Wed, 24 Sep 2003

May the buyer beware

I have always dreamed of buying a house. I saved my money for a long time in order to afford a nice house in a safe neighborhood.

I viewed many houses while trying to decide which one was best. When I finally came to view the homes in Kota Wisata, I thought they were the answer to my prayers. The homes were of a nice design and each community had security gates with posted guards. When I asked them about security, they told me that theirs were the safest of places, as the guards were trained to keep a watchful eye out for the residents and the sales girl told me they had 24 hour tight security.

For over the year and a half that I lived in the Kota Wisata community I felt everything was good. Then one day my dreams came crashing down. I was away on a business trip and returned to find out that my house had been robbed.

Where were the security guards?

It transpired that the security guards let a strange car into the compound late at night, despite written procedures to the contrary. Further, he did not record the registration nor even question the driver when he left packed with my things -- he simply let him come in. This car parked right outside my house, for several hours while the burglar went through my home and all my things. Some of my neighbors noticed this strange car and that my lights were out, but did not ask. Worse, the car returned the next night doing the same thing -- and still no security guard even asked.

When I went to the general manager (GM) of Kota Wisata, he was very apologetic but not very helpful. When I asked how this could happen with "guards that were trained to keep a watchful eye out for the residents and 24 hour tight security," the GM said that he knew the security guards were not very good but he could not fire them for fear of demonstrations. When I reminded him of the sales presentation when I bought the house, he simply said that marketing talk was often misleading.

Worst of all, the GM asked me to keep quiet about the crime and that he wanted to settle this issue as a family matter. He promised to help me get compensation. So I waited for several weeks, while he conferred with his parent company, a Japanese company in Jakarta. In the meantime, he collected over US$400 from the security guards -- telling them that he would arrange for additional training for them. One of the security guards told me that they were told that the money was to be used to pay my compensation for losses while this compensation never happened.

MARIA K DEWI Kota Wisata Bogor, West Java