Consumer Watch

Wendy Knowler fights for your rights...

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July 26 2012 at 08:10

Group discount buying has caught on in a big way among South Africans, with a host of websites offering an eclectic mix of products and experiences at apparently massively discounted prices.

If there are enough takers for the cellulite removal, scrapbooking set, zip line tour or scuba diving course, the deal is on, and it’s supposedly a win-win – the vendor gets massive marketing and a whack of new custom, Groupon gets a nice cut, and the consumer gets to try something new at a bargain price.

But not everyone ends up happy in every case, of course. Some vendors can’t cope with the volume of voucher holders wanting to make bookings, while still accommodating their regular clientele, and the voucher holders generally don’t respond well to being told they’ll have to wait months to redeem their voucher.

Given that Groupon is the dominant player, offering several deals daily in the major cities, it’s a name that pops up fairly often in my inbox, the most common consumer complaints being that the voucher either couldn’t be redeemed within a reasonable time frame, or that the deal didn’t live up to its advert.

I’ve taken up two Groupon cases in recent weeks.

Angie Bauristhene bought a R300 Groupon “half-day” spa package at a Rosebank spa for a  friend’s birthday.

The half-day turned out to be less than two hours, and the promised “snack” was a bottle of water and a Slim Slab, she said.

“When I complained to the manageress of the spa, she had a ‘don’t care’ attitude and I’ve received no response to the e-mail I sent to Groupon,” she said. “It’s extremely disappointing.”

In the second case, Warda Salie paid R2 799 for a set of pots advertised by Groupon. But she was disappointed with the quality – three lids broke within three months of purchase.

“When the first lid broke, Groupon wanted to do a swop but after the second and third ones broke, I asked for my money back,” Salie said.

“They agreed that they will refund me as soon as they collect the pots, but I’ve been waiting for months for them to come out.

“The person who deals with the refunds never gets back to me.

“According to all the Groupon people who have checked up on my case, my name is on the couriers’ list.

“I’ve even gone directly to the courier company, but they haven’t come back to me either.

“Please help me; I get this anxious feeling when I call Groupon, because I know I’m not getting anywhere.”

I took up both cases with Groupon SA’s chief operating officer, Heini Booysen.

In Bauristhene’s case, he said the spa in question had “overpromised and underdelivered”.

He added: “We addressed this and other similar problems with the vendor and ultimately ended our relationship.”

Groupon offered Bauristhene a 50 percent credit refund “along with our apologies for the below par service”. She is happy. 

Regarding Salie’s case, Booysen said Groupon had experienced “some major issues” with its logistics provider regarding collections and returns.

“Owing to several cases of fraud, we are unfortunately obliged to wait until the product has been collected and returned to the merchant in question before we can initiate a refund,” he said. “In this case, despite repeated follow-ups, our logistics partner let us down and the collection did not take place in a reasonable amount of time.”

A delighted Salie e-mailed me to say her problem was sorted out within a day. “I got an e-mail to say the refund had been processed to my husband’s credit card. That evening I got a call from a senior manager at the courier company to arrange for the collection of the pots. Thank you.”

Do you have a group discount buying gripe? Let me know and I’ll do my best to help.

[email protected]

 

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