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Thanks to the Consumer Protection Act, there’s little chance that you’ll present a gift voucher at a store or beauty salon and be told “sorry, it’s expired”.
That’s because the act states that all pre-paid vouchers must be redeemable for up to three years.
Of course, some companies are refusing to comply – think pre-paid cellphone data – but that’s a separate column.
Early this month, I received an e-mail from Lu Deetlefs of Centurion, on behalf of his wife.
“She received a R75 voucher from Edgars last year,” he began.
“There is no expiry date on it, but when she tried to use it on January 3, she was told it had expired at Christmas.
“Would this be okay with regard to the CPA?”
I assumed he meant that his wife had received an Edgars gift voucher from a friend or relative, so I took up the case with the company, asking why the redemption period wasn’t three years, and why the voucher had no expiry date on it.
Edcon’s chief executive of credit and financial services, Jim Slavik, provided a response I wasn’t expecting: the R75 voucher was a freebie, issued to all Edgars account holders in good standing – all 1.6 million of them – last November as a thank you for their custom.
Because they aren’t pre-paid vouchers, but loyalty discounts, consumers don’t have the right to redeem them for up three years. Edcon is entitled to make them valid for as long as it likes.
The company intended the vouchers to expire on Christmas Eve, but “due to printing issues”, as Slavik put it, this date didn’t appear on the vouchers.
“As it was sent as a Christmas gift voucher, the store staff incorrectly assumed it would need to be used by Christmas,” Slavik said.
“But we have contacted the store manager and he will assist Mrs Deetlefs with the voucher.”
The company had since told its stores to honour the vouchers until December this year, Slavik said.
“The missing expiry date was a problem, so we have tried to be generous with the redemption period.”
It’s a generous gesture indeed – nice to see vouchers being issued to reward existing customers rather than only as juicy bait to lure people to open accounts.
Staying with generous gestures, Wimpy went big on generosity last week, serving 68 000 free breakfasts at its franchises between 7am and 8am on Thursday – two bacon rashers, two eggs, chips, tomatoes and toast, normally sold at R20.
The freebie was announced on Twitter the day before. So why did Wimpy do it, other than for marketing mileage? And why not go big on feeding the truly needy instead?
“It was a gesture of goodwill designed to help our customers kick-start their new year,” a Wimpy spokesman said, hailing the event as a huge success.
“We conceptualised this campaign as a motivational ‘gift’ to all… to genuinely reward South Africans and to establish long-term emotional affinity between our customers and the Wimpy brand.”
Predictably, a few who queued for their freebie breakfasts were unimpressed.
One complained on consumer complaints website HelloPeter that the halaal Wimpy he visited for his free “streaky bacon” breakfast served polony instead of bacon, another that the franchise he visited ran out of cutlery, and a few that they didn’t get served.
But Randburg Wimpy’s Bram Fischer centre apparently got it right.
“What a way to start the morning, and the new year,” wrote Lori. “The atmosphere was so festive, everyone was laughing and sharing tables, talking to strangers… it was like a family party.”
Those who hadn’t been served by 8am were given vouchers entitling them to a free coffee, the Wimpy spokesman said.