VOUCHERS for days out, meals or furniture are ever more popular as the cost of living soars. But you do not always get what you pay for.
Deals from sites such as Wowcher, Virgin Experience Days or Buy A Gift have left some customers out of pocket – in some cases to the tune of hundreds of pounds.
Harriet Cooke explains what to watch out for and how to get your money back.
I DIDN’T GET WHAT WAS ADVERTISED
NHS worker Zeby Barron, 33, from Preston, has been fighting for money back after her city- break deal got fully booked.
She paid Wowcher £507.99 for a three-night Christmas trip at a 4H hotel in Vienna, Austria, which included flights.
After redeeming the code from the site, she was advised confirmation would come from the travel operator Travelolo within two days. But when no email arrived, Wowcher told her to contact the travel firm directly.
Travelolo told her she could book the flights but the discounted hotel rooms were now fully booked. Instead, it offered her a 3H hotel in the city centre or a 4H hotel further away.
She said: “The 3H hotel looks an absolute dive. I asked for a full refund as they were unable to deliver on the holiday as advertised — only to be told this was not possible.
“First they offered me a refund to my Wowcher wallet but after more emails they agreed to a full refund. I’m so annoyed with the way this has been handled. I won’t use Wowcher again.”
EVENT FULLY BOOKED
The consumer group Which? helped a woman who bought a £76.50 “Behind the Seams” Virgin Experience Day at the Angels Costumes warehouse in London for her mum. It was to see thousands of outfits used in TV, theatre and film.
But her mum found no slots available and was worried the voucher would expire without them having the opportunity to go.
After being contacted by Which?, Virgin Experience Days removed the deal temporarily from its website and refunded the customer. It said vouchers that could not be fulfilled could be extended or refunded if there was no suitable alternative.
A spokesperson for Virgin Experience Days apologised to the customer for the inconvenience caused and said it is committed to providing the “highest levels of service”.
ASKED TO PAY MORE
Cleaner and language tutor Claire Davison, 56, from Poole, Dorset, paid Wowcher £300 for two vouchers covering a three-night stay at Ilfracombe Holiday Park for her family — including kids Rhiannon, 19, Reece, 18, and Rowan, 15, along with Rhiannon’s 20-year-old boyfriend.
But when she contacted the Devon holiday park to book the stay, she was told it would cost an extra £300 on top of what she’d already paid, because the dates were during peak season.
Claire said: “I went back to the Wowcher site and looked through the purchase process again and didn’t see any small print. I asked for a refund but was offered a £300 credit to my Wowcher wallet, with a £30 goodwill gesture.
“I contacted Wowcher every day to try to find ways to spend my credit but none of their suggestions were suitable.
“They said after 30 days the amount on my Wowcher wallet would be reduced by 50 per cent, so I’d lose money I couldn’t afford and wanted to take my kids on holiday. In the end, my bank agreed to refund me, but I heard Wowcher is contesting this. My bank thinks the company is wrong.”
Ilfracombe Holiday Park said it partnered with Wowcher to enable people to get discounts on their stays. But school holidays were excluded from the deal, as stated in the terms and conditions. It added that even with the extra charge, the deal would have still been good value.
One 75-year-old reader wrote to Sun Money to say she had won a “Buy A Gift” voucher for an overnight getaway for two with dinner.
When she tried to book at the North Shore Hotel near Skegness, Lincs, she was told she would have to pay a surcharge of £58. She complained to Buy A Gift, which refunded the charge.
A spokesman said fees were explained in its terms but added: “Customer satisfaction is of the utmost importance to us and when the customer first contacted us to complain, we rectified this.”
HISTORY OF PROBLEMS
The Competition and Markets Authority has already investigated Groupon.
In October last year, it secured commitments from the company to improve customer service, the accuracy of descriptions and offer refunds. The site was warned it could face court action if it did not improve.
Groupon said it was not found liable for any breach of laws, but all of the CMA’s requirements had been implemented and it was focused on providing the best possible service to customers.
The company said it was sorry customers had been disappointed.
A spokesman said in the majority of cases, complaints had been resolved at the time in line with the deal’s terms.
But added: “As a gesture of goodwill we have issued refunds to the customers whose cases are outstanding.”
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