Deals offered at exhibitions attract buyers, but they have to be alert to loopholes that could sour their shopping experience

Holding of frequent exhibitions, a generic term for a shopping location, where, either a particular product of different companies or a variety of goods is displayed and sold under one roof, has become a trend over the past few years. The number of such exhibitions increases closer to the festive seasons and they are popular mainly because we get to see a wide range of products, most of them being exquisitely designed by master craftsmen, from different parts of the country.

However, there are some issues that consumers face when they shop at such exhibitions. Recently, Naresh approached us with a related problem. He had visited a furniture trade fair in a prominent location in the city along with his wife. Impressed by the elegantly designed dining table with chairs and the sofa set that was on display in a particular stall, he asked for the price, bargained and finally paid around Rs.1 lakh. The product was delivered the next day. Two days later, however, he noticed a few perforations in the dining table and on observing them for a while found termites present. He only had the contact number of the sales person at the exhibition, who sold him the product, and when he contacted him, there was no proper response. Later, when he checked the bill, he realised that it only had the name of the company (claiming to be an export company) and the address of a warehouse, with no contact numbers. When he looked for the company’s details on the Internet, he found none. Now, we have advised him to contact the organisers in order to get the contact details of the company to proceed further in the matter.

In another instance, at an exclusive exhibition for saris, in which entrepreneurs from various states participated, Revathi purchased a few designer saris from different stalls by paying huge amounts. However, when she saw the saris in daylight, she found that one of them was torn along the border. This particular sari was purchased from a stall which had its showroom in Kolkata and when Revathi called up the showroom, the manager simply refused to accept that his product could be defective and put the phone down. Not knowing how to proceed further, Revathi contacted us for assistance and we have advised her to write a complaint letter addressed to the showroom in Kolkata and the organisers demanding to resolve the issue amicably by offering a replacement. We also suggested that she visit the organisers, show them the damaged sari, point out their responsibility and thus ask them to represent on her behalf and get a replacement.

From the above, it is clear that since these are temporary shops, it is difficult for consumers to demand that damaged goods be exchanged, especially once the exhibition is over. So when we shop at such exhibitions it is always better to remember a few things like checking the product thoroughly before buying it, getting a proper receipt for the payment made, making sure it carries the contact details of the seller, checking with them on how they will redress complaints if there is a problem and above all, if we have plans for purchasing, then, making sure that we don’t visit the exhibition on the last day.

The writer works with CAG, which offers free advice on consumer complaints to its members. For membership details/queries contact 24914358/24460387 or heldesk@cag.org.in