When Groupon Promotes a Really Bad Deal

Groupon Gives a Full Refund When they Sponsor a Bad Deal
Groupon Gives a Full Refund When they Sponsor a Bad Deal

When I look at a Groupon deal I assume that the deal-making company has been vetted by Groupon.  I expect that Groupon has made sure that the company is real and is sufficiently big to handle the traffic that the deal will bring them.

As a consumer I took comfort in believing that Groupon knew its deal makers were quality companies.  After all, Groupon was standing in front of a company, and their reputation was at stake.

I have bought 10’s of Groupons and have had no problems.   I felt that any Groupon I bought would lead me to a quality company whose products and service I could safely sample at a reduced cost.

I have learned better. Buyer beware!

Bin32 is a Napa wine seller who offered a Groupon for $198 of wine for only $54.  Great!

Except that in February when I went online, selected my wines, and went to check-out, the Groupon did not cover the full amount of the charge.  In addition to shipping, which was an acceptable extra, in my opinion, there $4.54 was not covered.  I gave the site my credit card to get the order placed, and decided to complain to Groupon separately.  Groupon emailed me back after a day or so that Bin 32 reported that they charged the extra amount for ” … for all taxes and processing fees.” Of course, $4.54 is not a tax amount or anything that maths out.  It was just Bin 32 trying to get more money.  After I complained again, Groupon gave me a $10 credit for my inconvenience.  I was more than made whole, so I was happy.

Except the wine never arrived. After about a month I checked the Bin 32 site and saw that my order status was “Processing”.  I sent Bin 32 email inquiries (I could not find a phone number on their web site) in March and then again in April.  Nothing.

When I checked a couple days ago — we’re now in May — my order on the Bin 32 site was listed as “Complete” and there was a note that the order had shipped by UPS.  Except, of course, I hadn’t received any wine.

I contacted Groupon yesterday, and today I received a full credit for what I paid Groupon.  I am still out about $13 that was charged to my AMX, but after the earlier $10 Groupon credit, I am only really in the hole for $3 and change.

$3 is a pretty cheap cost for a consumer education.  Here’s what I’ve learned:

  • First the positive.  Groupon has been responsive and wonderful.
  • But, Groupon doesn’t do a flawless job of researching its dealers.  Bin 32  has 78 ratings on Yelp. All of them are 1-star.  Some of the Yelpers complain that in addition to not delivering the goods, BIN32 kept charging their debit and credit cards for orders not placed.

Yelp’s deals include links to the business’ ratings page on their site.  That’s handy.  In the future, I am going to be more careful when buying a Groupon and do some research before clicking “Buy”.

Why You Should Not Use a Debit Card

Banks don’t keep their promise of zero fraud liability on debit cards.
Here’s my personal experience which will get me to rely on sole credit cards (and the Federal consumer protection laws they have).

May 21, 2011
Wells Fargo
PO Box 6995
Portland, OR 97228-9995

REGARDING: FAILURE TO CREDIT FRAUDULENT DEBIT CARD CHARGES IN A TIMELY MANNER

Dear Wells Fargo,

Someone recently charged $100 at an Exxon station in Connecticut to my debit card while I was at sea on a cruise
ship. My first clue that something was wrong was when I was at a port call, tried to get cash from an
ATM, and my request was declined. Apparently, your security system correctly suspected that my
card had been compromised and blocked my card. Of course, I didn’t know about the reason for the
card problem until I returned home and looked at my online banking statement and saw the fraud.

I saw the charge on May 19th and immediately called your bank. I received a FAX of a claim form,
filled out the statement, and FAXed the completed form to your fraud department within an hour.

Friday, May 20th, I received in the mail a new debit card with a letter that said, “… your debit card
number and/or Personal Identification Number were identified as being at risk for unauthorized
transactions. As a precaution measure, we will be closing your current card and issuing you a new
debit card…” Your fraud department sent this on their own initiative, and it reinforces my statement
to you.

Today, I called to see why my account had not been credited for the fraudulent $100 charge.

Pauline at 800-548-9554 first said that my FAX was unreadable, even though I had not been
contacted about problems with its clarity. Then she put me on hold, confirmed with me that I never
lost my card, and said that she would have a temporary credit issued which will post to my account
by Tuesday.

Tuesday? She said that the bank has given itself two business days to scan in FAXed forms and
another two business days to issue credits. So, Tuesday is within the standards the bank set for itself.

This is an unacceptable retention of my money. Your own fraud department believes my card was
misused. I provided you with the requested statements immediately. You should respond and make
my account whole the same day you receive the statement you need from me.

Your debit card promotional material says that I will enjoy “Zero Liability and full reimbursement for
promptly reported unauthorized purchases…” The clear implication is that you’ll credit my account
when I tell you of a problem. You don’t say you’ll credit accounts on your own leisurely schedule.

You are not keeping the promise you are making to consumers.

Sincerely,
Galen B. Workman

Today's Phishing Trips

Two phishing attacks are hitting my in-box hard today.

Facebook Phishing AttackOne tries to trick you into logging into your Facebook account to see the new features available to you. This is a really clever angle since earlier this week Facebook unleashed a site redesign which has been widely panned in part because Facebook didn’t pre-announce the changes or explain them.

This phishing email sounds like Facebook is responding to criticism by telling you of changes and inviting you to learn more about them.

Of course, if you do click on the link, you’ll go to a site that looks like Facebook but is, in fact, a fraudulent site somewhere in the European Union. The crooks want you to give up your Facebook user name and password. From there they’ll have access to your Facebook account and can post and send messages coming from “you” to trick your friends into giving up more information. Or worse.

The second attack is an email supposedly from the FDIC telling me that my bank has been taken over. According to a warning I heard on the radio, if you click on the link to the phony FDIC site, you’re asked to put in your bank account number and other identifying information. Guess what happens after you do this?

Practicing Safer Computing

FDIC phishing attackHere’s how I quickly spotted these messages as phony:

  1. I hovered my cursor over the links. Microsoft Outlook pops up a message showing the real destination of any link when the cursor is held over it. In these cases the destination started out with “www.Facebook.com” or “www.FDIC.gov”, but the location kept going and in both emails ended with a “.eu”. This means I’d be taken to crooked sites in the European Union and not to a business or government site in the US. (Check out an earlier post about a phishing attack for more information on uncovering where a link is really going to take you.)
  2. The FDIC mail was sent to an email address that I don’t use for banking. [email protected] simply is not used for those activities, so why would I get messages in that inbox?
  3. I wasn’t expecting email from either organization. I don’t click on links in email when I am not expecting the message. Even when I do get a notice from my real credit card companies or bank, I don’t click on their link. Instead I type the address in myself (or use my bookmarked location).
  4. I am getting multiple copies of each message. They’re being sent to every email address I have displayed on the Internet, and I think I am getting multiple copies to the same email account. No real sender would be so unselectively spammy.

Yeah, I could wind up falling for tomorrow’s phishing attack. I know no one is immune. But, these two didn’t get me. Don’t let them get you!