Q: I bought a Groupon Getaways coupon last summer for our anniversary and my husband’s 60th birthday. We paid $1,998 per person for an air-inclusive vacation package to New Zealand and Fiji, and hoped to make a reservation for May 2015. But I didn’t read the fine print; I had to make a booking before the end of August 2014.
Groupon offered a full refund either to my Visa or to my Groupon account. I asked for it to go to my Groupon account, since I intended to find a trip package to Thailand.
Both Groupon and the tour operator, Pacific Holidays, confirmed that the vouchers were no longer good or usable. Soon after, I found a new package to New Zealand and Fiji for $100 less than the original package. I notified Groupon about the new trip package and asked the company to leave a credit in my account. I was told to go ahead and make a reservation.
Groupon did not cancel the old order, nor did it credit the full refund to my account. Instead, Groupon decided to use the old vouchers on the new trip, which allowed it to keep the $100.
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I appealed the decision in writing to a supervisor, and I was told that I should cancel the trip through the tour operator if I was not satisfied. As far as Groupon is concerned, my case was resolved.
I don’t consider it resolved. Could you help me get my $100 back, please?
Sue Tomita, Tucson, Ariz.
A: Groupon should have done what you asked it to do – move the funds from the unredeemed voucher into your account. It’s unclear why it didn’t, although I note that the request to transfer your funds wasn’t made in writing. If you had written evidence, I think your case would have been closed by now.
By the way, asking for store credit is never as advantageous as getting a full cash refund. When you asked for credit, you were essentially giving Groupon an interest-free loan. If you had it to do all over again, you might have just asked for the $3,996 back, and then waited to make another purchase.
Of course, you could have avoided this entire episode by reading the fine print on the original voucher. Sometimes, consumers don’t think the restrictions are meant to be read until it’s too late, which usually benefits the business. That’s not to say Groupon hid the terms on purpose – only that it’s rare to find fine print that’s good for the customer, not the company.
Finding someone at Groupon is pretty easy. Your emails to firstname.lastname@example.org were a good start, but you can always appeal to someone higher up. The naming convention for Groupon is email@example.com. (So the email address for the CEO, Eric Lefkofsky, would be firstname.lastname@example.org.)
I contacted Groupon on your behalf. According to its records, it never received an “official” request to transfer the funds to your Groupon account. To “help make things right,” the company agreed to a full refund, as you had first requested.
Christopher Elliott is the ombudsman for National Geographic Traveler magazine. You can read more tips on his blog, elliott.org, or email him at email@example.com.