Along with my counterpart on a Sunday newspaper, I’ve noticed a marked increase in complaints about Groupon deals lately.

Groupon is South Africa’s market leader in the group discount buying space.

So last week, having taken up two cases in quick succession, I asked Groupon’s Wayne Gosling if the company was experiencing operational problems.

“Agreed,” he said.

“The tail end of a backlog we experienced during Christmas is the biggest driver.

“All outstanding issues have been cleared up and we are expecting things to normalise shortly.”

Colleague Denis Droppa was among the casualties, despite buying his voucher in early November.

He paid R370 for speakers for his cellphone, was promised delivery within a week, and cancelled the order when they hadn’t arrived more than a month later.

When I e-mailed Gosling last week, Droppa was still owed a refund of his R370, and he felt that another R200 should be added to cover all the cellphone calls he’d had to make to the company, first trying to find out where his speakers were, and then trying to get a refund.

Gosling responded: “It seems Mr Droppa didn’t request a refund, but it has been done now.

“And we’ve put R100 Groupon credits on his account, too, by way of apology”.

Droppa thanked Gosling, but added: “The fact that there was no record of my numerous e-mail and telephonic requests for a refund reveals there’s something amiss with Groupon’s systems.”

Sivuyile Maso came to the same conclusion.

On December 18 he bought two vouchers for a three-night luxury stay in a game lodge. But he cancelled within days after the death of his fiancée.

Groupon undertakes to issue refunds if cancellations are received within a week of payment (see footnote).

On December 22 Maso e-mailed Groupon, cancelling the deal, and included a letter from the game ranch, confirming that he had not redeemed the vouchers.

“Groupon kept telling me my refund was being processed, but I never got my money,” he told Consumer Watch.

“On January 13 I was sent an e-mail saying the refund had been processed and that the money would take three to five days to reflect.

“But it hasn’t.”

Shortly after I took up Maso’s case with Gosling, he responded to say that the refund had finally been made.

“The problem was an oversight by one of our agents. She forgot to load the payment on to our bank and it slipped off the radar.

“We have handled the matter internally and sorted out Mr Maso.”

* According to the Consumer Protection Act, a supplier must cancel a booking, and refund, without a cancellation fee, if a consumer is unable to honour the booking because of the death or hospitalisation “of the person for whom, or for whose benefit the booking was made”.


‘Kettle of the year’ the only kettle

Staying with group buying schemes, a stainless steel induction kettle caught my eye on (affiliated to Independent Newspapers) in earlier this month.

It was hailed as “2014 Kettle of the Year”. That’s quite a boast, given that we’re not yet a month into 2014.

So I asked Vuvuplaza which organisation had proclaimed that kettle to be its kettle of the year.

Well, actually, said marketing manager Nic Latouf, it was “just a marketing blurb”.

“But agreed, when we read it again it may have given the wrong impression. So we’ve changed it to “Our 2014 kettle of the year… Which it definitely is, so far.”

It’s also appears to be the only kettle. Meaningless claim of the year, so far.