving startup entrepreneurs who do not have the same network, capital and privileges that they enjoy. Instead of helping out, they take advantage of the idealism and vigour of these small-time entrepreneurs. How can they even sleep so soundly and look at themselves in the mirror?

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The key to surviving in this ridiculously childish gossip-filled, structure-and-process-hazy, heavily hierarchical business environment, is quite simple when I think about it: Don’t give a sh**! Whatever these “big leaders”,  your competitors, or your friendly neighbors say, don’t waste your time with them.

If anything, you should only listen to those few people who truly know and understand your journey as an entrepreneur. Even if it’s just yourself, it doesn’t matter. Remember, quality over quantity: what’s important is to be unfazed by the goal at hand and that is, to be successful on your own terms.

Also, I do not believe in the saying, “The customer is always right.” Like what I’ve mentioned, quality over quantity: you should only listen to customers who would want to see you grow. Block off anyone who choose to stomp on you just to see where their silly behavior can get them. You are worth so much more than this. You worked hard for this business no matter how small it is, so stand up for your integrity and dignity.

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With everything just said and done, I still choose to continue with my small entrepreneurship journey in the Philippines no matter how much the system gets to my nerves because I want to someday, somehow, be one of the driving forces in changing the system.

For now, well, I just won’t give a sh**!

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The True Cost of What We Wear

Have you ever thought for one second how your clothes and shoes are exactly made? Who made them? Where exactly in Bangladesh, Cambodia, China, India, Pakistan, Philippines, or Vietnam are they made? How are the working conditions for the faces behind the dresses?

In 2013 in Bangladesh, more than 1,100 factory workers were killed after the collapse of a clothing factory despite workers’ persistent complaints with the growing cracks in the building. This, unfortunately, was not the first of its kind.

This led Director Andrew Morgan to explore the multi-trillion dollar fashion industry–bringing us back to the sweatshops in Bangladesh, Cambodia, China and India where workers and their families are forced in hazardous environments just to bring in the glory of that 5 dollar shirt sealed with the world’s favorite brands. While companies enjoy the luxuries and comforts of their sales, their workers– the heart and soul of every piece delivered– have to fight for their lives to demand for some cents’ increase in their 10 USD a month pay.

I hope you take the time this weekend to check on this heartwarming, heartbreaking, goosebumps-filled documentary, True Cost.

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The faceless fashion industry

To know the plight of our brothers and sisters working so hard to give us the clothes that we can only dream of is the least we can do for them. I hope you really give this documentary a chance 🙂

Note: You can watch it on Netflix (if you haven’t got an account just yet, Netflix offers a 30-day free trial).