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Twisted Tales: How Kenyans Get Conned By Electronic Shops Along Luthuli Avenue

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Nairobi’s Luthuli Avenue is a beehive of activity on any given day. The newly refurbished street is known as a major electronics hub and rightfully so, Luthuli avenue is home to a majority of well-known and even upcoming brands of home electronics.

When it comes to recognizability, Luthuli would probably take home the crown as it has been the defacto recommended area for anyone looking to buy electronics for cheap, but this once glowing review is slowly fading away thanks to a new wave of conmen that have infiltrated the hub.

I have personally bought a Smart TV, home theatre and a PlayStation 4 from shops along this street and I can attest that you can get genuine electronics that you are looking for but that’s not a tale every Kenyan with an experience of Luthuli shares.

The Con Game

A recent twist to the tale is one of despair, con men and a well-organized sales operation. Gone are the days we’d warn people to be careful not to buy a fake TV or something, we now have to warn prospective customers of that as well as to take note of what the good they are being sold.

For the past few years, dating back to 2016, Luthuli has been cooking up a decisive con game that is meant to lure customers to spend more than they wish to and possibly end up with good they didn’t want in the first place.

A good number of Kenyans have fallen for the scam and many more keep falling for the exact same scam, years on. The most recent tale comes from one, Winnie Henry, who on May 10, 2019, walked into an electronics shop along Luthuli Avenue to buy a 24-inch digital TV. As the gods of the game would have it, she was walked out of the said shop a victim of the game but at least one that lived to tell the story;

“I never knew people could be so cruel until I visited Luthuli to purchase a TV. So a lady welcomed me nicely and I explained that I needed a 24-inch digital TV to gift my mum.

She said she would sell it to me at 8k including the aerial and we agreed. I gave her the money and she wrote the receipt but explained that she was going to make a warranty she’d be back.

I wondered how a warranty can be made but I didn’t bother to ask after all she would come back anyway.

Another guy comes sits next to me and starts explaining that if I needed to watch local channels I would be required to pay an extra 2k for tuner and if international an extra Kes.4500 but I resisted and explained to him that I needed free-to-air and it’s not logic to pay 4500 monthly for a TV according to me, but now another one joins and said if that’s the case I’d have to take another type and smaller to accommodate my needs.

We continue arguing for close to an hour and I request him to refund my money and would come back when I have enough to purchase the earlier agreed one. This is where hell broke loose and [he] said no refund can be made hiyo si benki (this is not a bank) and I can leave if I want.

I insist I don’t even want anything from them except money coz I was already tired now. They start throwing all kind of insults at me but nikasema kama mbaya mbaya (I said, whatever happens, happens) after all I don’t owe them anything I’m the customer.

I stood and demanded my money, made few calls then headed outside the shop shouting “con men” telling passersby how I’ve been conned. One guy grabs my hand and pulls me back inside. Guess they got scared and refunded my money…”

It’s a Long-Going Game

Such tales have been heard since three years ago. In 2017, a guy by the name Naftali Kibaara walked into a shop along Luthuli looking for a 32-inch Hisense TV. He was told the TV would cost Kes.19,000, which the owner reduced to Kes.16,000 after a bargaining session. But like Winnie’s story, Naftali would later be asked to top up some cash since the TV apparently required a tuner and a subscription charge.

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After refusing this option, he was told to add Kes.4,000 to get a different brand TV and this was without a remote controller which he would be asked to cough up an extra Kes.2,000 to get. He ended up giving the Kes.4,000 and getting a TV he did not want and a remote as “discount”.

In the same year, another person by the name Washington Ndegwa complains of how he paid Kes.20,000 for a 32-inch digital TV and ended up going home with a 24-inch analogue TV after refusing to pay the additional charges.

There’s also a very similar story by Paula Wai back in 2016.

Should You Still Buy From Luthuli?

As I mentioned earlier, my experience is totally different from the stories above and that’s because I put some precautions before making a purchase:

  1. Make sure you know exactly what you want, the size, the brand and research using online platforms like us on the pricing.
  2. Use social media to your advantage, Search about the product to get people’s experience, do the same for the shops you consider buying from.
  3. DO NOT GO ALONE – This applies to you men with toxic masculinity as well. Bring along a friend, preferably someone who knows a thing or two about gadgets.
  4. Never pay for goods you have not seen or tested. Pick an item, let them unbox it, test it and let them reseal it for you. Don’t fall for the trick of them getting you another set from the stock, take what you saw working and only pay for that specific one.
  5. In the extreme, avoid shopping from Luthuli altogether. There are many authorised resellers in malls and supermarkets that sell genuine electronics albeit a bit more expensive but at least there’s no drama involved.

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