When Daily Deals Coupons Go Bad

Coupon sites are great, aren’t they? Some tempting offers mixed in with dubiously exaggerated deals, they are the ultimate impulse buy one-stop shop. I’ve bought various offers over the years, everything from cupcakes (but not from Cudo) to rounds of golf. Maybe I've just been very lucky, but I haven’t encountered any problems when redeeming a coupon. Until now. And not just a problem. This is the first time I’ve encountered outright deceit.

Back in April, Catch of The Day was offering a Vistaprint coupon: pay $15 for $75 worth of Vistaprint items. (The offer ran again as recently as September 25 2012.)

As I was in the process of setting up a new business, I thought $15 to experiment with some items sporting my new logo was worth a try, so I grabbed a coupon. The coupon expired in mid-October.

Last week, I tried to use the coupon. I clicked on the link in the email but was told the page couldn't be found and was automatically redirected to the main Vistaprint site.

So I went through the site, selected a few things and got to the checkout. My total was $75.69 (before postage). I was happy to pay the outstanding amount (69c) and the postage with a credit card.

At the checkout, it asked if I had a coupon, so I entered the code. So far, so good.

But the next thing that happened surprised me. It said my balance was $28.44. Huh? Surely my balance was only 69c, right?

Convinced there was a problem with my coupon, I called Vistaprint and explained the situation. The customer service rep who answered my call wasn’t sure what the problem was, so went off to investigate. And when she came back, what she told me left me reeling.

I’m not even going to try to quote her exact words because Vistaprint records conversations with people (coaching and training purposes, anyone?) and I don’t. But this is what it came down to. I was told that when you buy from Vistaprint with a coupon of some kind, you are directed to enter the site via a specific URL. The prices displayed on the site will now be “different”.What a staggering admission!

It’s not hard to see that by “different”, Vistaprint actually meant “much higher”, although when I put that to the customer service rep who answered my call, she answered: “it depends on the product”. What it ultimately means that come the end of your transaction, you are required to pay a significantly higher balance. In my case, it was more than 40 times the actual amount I should have owed.

In no uncertain terms, I informed the customer service rep this was a complete scam, that I would be informing the relevant Australian consumer authorities, and demanded I speak to a supervisor. I was put on hold. After 20 minutes and 18 seconds on the phone, they hung up on me.

So if Vistaprint didn’t want to speak with me, then my next stop was Catch of the Day who sold the offer in the first place. Was Catch of the Day aware of these practices? Did they condone them? Do such actions tarnish the reputation of its own site?

Nabil El-Hissi, senior legal counsel for the Catch Group, was quick to point out that the company "takes its obligations under the Australian Consumer Law (ACL) very seriously and has appropriate processes in place to ensure its compliance with the ACL in its day to day business.”

"The Catch Group is not aware of 'these practices' nor does it 'condone them', and we have now commenced our investigations into this matter and we will revert to you once we have concluded these. I would like to stress that the Catch Group is focused on giving its customers a positive customer experience and we will be in contact with you regarding this matter in due course."

I went back to my Vistaprint shopping cart to capture some screen grabs but I was too late. Guess what I found?

Vistaprint had made my entire order FREE. The site had changed the total amount owing to $77.97, crossed it out, and had now written FREE. The original $28.44 amount "owing" had been wiped. So had the 69c I actually owed.

Everything was free, free, free, FREE. No explanation. Just FREE. Why would Vistaprint do that? Your guess is as good as mine.

The lesson for everyone? Stand up for your rights. Don't put up with excuses or a ridiculous run-around to claim something you've paid for.

Have you ever had problems redeeming a coupon bought from a daily deals site? Let us know in the comments below.

Roulla Yiacoumi is a widely-published Australian technology journalist who is absolutely fed up with the utter crap companies try to put over consumers.

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Comments

    Vistaprint is annoying. I did one of their 500 cards for $2 promo for my dad's business and every hour I get emails from them.
    How much will that 20min phone call cost you? More than 69c. You should of doubled or tripled your order if it was all going to be free.

    Great article. I've always been skeptical about the extra middleman concept with vouchers or deals purchased through one site to be used on another.

      I guess you missed the bit in the first par: "but I haven’t encountered any problems when redeeming a coupon."

      Last edited 03/10/12 7:15 am

    Well written, Roulla. I spotted that very offer just recently and, while tempted, I managed to avoid the urge as I am always a bit wary about buying services or coupons. If I buy an item, at least I can see the item and I will know what I am getting for my money. COTD will only drag its name through the mud by being associated with such scams.

    Vista Print has been doing this for years, every 6 months i get emails from them for amazing offers or even free stuff. The first time i went great 250 free business cards and 2 free custom stamps, so i went through designing everything and sure it was all free then.... $70 for postage... $70!. I went through Vista Prints main page and ordered the same items, postage came to about $12.

    That being said catch of the day, scoopon and related businesses are all very trustworthy and work quickly to resolve problems, bought coupons many times and will be picking up my half price sushi tomorrow and will be enjoying half price indian food on my birthday. Anything to do with vista print stay well clear, if you trust the business buy the coupon, if unsure move on. Vista print has MANY bad ratings www.resellerratings.com/store/VistaPrint Always research before a purchase.

    I had an experience where I bought a set of 3 car washes for about 1/3 of the normal price. I went to use the first one and the car wash place said they had "run out of those car washes". WTF right?

    The next 20 minutes was me basically being treated as a ghost. They wholeheartedly ignored me, even though I was physically right in front of them. In the end I contacted the coupon website and after 2 months of emails back and forwards, I got a refund to my credit card.

    It's the only time I've bought an online voucher like that. Never again.

    How was this a coupn gone bad?
    Yes, I agree that maybe their way of mplementing it was a bit dodgy, but you called them on it, and they fixed your problem. Better than fixed it. You are 69 c up. This is less a story about a coupon going wrong, than a story about standing up for your rights under Australian Law. You has a positive result from this, so how on earth did it go "wrong"?

    I have bought many things from this type of site. I've also had problems with missing items, expired links (such as yours) but in EVERY case, the suppliers of the item or the people who sold me the coupon have brought me a satisfactory solution. It is in their best interest to keep me as a customer, and they have not let me down so far.

      It went wrong in that it wasn't applied correctly until Roulla complained! Had she not complained to COTD, Vistaprint wouldn't have fixed her problem. (Note also the link wasn't expired; it had an October expiry and this occurred in September.)

      Well it's bad because they have separate price schemes depending on whether or not you use a coupon. It's similar to a supermarket raising the price for something then putting it on 'sale' and making the savings look greater than they would have been. This isn't a case of they made a mistake or something went wrong. They set the system up specifically to charge people higher prices if they use a coupon.

    I see this all the time with sites like this. Where they offer the product for a fictionally high price. Then "reduce" it by a ridiculously high amount

    My advice is always google the product in question first to actually find out what the real discount is (often there isn't one).

      I wouldn't say it happens all the time and there often isn't a discount, sometimes yes but this has to do with a shady business not the deals sites.

      Take the Bodum FyrKat Grill on COTD for example, the cheapest i can find one anywhere is $249, they list the RRP as $279 and they were selling it For $100.

      Same with Kishi Sushi, I rang up to find out the price of a 50 piece platter without mentioning a coupon, they told me it depends on what I actually want on the platter with the average being $65, listed on scoopon for $70, coupon for $35.

      Your advice on googling the product first though is always a good idea, but I would say maybe 5% of these offers are bogus not many of them.

    Few weeks back, i bought a 3 massages for $79 from Paradise Thai Massage & Spa, Drummoyne. First massage had to be before Oct 10th. So i called to make a reservation. First thing i was asked if i had a coupon. I said yes. The next available appointment is Oct 10th. That was threes weeks away . I asked if there was anything sooner, and i heard the rustling of paper, and was told that was the earliest.
    I was suspicious, so few minutes later, i asked a friend to make an appointment but this time, said wasn't using a coupon. There was an opening the next day.

    If they treated coupon users like this while making the reservation, i had my doubts of getting a good massage from them. I contacted GroupOn. After they understood my concerns, they offered GroupOn credit as a refund. I asked for my PayPal to be refunded. They refunded my PayPal.

    The process i had to go through with GroupOn did not take an unreasonable amount of time. They tried to understand my concern and helped out. The massage place, on the there hand, were acting in similar manner to VistaPrint

      did u get a happy ending?

    I had a similar experience with a restaurant. I rang to make a booking and they said that's fine. Before hanging up they seem to remember to ask me if I was using a coupon. I said yes and the then told me that night is full, and the next available day will be 4 months later (after expirey). I contacted Groupon, and after a few mails back and forth, they refunded it.

    I have had similar experiences with vouchers online.

    With the exception that I purchased a voucher from Cudo for a photo book from Holding Stock.
    I missed the redemption date which is my fault I emailed the company and received a shock.
    They were more than happy to honor the voucher and also helped me get started, after using other companies online I was pleasantly surprised and will be using them again.

    Oh crap! I have got the exact same coupon with the same expiry date and was going to use it this week. I hope they don't jerk me round like this. But good to have someone else's experience to compare with.

      I'm gonna bump my own comment by saying I finally used the coupon (on the very last day) and I passed the $75 limit on the voucher by about six bucks and the whole lot was free. I paid nearly $5 for postage and that was it, got the $81 worth of stuff for nix (well actually the $15 I paid for the voucher). BTW I ran the order once (without paying) without the coupon and once with it and the prices were the same both times.

    I had a similar experience with a massage voucher from Scoopon and Dr Spa at Box Hill. Noticed the voucher (which cost $39) was going to expire in a few days and rang up to make a booking. They said they were fully booked and berated me for not booking sooner. The next day I called and didn't mention the voucher, and surprise surprise, they were able to book me in that afternoon.

    I called scoopon who refused to do anything because their terms required booking 3 months in advance. I contacted consumer affairs who said that if the terms said this, then they couldn't do anything.

    Got a voucher for a massage but got screwed instead.

      No, that is you being a stupid consumer. If you get shit cheap and don't bother to read the terms then what do you expect when it all goes wrong?

    Considering the first time I ran across Vistaprint it was via them advertising their wares via spam, I've never regarded them a legitimate company.

    Any company dodgy enough to think of spam as a marketing tool will not think twice about ripping off their customers.

    The real lesson to learn is never ever go near Vistaprint.

    I bought a robotic vaccuum cleaner from Deal Board. The 'receipt' that I was emailed said to allow 2 to 12 weeks for delivery. Just seven days to go to see whether this delivery time estimate is accurate or not.

    Congratulations ... Initially you got what you paid for ... Bugger all. Don't whine when you pay stuff all and you get stuff all. There ain't no such thing as a free lunch

      Riiiiiight, because we shouldn't expect to receive the goods or services as advertised just because they're discounted?

    I've used Vistaprint last month and the cards came out fine, no spam emails, nothing

    I ha a very bad experience with LivingSocial recently. They have a 5 day refund policy on their vouchers but if something goes wrong outside that period, they won't help you unless the business has shut down. In my case the business had run out of stock so the voucher couldn't be used - LivingSocial said that it was my own fault for not using the voucher in the first 5 days even thought the voucher was valid for 3 months. I wasn't happy with their service at all an will not be using them again.

    I receive free something emails from vista print but when went to the site it adds up the amounts...so there free emails are not genuinenely free

    I understand the frustration that you've had here. And it certainly sounds like a negative consumer experience. But I'll put in my thoughts with another side to the story. I've used Vistaprint on multiple occasions, both for personal items, and for marketing material for a small business. Most (but not all) of the items that I've bought have been using some form of DailyDeal coupon, and I've never had an issue with price discrepancies between coupon purchases and outright purchases. For my purchases, they've also had quite prompt shipping, even when I haven't paid for rush postage. Yes, they do send a lot of emails if you don't opt out, but they seem to act on unsubscribe requests promptly. Based on my experiences, I'd recommend them. I know this sounds like a marketing post for VistaPrint, but I have no connection with the company (aside from having purchased their products), and just wanted to share my experiences.

    its called paying for postage u dumbassses

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