By Joselyn B. Mwine
Most of us do at least a little shopping every day, whether we’re making that weekly household shopping, or are just grabbing a soda to have with a take-away lunch. There are lots of big and small shopping mistakes that we’re making, that are costing us our health and money.
Here are seven shopping mistakes to be more aware of and how to avoid them.
Mistake 1: Picking products without a Quality Mark
This is the most important feature of any product. A Ugandan product that does not bear a Q mark issued by Uganda National Bureau of Standards should not be given any due consideration. This is because the product has not been proved to be safe for human consumption or for the environment.
Without a Q mark, a consumer cannot tell whether the product;
- Is safe for human consumption
- Can perform its intended function
- Is reliable within a specific time frame, and
- Conforms to the relevant product standards
There are thousands of products on the Ugandan market that have demonstrated these through getting Certification and bearing the Q mark. Consumers must intentionally seek out these products to avoid putting their health and safety at risk.
Mistake 2: Picking products based on advertising
Important product information is usually given on the food package or on the product itself in fine print, while promotional content takes up most of the space on the packaging material. As a result, consumers are often misled by the information that promotes a product without putting into consideration the quality aspect.
Therefore as a consumer... ensure that you read product labels very clearly before purchase even for those products you buy often.
Mistake 3: Picking products with a label in a language you do not understand
Consumers often buy products based on how they are being advertised even when they cannot read or understand the inscriptions on the product. This is usually common for cosmetics, food, and beverages, among others. While the product may have worked for someone else, it does not necessarily mean it will work for everybody.
A product label carries useful information about a product but only if you know what you are looking for. They also tell you if the product contains an additive or allergen that you want to avoid, allow you to compare similar products and choose the one that suits your needs and advice when to use it by, how to store and prepare it, what it is made of, its size and weight, and the manufacturer’s contacts.
Mistake 4: Not reading product labels
A majority of shoppers have been observed to pick products off supermarket shelves without taking care to read the labels.
Product labels contain the following key information that every shopper must know;
- Brand name of the product
- Net weight or volume – amount of food or drink without the weight of the packaging
- Dates of manufacture and expiry
- Ingredient list, including additives
- Nutrition information panel
- Allergy warning or Allergen declaration
- Name and address of manufacturer, distributor or importer
- Country of origin
- Storage Instructions e.g. keep refrigerated at 4°C
- Lot or batch number.
This key information helps you make an informed decision while shopping so that you are able to get maximum value out of the money you spend.
Mistake 5: Not checking for a verification sticker on weighing scales
Have you ever been to the market and seen the items to be bought weighed by the merchant before they are sold to you? Have you noticed a sticker that is available on every scale or minzani used by traders who sell items such as maize flour, sugar, rice, etc.? If you have not noticed, then please start to identify the stickers that are either green, purple, blue or red in the form of squares that are attached to the scales used. The genuine stickers contain the UNBS logo of UNBS, the date of verification, next due date and a security foil.
These stickers are important because they provide information about the status of the scales to users like you. It indicates that the scales have been checked by UNBS and approved for commercial purposes.
Only in this way can consumers avoid the wrong measure of goods when purchasing the necessary items, whether it is wet or dry goods.
Mistake 6: Throwing away receipts
Some people prefer to stash their receipts in their pocket -if only for a little while. There are also customers who throw them away immediately after paying at the cashier. Some take the receipt from the cashier and will first land at the bottom of their bag, purse, jacket or pant pockets or even in their wallet. Back home, the receipt will inevitably reach the trash can. Some receipts will have a longer lifespan, as they will be thrown away on a big house cleaning day.
In short, receipts’ last fatal destination will be the paper trash.
How many times have you wanted to return something, only to have no luck finding the receipt? You should save or at least know where to locate your receipts for all purchases for at least 30 to 60 days after a purchase, depending on the return or exchange policy of the vendor.
Additionally, while filing a complaint at UNBS, you will be required to present a proof of purchase for the complaint to be handled to its completion. In the absence of a receipt, UNBS will carry out investigations that are not guided or traceable to a complainant’s claims.
Mistake 7: Picking products without a Quality Mark
This is repeated here for emphasis. Put back that product made in Uganda that does not bear a Q mark! Products without a Q Mark may function as intended (for a while), but do not be deceived. They are more likely to be cheaply produced from sub-standard components that would fail product safety and quality standards if they had been submitted for testing.
As a smart consumer, you should play your best role in ensuring that you consume safe products. You have the right to know the status of the scales used either within the period of use or have expired as stated on the UNBS sticker pasted on the scales/ measuring devices. You can choose whether to report the matter for the purpose of action by UNBS or you can choose not to buy from manufacturers whose products are not certified and try to take advantage of users like you.
The writer is a Public Relations Officer at the Uganda National Bureau of Standards