LivingSocial and kgbdeals: daily offers that can disappoint...
KGB Deals and LivingSocial are all major players in the rapidly expanding internet phenomenon 'Daily Deals'. If you register with one of their websites you'll receive regular emails offering great offers in your area. Sounds great, but is it? Ricky Boleto reports.
The adverts are everywhere and more and more of us are being tempted by them. According to a new survey, 68% of us have tried one of the growing number of daily deals sites. But it isn't all good news for companies like this, because after we have used them over a third of us don't buy from the same product supplier again.
This would seem to suggest that some customers aren't happy. Some of these customers have contacted us.
Wayne Tribe used KGB when he planned a weekend stay in Edinburgh for his partner's birthday. He wanted to surprise her with something special and thought that the deal KBG were offering was a massive discount and "looked great". 'B Suites' who own the apartment confirmed his booking, but 16 days later they emailed him again saying he couldn't stay on the days he wanted due to a technical error. And what was worse was that they couldn't give him any money back as the money was still with KGB.
The good news is that KGB have got a refund policy, but the bad news is that anyone wanting to claim must do so within 10 days. So, as B Suites took 16 days to tell Wayne his booking was cancelled, did that mean he had missed the deadline? Wayne doesn't know as KGB said they would look into it, but three months later, he's still waiting.
So, are KGB any more helpful when a product you have ordered arrives damaged? The Bhengras were delighted when they found KGB offering a brand new bed for £229. When it arrived, the headboard and the bed were both covered in mould.
KGB will refund customers if they return faulty or unwanted goods to the supplier within 10 days. But as hard as the Bhengras tried to return their faulty bed to the furniture supplier, they simply couldn't: none of the phone numbers were working, one was going to answerphone and they received automated replies to their emails - and no one has got back to them. The couple still have their mouldy bed, and they have had precious little help from KGB.
When you're using a group-buying site like KGB or LivingSocial, you may think your contract for what you're buying is with them. It's not - the contract is with whoever is supplying the product or service. However, those group buying sites do have certain responsibilities, such as ensuring that the suppliers they use can actually come up with the good and services in the time frame suggested.
LivingSocial, the daily deal website specialising in lifestyle experiences, seems to take its responsibilities seriously, as it makes a pledge that if a supplier fails to honour a voucher before the expiration date, LivingSocial will refund customers with credit for future deals. If only they always stuck by it.
Dance music fan Reece George is determined to become a DJ, so when his mum saw LivingSocial advertising a five hour DJ class at the Ministry Of Sound nightclub, it seemed the ideal Christmas gift. When Reece called Ministry Of Sound in November to book his place, he was told that the course was fully booked and was advised to call back nearer the time of the next course in February. When he did so, Ministry Of Sound took his details but failed to get back to him with confirmation. Complaints to LivingSocial didn't do any good either. The February course came and went - and Reece's Christmas gift had become useless as the expiry date of the voucher had since passed. Reece received no experience and no refund, despite the promise on LivingSocial's website.
It's a promise that has let other customers down too. Elizabeth Ludlow bought a voucher for a 'thrill-seekers' speedboat ride in December 2011 as a present for her son who was due to emigrate to New Zealand. As the voucher stated it was valid through until June 11th 2012, she assumed it could be redeemed straight away. Instead, he got a nasty surprise: when he went to book his ride, he was told they didn't even start until March, but which time he'd have left the country. Elizabeth has now waited three months for a refund and for LivingSocial to resolve the issue, and her son has since emigrated. She, like other customers with similar experiences, wants to know why...
A kgbdeals spokesperson said:
kgbdeals has fulfilled over 97% of all its customer purchases in the last two years. Vouchers are sold, redeemed and fulfilled exactly as advertised. The remainder comprises customers who have changed their minds and obtain a refund, difficulties with supply by the retailer, or other problems with fulfilment.
For all purchases, kgbdeals ensures it provides all customers with service and protection in line with consumer law. We act on their behalf in resolving any issues with retailers, and we stand by our no quibble customer service. This additional support is welcomed by our customers and we are justifiably proud of our standards and service. Of course, sometimes resolution can take longer than it should, and we are working tirelessly to improve our service standards to be the best in class.
Regarding the two cases you have shared with us, had the customers bought direct from the suppliers at full retail price, our additional service and protection would not have been available. We believe the peace of mind offered by our daily deals service is a powerful reason for its success, in addition to the very good value for money.
Mr & Mrs Bhengra first contacted us on the 7th March and we replied the next day, sending a further six emails to keep them informed of progress and resolve the problem with the supplier. They have now informed us they are satisfied with the resolution of the problem, and told us they will use kgbdeals again.
Mr Tribe first contacted us on the 9th January and we replied the next day. His case was more complex and it took longer to resolve due to a technical error with our database logging, but I am satisfied our customer service team did everything they could to stay in touch with Mr Tribe and sort out the issues with the supplier. The problems with the purchase have been resolved and he too has told us he would use kgbdeals again.
A B Suites spokesperson said:
We want to make it clear to all our current guests of all of our branches and of any potential guests, that we have a very generous refund policy and allow guests to cancel reservations at any point and promise that they will receive a full refund. We have offered the guest a complimentary stay with us at any of our branches for a full weekend of their choosing. We can only be thankful that this is not a regular occurance and we will continue to do our utmost to ensure that our high level of customer service remains.
A LivingSocial spokesperson said:
LivingSocial places customer service at the very heart of our business and we strive to ensure members and partners alike benefit from a great experience with us.
We are, of course, extremely disappointed to hear of instances where LivingSocial hasen't lived up to the high service standards we set for ourselves. In the specific cases of Elizabeth Ludlow and Reece George, both parties have received a full refund, and a personal apology from Peter Briffett, Managing Director of LivingSocial UK and Ireland.
At LivingSocial, we pride ourselves on being the premium local commerce provider; offering daily deals, luxury escapes and fantastic experiences to over 60 million subscribers worldwide.
With quality at the heart of our business model, LivingSocial has built its operation to facilitate the best possible experiences for all parties involved in our offers - from a dedicated deal quality team who ensure deals are clear and compliant both with the UK CAP Code and with consumer protection standards, to a dedicated client service division that helps ensure our business partners truly optimise the services we offer.
With 'boots on the ground' in every market we operate in, our teams of local experts work closely in partnership with the best and brightest local businesses, ensuring we continue to surprise and delight our customers with exciting new experiences in their local area, at great value.
LivingSocial welcomes feedback from both members and partners as we look to constantly improve the way we work. After every deal, consumers are invited to leave feedback on their experience and tell us whether they would return to the business. We encourage any member who has questions about a deal they have purchased through LivingSocial to contact our customer service team at 0800 014 8431 or go to help.livingsocial.com.
To reiterate, with regards to the specific cases discussed today, LivingSocial has carried out a full internal investigation into both incidents. We are sorry that Elizabeth Ludlow and Reece George experienced trouble in redeeming their vouchers, and a full refund, along with a personal apology from our Managing Director has been issued to both customers.
A Ministry of Sound spokesperson said:
"Thank you Watchdog for bringing this matter to our attention. Our Academy courses are incredibly popular with aspiring DJs and are an important part of what makes Ministry of Sound so well-loved around the world. Supporting and promoting young talent is what we are all about. However, in this instance there appears to have been a breakdown in communication with Living Social and ultimately we fell short of the high level of customer service on which we pride ourselves. We have written to Reece and his mum to apologise. Reece's mum will get a full refund and Reece will be invited to a forthcoming DJ Academy course completely free of charge."