The Un-buy dilemma

If you are an online/tele shopper, answer this question – How often have you bought something on impulse and then immediately felt a pang of guilt rush through your heart as you swipe your credit card? Many times than often is the answer, right?

Have you ordered something looking at a fabulous picture online that only turned out to be its cheap surrogate sister on arrival.

Well, we all make mistakes. But the comfort lies in the power to undo them. So in case it is a wrong buying decision, the question is how easy is it to un-buy the purchase?!

I recently un-bought something on the all popular shopping online shopping website Groupon in Dubai. I must say it was a surprising experience! I am writing this to get the good word out – not everything is wrong with these online shopping portals.

Groupon has clearly listed out its cancellation and refund policy on its website at the this link:

And just to add to that, my personal experience  is here:

I had bought a voucher for a certain hair treatment that I was considering taking for quite some time and this deal was offering a 60% discount. However, after checking with my hair stylist I concluded that this treatment wasn’t good for my hair. But then, I forgot about the vouchers. I only remembered about it 3 weeks after the date of purchase.

As per the Groupon website, you can claim refund in case of service purchases made less than 7 days ago. Older purchases are dealt on a “case to case” basis. My first attempt was to call the service provider and check if they were willing to give me an alternative treatment for the voucher price , but obviously they declined. So I called the customer care at Groupon. I did not have to go through a long IVR and neither wait very long before my call was answered by a customer care execute. I explained my case to him and he could pull up my record in a matter of seconds.

He told me that their company policy says to only offer refunds in case of genuine problems or inability to take the service on the part of the buyer. He said I will have to submit some “documents” to prove my case. He was meaning a physicians certificate or something. And here is where your selling skills come into play. I haggled and haggled with no solid ground, just pushing the fact that I hadn’t used the voucher yet and I should be allowed to cancel it. After 5-6 minutes, he gave me a diplomatic reply saying that he has sent me an email to which I had to reply with the necessary details. And also, in case a refund is granted, it will be in the form of Groupon credits. Alright. Something is better than nothing.

Now, the email was already in my inbox as I disconnected the call. Surprisingly, it had no mention  of any “documents” required. It just asked me to specify the “exact reason” for claiming refund.

So I shot out a reply giving 3 “management consultant style” reasons, one of which was that I hadn’t used the vouchers yet. Not attaching any “documents”. Within a couple of hours, I got a response from them saying that my request had been forwarded to the refunds department and they will get back to me within 48 hours, with confirmation on weather my request had been approved. This was not a confirmation of refund, but only acknowledgement of receipt. However, to my very pleasant surprise, they did get back to me within 48 hours (well, in the 48th hour) approving my request and the amount was instantly credited to my Groupon account. This surely got them few brownie points over their online rivals in my books.

Kudos to the prompt customer service Groupon team!


Online Deals in Dubai

Just like the rest of the World, Dubai also has caught on to the online shopping fever. Multiple online portals are trying to snatch the small number of online buyers from each other. All these are virtually clones of each other. So much so, that the two most popular websites also have similar sounding names: Cobone and his brother Groupon.

Although I have been here only a few months, I have already had my share of excitement at finding 80% off on hair treatments, 60% off on hotel deals and what not. But being a cautious buyer, I have done my research. I’d like to share the same with you, because I care for you dear readers.

The discounts that are mentioned on these websites often mean that you are either paying for substandard service or making full payment only in the form of additional payments not covered in the deal. I’ll explain how.

First we were trying to book a weekend vacation in one of the Northern Emirates for our Anniversary. We checked several deals and compared the prices of these with the cost of same number of days stay at the same hotels through their online bookings. It turns out most hotels have some or the other offer on their website. Say, book 2 nights and get 30% off on the 3rd night or complimentary set dinner/breakfast etc. So you are not getting any real discount on the rooms from the deals. Although, some of these deals also come with complimentary tickets to a waterpark, zoo etc. However, even if you add the price of tickets to the hotel cost, you may still be somewhere near the same figure being advertised as 50% off. Moreover, some hotels have different sets of rooms they give out to guests who have made bookings through these deals. This was reluctantly admitted by one of the Hotels on Yas Island we were trying to book through Grupon. Eventually,we made bookings with another hotel with slightly better rooms at a cost little less than that advertised in the deal.

There are often annoying conditions attached with the deal buyers – such as you can’t use the coupon until 48 hours of purchase, or taxes are excluded from the deal, or you have to make a booking 48 hours in advance etc. I was trying to book a desert safari through one of these deals. I called the travel company first to confirm any preconditions. It was a Wednesday morning, I remember, and I wanted to book a safari for Friday evening. Technically I was 48 hours early. But this guy told me that I needed to make a booking 48 hours in advance and weekend was not counted in the 48 hours. So, even if I bought the vouchers at the very moment, they would pick it up for appointments only the next day. They were close on Thursday and Friday, which means I could ask for a booking only on Saturday and then count 48 hours from there. Blah. I’d rather pay 30 bucks extra and do it this weekend. And also not be treated like a poor cousin of direct-pay customers.

A third instance, very important, was at a driving school. I bought a deal that claimed to slash the  cost of my driving lessons by 50%. Despite this, I ended up paying AED 1600+ for other different kind of fees while registration. This included AED 100 for an eye test, AED 600 for theory classes, AED 60 for an information booklet, AED 150 for typing of my form in Arabic etc. However, later I learnt through my interaction with other students, that the fee structure for direct pay customers is different. And everyone ends up paying more or less the same. Maybe a difference of AED150 or something. Moreover, you have to visit the main branch for registration as compared to a direct payer who can walk into any outlet. I am already fearing that I might also be failed in my first driving test attempt just because they want me to pay for 10 more classes. Will keep you posted on this though.

Last, but not yet done, is an irresistible hair deal I bought for a keratin blowout. The treatment cost is around AED1,200  but this deal was only available for AED150. Right now I am kinda sick of my curls and want a sleek look. Keratin has been luring me for long. So I am taking the dive, despite all my concerns about the deal. Although, will take my precautions and keep you posted on how it goes.

Until then, you all, be informed, and happy shopping online!