Expired voucher causes store embarrassment

Karen Gunton was more than upset when Hirsch’s in Milnerton refused to redeem a voucher after she bought goods to the value of R54 796 on May 24, last year, which included a Smeg oven, an AEG fridge, an AEG freezer and a Falco extractor fan for the stove.

“That weekend, the store was running a special offer of a 15 percent discount and the salesman confirmed this for us in writing. We had to pay the full price on Sunday then the 15 percent (R8 190) would be loaded on to the voucher, and as we were moving and needed a few things it suited us,” said Ms Gunton of Welgelegen, Parow.

“When I called Hirsch’s on December 2, 2015, to my horror, I learned that the voucher was only valid for three months. Nobody explained this to us, and it does not state it on any of the Hirsch’s documents, although I was later told there was a notice to this effect at the cash desk. This is the first time I bought anything at Hirsch’s, and I paid by EFT so I did not see it. Who would let a voucher worth R8 190 expire? I contacted Allan Hirsch, one of the owners, who confirmed the voucher had expired and although he was prepared to accommodate me in some way, he did not say how.

“I have exhausted all avenues including going to the National Consumer Commission (NCC) who referred me to the Consumer Protector and the Consumer Goods Ombudsman (CGSO), but I am not getting anywhere. I am prepared to provide an affidavit to say that the salesman did not tell me the voucher had expired and the person who was with me will testify to that too. Please help,” Ms Gunton said.

Mr Hirsch told me they have a sale a few times a year where a customer gets a voucher, which is valid for three months, and can be redeemed for a percentage of the total amount they spend.

“In this case, Ms Gunton did not get a notification from us as the EFT was done the day she made the purchases and the money cleared the day after the voucher sale. However, we did honour the loyalty voucher for the previous day. She spoke to one of our senior sales people and he said he did tell Ms Gunton about the expiry date. The Guntons contacted us after the three-month period and that’s when they were told it had expired.

“I told the customer I am more than happy to find a way to accommodate them by giving them goods at our cost, but unfortunately we have a policy and if I break a policy that I introduced I will have no credibility with my staff. If Ms Gunton tells me what she wants, I will see what I can do for her. Prices have gone up substantially due to the poor performance of the rand, but still, I am willing to accommodate her,” Mr Hirsch said.

An unhappy Ms Gunton contacted the CGSO and, in turn, they contacted Mr Hirsch, who told the ombud’s office they were aware of the problem and had already discussed it with the customer.

“I have spoken to the salesman and he told me he did explain the voucher system to the customer. But Ms Gunton disputes this, and if the salesman was not a senior member of the organisation I would doubt his honesty, not that I doubt the customer, but we have rules. This has been an unpleasant experience for us. We have been in business for 37 years, and we do not get reported to consumer organisations. Our focus is to have happy customers who return often,” said Mr Hirsch, who told the ombud, “we are a company with integrity”.

And there the matter rested. I prodded the CGSO and also Hirsch’s to find out what was happening.

The CGSO said the complainant was not informed that the voucher expires within three months and the supplier agreed to issue her with a new one.

Mr Hirsch told me the salesperson was on leave. “After having a discussion with him when he returned and telling him that we were going to do a lie detector test, he said he was not sure about his facts, which led me to believe that he was not truthful from the beginning.

“Needless to say, this has caused me much embarrassment and frustration, not only to ourselves but also to the customer and everyone involved. This unfortunate incident would not have happened had this come out in the beginning. Once I found out what happened there was no doubt I had to do the right thing, and I apologised profusely to the customer as well as the CGSO. It has been very awkward, and I am glad it is finally resolved and the truth has come out,” Mr Hirsch said.

Ms Gunton said after a seven-month battle with Hirsch’s and Allan Hirsch himself, she redeemed her voucher.

“While I am immensely relieved that he finally decided to honour the agreement, I am still very unhappy about the way I was treated along the way. Thanks again for your assistance,” she said.