(Cross-posted in Detroit Insider Deals)
Today’s proclivity of relying on Internet business contacts, people connections and for dozens of other needs has led to an innate casualness by consumers — and how they spend their money. Until, that is, something goes wrong.
And it seems that problems are more inevitable than we may realize.
By allowing a blanket benefit of the doubt to online connections, we veer from wiser, customary marketplace wariness — and why, exactly?
Because, as the TV commercials claim, no one lies on the Internet, right?
On TV, out schlumps a typical Internet lie embodied in rumpled human form: A homely halfwit posing as a French model. With no plans to reveal his true intentions as long as we gullibly believe his WIFI lie, such slunk meat is, unfortunately, a common Internet presence.
Worst of all, such people and companies like him are posing as legitimate business connections and warehousers of “coupon deals” online.
Just how reputable and dedicated to your pleasure, and their guaranties, are these con artists, do you think?
Although they exist 24/7 in a shadowy world, it’s during holiday gift-buying that their true mettle is tested. And with the rush and buying frenzies this past Christmas, the crooks really stood out.
While rushing to finish as much shopping as possible, I did what most do: took advantage of online sales and in-store deals without having to spend too much money/time or venture very far in bad weather at monumental gas prices.
In fact, everything went swimmingly until I dealt with DealChicken.com and hit a huge snag by December 6, a snag which actually remains unresolved to this day. As I wait for my credit card company to help me sort out what is essentially DealChicken’s abysmal — nay, non-existent — customer service, I continue to twist while they skate and go right on scamming others.
Let’s put them on notice to slow down that gravy train, shall we?
The deal I was trying to access was for two portable cell-phone chargers that each supply an additional 40 hours of power. This invention, from Flash Chargers, uses a simple cylindrical hookup the approximate length of a cigarette and girth of a cigar. Each comes complete with compatible adapters and cord to fit all mobile devices, small enough to carry in a pocket or purse. The units recharge 500 times each through a computer USB port, providing a blue light if fully charged and red if needing one.
Since DealChicken offered a two-for-one deal, I jumped on it.
DC emailed me two voucher codes, with instructions to redeem with the manufacturer. Although its routine was a variation on the voucher redemption theme with Groupon or LivingSocial, what could predictably go wrong?
Well, only one redeemable voucher code DC provided was authentic. Within one day and a credit card deduction for my full purchase, I realized that although I had been charged for two, I could only receive one. Innumerable calls over the next weeks to DC failed — as did my attempt to reach a live person. DealChicken only provides an answering machine and does not return calls or emails. Ever. To anyone.
I phoned the Flash Chargers manufacturer and we kept in touch by emails. Luckily for me, Flash Chargers is an honorable company that backs its ingenious product as well as the deals that companies, like DealChicken, fail to provide. Flash Chargers told me they would still honor DC’s offer; they then instructed me to cancel my original DC credit card purchase and re-order directly through them.
I did so, but am still trying to resolve the original transaction charge.
Along the way, I also looked at the official BBB ratings and consumer complaints for DC and two similar coupon companies. The results were a bit startling.
A Google search for DealChicken pulls up negative feedback from customer after customer AND even from the businesses they promote.
Some of the DC coupon deals entailed several hundred dollars or more, and they all had the same problem: No response to consumer complaints, no problem resolutions, and no refunds. DC coupons being contested were for travel “deals,” dental specials, comedy club tickets and many other situations.
The online Better Business Bureau grades DealChicken a “D-,“ spanning its customary A+ to F scale, along with ripped-off consumer comments and a pretty damning synopsis. DC is not an accredited BBB business, although in order to do so, it must pass accreditation standards and request to be included. The D-minus grade reflects the length of time DC has been in business (since January 1, 2010), how long the complaints file has existed (since August 5, 2011), and adds: “The Bureau wrote to the firm requesting compliance with its voluntary Code of Advertising. To date, this company has failed to substantiate its advertising claim of, ‘save up to 90% on local dining, shopping & more.’”
Typical consumer problems include the inability to print out coupons/computer malware downloaded when so doing, hidden costs not initially mentioned, no response/action to phone or email complaints, and failure to delivery products or make other promised arrangements.
From the other side of the coin, businesses complain about hidden DC charges and similar complications resulting from their contractual arrangements with DealChicken.
By contrast, LivingSocial Inc. is BBB-accredited with an “A” grade. And, despite proportionally more consumer complaints, LivingSocial is very successful at resolving them. The seller’s BBB file was opened August 4, 2010 and its business is recorded as having begun September 1, 2007.
Groupon Inc. also receives both BBB accreditation and an “A” grade. BBB says the rating would be higher if Groupon was in business longer (its accreditation began December 1, 2009); by the same token, it gets a heightened rating for a lower complaint volume for the size of its business.
As more coupons and deal hawkers continue to surface, consumers might instead do better to directly contact manufacturing companies for unadvertised deals on products and services and skip the middleman altogether.
If a company is new or small, it may also be amenable to creative marketing without third-party complications — and consumers can potentially skip the online deal headaches and credit-card hang-ups.
Especially with DealChicken.com.
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Update: After this article appeared, I was contacted by DealChicken's Liam Oliver. I received a refund and have the following info for consumers: "If you, or any of your readers ever have any trouble with a DealChicken promotion please have them visit https://dealchicken.zendesk.com/home, or have them email firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also navigate to this page by clicking 'contact us' on DealChicken." For Detroit's local Area Manager, Stella Trunzo, call: (313) 222-1853 or email email@example.com. The contact information of our other Area Managers are: https://dealchicken.zendesk.com/entries/22823488-Contact-Phone-Numbers. Oliver adds, "We want to ensure each and every user has a positive experience on the site."