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Let the buyer beware

Caveat emptor is Latin for "Let the buyer beware".

Over the years, it has become a proverb in regular use in English.

Commonly, caveat emptor is the contract law principle that controls the sale of real estate after the date of closing but may also apply to sales of other goods.

The phrase caveat emptor and its use as a disclaimer of warranties arise from the fact that buyers typically have less information than the seller about the good or service they are purchasing. This quality of the situation is known as 'information asymmetry'. Defects in the good or service may be hidden from the buyer, and only known to the seller.

A common way that information asymmetry between seller and buyer has been addressed is through a legally binding warranty, such as a guarantee of satisfaction.

The full Latin phrase rather than the more common short form is: Caveat emptor, quia ignorare non debuit quod jus alienum emit ("Let a purchaser beware, for he ought not to be ignorant of the nature of the property which he is buying from another party.") In other words, the buyer should assure himself that the product is good and that the seller had the right to sell it, as opposed to receiving stolen property.

Or more simply put, if something sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

This is a mantra that I have tried hard to adhere to in recent years. And yet for all that, I have fallen prey to the sharks that prowl the investment waters looking for likely, gullible targets.

“Israeli business culture: In Israel, the customer is not always right” “Business culture and Israel, as well as Israeli attitudes to not be a freier (sucker) have resulted in a reputation of very poor customer service nationwide.”

The above headline and sub-header are from an article that was first published by the Jerusalem Post in their Business Section, on June 24, 2023. The article was written by Judith Segaloff.

It is painful for me to put my hands up and admit that I am a victim. The fault is mine and mine alone.

The sharks, in this case, are two Tel Aviv-based organizations: Investor360 - - and Tarya -

I can not in all fairness say that either company told pork pies, rather they choose to speak liberally. And I of course being bowled over by the attention and the prospect of easy money, fell hook, line, and sinker for the ploy, which initially worked well.

I’ll come back to their schemes shortly. For now, I want to review the basics of service and support.

Although Caveat emptor initially applied to real estate deals, in our daily lives we see countless examples of devious tactics applied by organizations and companies of all sizes. For the most part, they are not illegal, although many sail extremely close to the wind. And of course, there are examples of small companies, sole traders, and others who knowingly cross the line in an attempt to separate us from our money.

The idiom, ‘a fool, and his money are soon parted’, seems most apt, given that I am the fool.

All of us I assume have at one time or another been taken by adverts announcing that a product or service is available at such and such a price. What we neglect to see, as it's in the smallest of letters is the all-important word ‘from’ which appears just before the price which of course is in huge font.

Likewise, I am sure we have all been taken in by supermarkets and their offer of three for two (items). Trying to match the product barcode with the price on the display shelve.

Service providers quote a price that does not include VAT, neglecting to mention the fact, and we of course don’t ask, and then they act surprised when we query the fact.

And of course, there are endless phone and internet scams. With the latter, the scammers are playing to people's simplistic greed which blinds them to all rational thought.

The list of tricks, scams, and 'information asymmetry' goes on and on.

There is a distinction between the words customer and client, although the precise meaning and usage can vary in different circumstances.

Generally, a customer refers to an individual or entity that purchases goods or services from a business. Customers are typically transactional, engaging in a one-time or occasional purchase without a long-term commitment. The focus is primarily on the exchange of products or services for payment.

On the other hand, a client typically implies a more ongoing and collaborative relationship between a customer and a business or service provider. Clients often seek professional advice, expertise, or specialized services over an extended period. The relationship is characterized by mutual trust, communication, and a deeper level of engagement beyond a single transaction.

In certain industries, such as law, accounting, or consulting, the term client is more commonly used to describe individuals or organizations that receive personalized and tailored services from professionals. The term customer is sometimes associated with more transactional businesses like retail or e-commerce.

It's worth noting that the use of customer or client can be subjective and context-dependent. Some businesses may use these terms interchangeably, while others may prefer one term over the other based on their industry, company culture, or the nature of their interactions with customers/clients.

Customer service in Israel has been a topic of discussion and concern for quite some time, and regrettably, it continues to lag behind the US and many Western European countries. While there are exceptions, the overall quality of customer service experiences in Israel often falls short of expectations.

One of the primary reasons for this ongoing issue is a lack of emphasis on customer-centricity in many businesses. Customer service is not given the priority it deserves, resulting in a lack of investment in training and development programs for customer-facing staff. Insufficient training leaves employees ill-equipped to handle customer inquiries, complaints, and requests effectively, leading to frustration and dissatisfaction among customers.

Another contributing factor is cultural norms and attitudes. Israeli culture is known for its directness and assertiveness, which can sometimes be perceived as rudeness or impatience in customer service interactions. Politeness and patience are essential elements of quality customer service, but they can be overshadowed by a more brusque approach.

We can see examples of this in the aggressive behavior of road users. Others need to push and shove to be first in a line. Or raise their voices to out-shout all others.

Moreover, bureaucratic processes and red tape can hinder efficient customer service in Israel. Customers often encounter long waiting times, complex procedures, and a lack of streamlined systems when dealing with government agencies, utility companies, or other service providers. These obstacles can create frustration and dissatisfaction, adding to the perception of poor customer service.

While there have been efforts to improve customer service in recent years, such as the introduction of customer service regulations and initiatives, progress has been slow. More comprehensive and sustained efforts are needed to enhance the customer service culture in Israel, including increased training and professional development for service staff, promoting a customer-centric mindset across all sectors, and streamlining processes to ensure a smoother customer experience.

The saying "the customer is always right" has been a cornerstone of customer service for decades. It embodies the principle that businesses should prioritize the needs and satisfaction of their customers above all else. While the phrase may not be taken literally in every situation, it serves as a reminder of the importance of customer-centricity.

First and foremost, customers are the lifeblood of any business. Without their support and patronage, companies would struggle to survive in a competitive market. Recognizing this, the customer's opinions, preferences, and feedback should be valued and respected. By placing the customer at the center of their operations, businesses can build long-lasting relationships and cultivate loyalty.

Moreover, customers have a unique perspective that can provide invaluable insights into a company's products, services, and overall experience. They interact directly with a business's offerings and can provide feedback on what works well and what needs improvement. Their opinions can guide companies in making informed decisions, refining their strategies, and staying ahead of the competition.

Additionally, customer satisfaction directly impacts a company's reputation and success. Positive word-of-mouth recommendations and online reviews can attract new customers, while negative feedback can tarnish a brand's image. Prioritizing the customer's needs and striving to exceed their expectations can lead to enhanced customer loyalty, increased sales, and improved profitability.

Of course, there may be instances where customers are unreasonable or demanding. However, even in such situations, businesses can benefit from adopting a customer-centric mindset. By actively listening, empathizing, and finding solutions, companies can turn difficult situations into opportunities for growth and learning.

While the customer may not always be technically right, acknowledging their importance and focusing on their satisfaction is crucial for any business. By embracing the principles of customer-centricity, companies can build strong relationships, foster loyalty, and ultimately thrive in the competitive marketplace.

Back to the sharks at Investor360 and Tarya.

I was introduced to Investor360 some years ago by a trusted friend and counselor, who was himself deeply embedded with 360 and singing their praises.

To reel me in, I was invited to an exclusive gathering of 360’s clients and prospects at which the bait was dangled and displayed.

I fell for the ploy. All thoughts of ‘buyer beware’ and a ‘fool and his money’ went out the window. Here was a simple, straightforward investment plan which would reap excellent rewards. What could go wrong?

I should add that I was already working with an investment consultant - Sigal Haim Hacohen – who had put together a conservative investment package as befitting someone, who at the time was recently retired and in their later sixties.

The Sharks at Investor360 belittled the notion of a conservative plan and I have to admit I was swept up in the fervor of their recommendations.

Their idea was simple. Borrow against two savings accounts I had with an insurance company. And invest a sum of money with another finance house and then borrow against that investment. The sum of the three loans was to be invested with Tarya. The three loans to run for seven years, at what I understood was to be a fixed interest rate.

It was explained that each month I would receive an interest payment from Tarya which would more than cover the monthly repayment on the three loans and leave a sufficient sum in balance.

And to be fair for the first few years the monthly payment from Tarya covered the three loans and did indeed leave money over.

I had discussed the scheme, individually, with a couple of friends. Both told me in colorful language that I was mad, foolish, and daft to even consider the proposal. And they were proved right.

With Covid 19 and then the Ukraine war, interest rates skyrocketed and I could not meet monthly repayments on the three loans. In other words, the three loan repayment exceeded the amount I received each month from Tarya.

Although I approached both Investor360 and Tarya for help and guidance, I was cut adrift and left to fend for myself.

In the early days of my one-sided relationship with Investor360, so caught up was I in the gusto that I agreed to their plan to invest a sum of money in a five-year US real estate scheme. The scheme for the first couple of years paid a quarterly sum which I took to be interest on the invested amount. Wrong. Again, while Investor360 did not tell a pork pie, they were liberal with all the details.

Suffice it to say the US real estate scheme has bombed out, no more money is currently available, and frankly, despite the various reassurances given, I doubt if any money will be seen in the near future. All I can hope for is that at some point in the future, maybe several years down the road, the balance of the investment will be settled.

In desperation, with my tail between my legs, I crawled back to Sigal Haim Hacohen and pleaded for help. Graciously and without rubbing my face in the dirt, Sigal reviewed the Investor360/Tarya scheme, which shocked her. She told that the scheme which was risky at best was perhaps acceptable for a 40 or 50 years old, but certainly not for a 60 or 70-year-old given all the prevailing factors.

With her help and guidance, I broke a savings account with a bank – that is a story for another time – and repaid one of the loans. The insurance company wanted to add a fine for early repayment which Sigal negotiated down.

Left with two loans, which the monthly interest payment from Tarya just about covered, I requested to withdraw the bulk of the funds from the account. Surprise, Surprise, the Tarya small print says otherwise.

Do any of us read the small print?

Tarya’s T&Cs inform the investor that withdrawals are handled by an algorithm that pays out according to various criteria. Withdrawals can take weeks, months, or even longer to be completed. Currently, six weeks on from logging a withdrawal request, I received three payments adding up to a pittance of what I need.

Although the fault is mine alone for not reading the T&Cs, both Investor360, and Tarya while not telling porkies, were liberal with the facts. They were selective with information.

Under the guidance of Sigal Haim Hacohen, I have moved funds from a bank savings account to a special fund managed by an insurance company, especially for those of us enjoying our golden years. Consecutive, most certainly yes, but also stable and worry-free.

In conclusion, sharks are everywhere.

Don’t be taken in by their fast talking. Don’t allow yourself to be swept in the enthusiasm of making a quick buck. Do check, carefully, the small print/T&Cs.

Remember Caveat emptor. And the mantra if something sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

Let the buyer beware.


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