Italians are presently going around the island in rented jeeps selling generators, tool kits and power tools, etc. It is a free market and once they have the requisite permits and licences and pay the proper duties and taxes like the rest of us, absolutely nothing is wrong with that.
What is interesting is their sales pitch. They never give the impression that they are on a major island-wide sales expedition selling hundreds of units. I was given the impression by the pair that I met that they had imported the products to use as demonstration models, since they were to soon establish a store here in St Vincent and also in Barbados. They said that they were ready to leave the island for Barbados and wanted to sell them quickly, since it would be uneconomical to ship them by air and they wanted to spend some time on the beach! I was shown on their smartphone (on what I assumed to be a website) the retail prices of the items which totalled US$4,200 and I was offered the package (One Generator/One 187 Piece Tool Kit/One Hammer Drill/Cordless Drill Combo) for US$2,000! I bought it Hook, Line and Sinker! I forked out my US$2,000 cash without so much as asking for a receipt (NOR THE WEBSITE ADDRESS!).
The next day, another pair of Italians tried to sell me the identical package for US$1,500, using similar sales pitches and then someone told me he got the identical package for US$1,300. I got suspicious, so I started to do a little research (WHICH I SHOULD HAVE DONE BEFORE THE PURCHASE!). Including five other buyers that I know of, we have already spent over EC$35,000, the bulk of which will eventually leave this country and that is just six of maybe hundreds! Other troubling points that got me suspicious are:
1. The tools all say “Professionalâ and “Germany Designâ and outwardly they appear to be so, but on closer examination they are clearly cheap Chinese knock-offs. In fact, when I lifted up the drill kit, the handle stayed in my hand and the kit fell on my ankle.
2. The drills are built of cheap plastic; all have plain white stickers instead of proper Label Plates found on Professional grade tools and the labels are already peeling. There are NO serial numbers on the drills!
3. The Sales Pitch for the Generator is that it is 3 Phase! Any tool that requires 3 Phase current would more than
likely require much more power than a 2.5kW generator can provide!
I wish to enlighten persons on the results of research:
According to them and the “Internetâ on their smartphone, the 187-piece tool kit retails for US$900 and in the toolkit itself, is a flier showing a list price of 699 Euros (US$740). Their “Internetâ shows the Hammer Drill/Cordless Drill Combo listed at US$12,00 and the 3KW Gasoline Generator listed at US$2,100 giving a total of US$4,200. They referred to the website as “potente power germany,â but I have been very unsuccessful in finding that site. By the way, they must have a very, very fast Internet connection on the phones, since the “websiteâ loaded instantly!
Go to “lebow.en.alibaba.com/productlist.htmlâ to see the Tool Kit and Drill Combo cost price at US$50 to $60. I am not saying that that is their source or their cost price. Other costs such as middle men, transportation, handling, duties and taxes and other overheads can easily bring to cost to four or five times that amount, but please, donât come with list prices of $900 and $1,200!
“Googleâ the five letters of the “brand nameâ on the tool kit and the drill set and you with see selling prices from 129 Euros (US$131) to 210 Euros (US$222). In fact, I challenge anyone to find the “Italiansâ Internetâ site with the quoted list prices or in fact, to find any website with a US Dollar List Price!
My main concern with this situation is whether or not the authorities are aware of it, and hopefully the following are considered by them:
1. Do they require work permits or a traderâs licence and if so, do they have them?
2. Is the IRD going to charge tax on any profits made?
3. Is VAT to be paid on sales?
4. How do they repatriate these large sums of cash?
5. Is the FIU aware of these large undocumented cash transactions?
6. If the “Internetâ that they showed me with the List Prices does not exist or is not a genuine site; are they in breach of any section of the Cybercrime Act?
7. How are consumers to be protected after the “Snake Oilâ salesmen have left?
8. Who will repair the tools and how will spare parts be sourced?
I end with the Latin saying “praemonitus, praemunitusâ which loosely translates as “forewarned is forearmedâ.