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Unfairpak

client_pictures_farepak.jpgI didn’t get the joke. On last night’s ‘Have I Got News For You” the ‘odd thing out’ photo puzzle had a hamster, Gwynith Paltrow’s head, something that looked like a Harrod’s hamper (okay, I’ve never seen one and I wasn’t paying all that much attention) and something else (I forget what)….

The answer was the hamper – because all the other things had been sent through the post, but the hamper won’t be. Thing is, it wasn’t a Harrod’s hamper, it was a Farepak hamper. I haven’t seen one of these either, but I’m sure that many know that these hampers are aimed at poor families who scrape together enough to make at least one day a year a little special.

“Originally developed as a traditional Christmas Hamper company, Farepak has grown to be one of the largest, and the most safe and reliable, Christmas savings schemes in the country. Tens of thousands of customers enjoy Farepak’s excellent range of hampers, gifts and shopping vouchers each year.”

Well, that’s what how company’s marketing spiel went anyway… The reality is quite different.

Tens of thousands of poor families who relied on this scheme to guarentee “christmas” have now not only lost any chance of that, but they’ve lost the money they paid to the company as well. The promises of savings, bonuses and cash-back too have evaporated as the company went into receivership.

As Ian Herbert says in The Independent:

“For 140,000 low-income families across Britain, Farepak’s hampers were a seasonal godsend. For just a few pounds each month, they could enjoy some modest Christmas treats without sliding into debt. But this year, the company’s spectacular collapse has cheated them of their precious savings. Are they simply victims of bad luck? Or was corporate greed to blame?”

As Polly Toynbee notes in The Guardian:

“Here are families from the 30% who own nothing, scrimping and saving to provide a Christmas for children that feels like other people’s Christmases, as advertised on TV. The rest of the year, they have their noses pressed up against a consumer society they don’t belong to.”

For others – since the Farepak used the ‘be a local agent and sell to your friends and neighbours’ have found themselves in a very difficult position.

While the company directors, lawyers and bankers fight over whose fault the collapse of Farepak was, it is no comfort to those families who have lost out.

GMTV reports that a temporary charity has been set up to try to relieve their loss.

The Farepak Response Fund will be accepting donations for the next 10 days – until 24 November 2006.

There is more on the story on a website set up by some angry customers, titled – not unsurprisingly – unFairpak.co.uk.

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