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Experiences with Group-Buying Sites

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I'm sitting here in BDO waiting for my friend to finish her transaction. I had just deposited P2,500 to the merchant's account of after securing ebay coupons for a trip to Mt. Pinatubo. My deposit today means that I had just paid in full for the trip that was to be scheduled on May 5. More or less 2 months in the future.

I was uneasy at first. I don't like paying in full when I can't be sure if the deal was a scam or not. I understand Ebay was trying to protect its consumers by only requiring a downpayment of the total deal. The remaining amount would be payable to the merchant. So I called up the merchant and found out that in order to even book with them, I have to deposit the rest of the payment. It kinda defeated Ebay's protection.

Group-buying Sites in the Philippines

Eventually, the deal turned out fine. It wasn't a scam. But the stress probably shortened my life by a tiny fraction.

I reminisce the other times I have had near misses with group buying sites. Fortunately, nothing major has happened yet. *knocks on wood*

The first one was an honest mistake. Cash Cash Pinoy put up a deal for a Fotosnaps photobook. The deal stated it was for an 8x11 album with 36 pages. I quickly bought a voucher because I've availed from Fotosnaps before and thought it was a good deal. An hour later, the deal advertised only 24 pages. Cash Cash had made a mistake. The 36 pages were for the 4x6 album. So, I called to complain. They reimbursed my payment through my credit card in a week. Problem solved.

The next one was a voucher from Metrodeal for a dinner buffet aboard a yacht from Prestige Cruises for P250. I bought 2 for my boyfriend and me, thinking it would be a romantic date.

A month later, I was reading dozens of horror stories from people who went on the "cruise". The ship was old and rusty. There were cockroaches on board. You had to pay an additional P100 if you wanted to be seated on deck. The food was dismal. The "salad" was nothing more than chopped carrots and cucumbers. And there wasn't enough food for everyone! Guests had to line up for 30 mins to be able to get to the food. Some guests didn't even get to eat because the food ran out. So much for the "all you can eat buffet". The chairs were plastic with bare tables. One writer commented that she saw a woman who was dressed to kill. She probably thought it was a fine-dining experience. Desert was two pieces of cookies from a canister.

I called Prestige Cruises first. I said I wanted to cancel my reservation because of the bad reviews. They agreed without much fuss. Then I sent an email to Metrodeal. They said they needed to confirm with Prestige Cruises first that I hadn't used my vouchers. A week went by with no response, so I emailed again. They said they couldn't reimburse me through credit card. They could only give me points on my account to use to buy a different voucher. I accepted that. I figured I would buy something sooner or later, anyway. Once again, problem solved.

Another occasion was the Anawangin deal we bought from Groupon. I personally didn't handle this. My friend did. At first, she could contact the merchant. Then as our trip date neared, the merchant vanished into thin air. Groupon reimbursed us, though.

When buying food deals, I also learned a valuable lesson. If it's mentioned in the deal that they do delivery services, call first! Sometimes, the cost of the delivery charge is more than the deal! Or, there might be a minimum order limit that didn't include the deal price.

It's also worth noting that you should be familiar with the merchant before buying their deal. Or at least do some research first. We bought a deal for an adobo meal. I forgot the name of the merchant but it was in Global One, Libis. When we got there, their store was just a booth in a foodcourt setup. A lot of the choices in the menu was unavailable. And in my opinion, the deal price wasn't worth the quality of their food. I couldn't believe they sold their food for the regular price!

All of the above did not discourage me from group buying sites. They just made me more careful. I still get a lot more good deals than bad ones. It's just that it's the bad ones you really remember.

Nowadays, I call the merchant first before I even buy a deal. I'm wary of merchants that provide only cellphone numbers as contact numbers. I google them. I check their facebook accounts for testimonies of customers.

I'm especially cautious of travel deals. When I call them, I ask how long they have been in business, when was the last tour they offered, and if they could send me pictures of trips with their customers. I listen carefully and try to gauge if the person is hesitant or appears to be lying.

I believe this cautiousness has helped a lot in preventing me from getting scammed. Hopefully, other people would take the same level of care when buying from group-buying sites.


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