Rescheduling A LivingSocial Adventure Is The Real Adventure

One of the key rules of using group buying sites (and, indeed, any coupons or discounts) is to pay attention to the fine print. Alex and his wife thought they did. The LivingSocial adventure he purchased for her birthday, a kayak tour, required 24 hours’ notice for a refund. What that fine print didn’t mention was that if you were too sick for an adventure on the day of the event, you wouldn’t be able to reschedule to a different date. That’s how Alex learned that employees of the group deal site weren’t quite accurate in explaining how payments to the adventure hosts work. According to the local paddling center owners, they would only get a couple of bucks if the couple canceled…but LivingSocial would still keep the entire fee.

Recently for my wife’s birthday, we purchased a Living Social adventure deal for a tandem kayak tour in our city. The tour consisted of a two hour kayak tour in rented kayaks hosted at a local paddling center followed by a dockside cup of chowder, hot chocolate and cookies at the end of the trip. The total fee for this deal was $70 for two people.

Unfortunately the day before the tour my wife became sick with a sore throat and nausea. Fine print in the Living Social deal indicated that they would offer a refund up to 24 hours prior to the trip. The morning of the trip it was clear she would be in no condition to go that evening. She called Living Social but the phone rang and rang, she called the paddling center as soon as they opened hoping for some ability to reschedule, or if need be, refund the trip. The paddling center said they would be happy to help but since the deal was booked through Living Social we would need to contact them to see what arrangements would be possible. The paddling center gave us the names of the Living Social adventure coordinators in our city.

We called Living Social and after ten minutes on hold I reached a customer service agent and explained the situation. He informed me that they could not help me since the trip was a booked event and all of the other available dates were already booked. The agent kept saying that he ‘could not help me’. Eventually I asked to be transferred to a supervisor who might be able to help. Again, he repeated that they couldn’t help me but I offered that “to be clear, you could process a refund if you wanted to but you are choosing not to” to which the supervisor responded, “yes, you are correct, to be accurate we could provide you with a refund but we are choosing not to.” The supervisor reiterated what the agent said that the event was booked and already paid for so refunding wasn’t something they were going to do.

Ultimately Living Social offered a $20-$25 ‘social bucks’ credit. I told them that given how inflexible they were being I doubt we were going to use the credit because it would also require us to pay for another deal at another time. I explained that as far as we were concerned we were just out the money we paid so 30 minutes after the call began it ended with us being pretty unhappy.

I called the paddling center again to see if they would be able to help in some way. They said their goal was to get us out on the water and have some fun so they offered to let us come down and if we just showed them the certificate for the Living Social deal they would at least allow us to take a kayak out for a couple of hours another time. They were super nice and very easy to deal with. I mentioned to them that Living Social had indicated that money had to be committed for trip to happen and that was at least part of the reason they couldn’t (wouldn’t) offer a refund. However the paddling center informed me that Living Social only pays them for people who show up, not for cancels or no-shows. The paddling center said they are paid $12.50 for each person that comes on one of the tours and Living Social offers them roughly $2/person that cancels. This means that of the $70 trip, Living Social would have paid the paddling center $25 for the two of us had we shown up which we did not.

Lets think about these numbers for a bit, lets say the chowder, hot chocolate and cookies were roughly $2.50/person. Of the $70 total fee that leaves $65. With the cancellation fee of $4 that takes leaves Living Social with $61. The paddling center said they would be staffed the same regardless of wether anyone showed up. So at the end of the day, because we canceled the paddling center gets $4 and Living Social gets $61.

Thanks Living Social for reinforcing to us the importance of buying locally from people and businesses we know, can trust and who are more focused on developing positive relationships with local customers than Internet based businesses are.

Comments

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  1. mysterydate98 says:

    Fine print in the Living Social deal indicated that they would offer a refund up to 24 hours prior to the trip.

    So why is the OP pushing for something else?

    • MaxH42 thinks RecordStoreToughGuy got a raw deal says:

      Because he is a special snowflake?

      I’d also try my hardest to get a credit or a rescheduled trip if I were in his place, and I wouldn’t be happy with LivingSocial for their lack of customer service, but I’d also accept that sometimes in cases like these you lose money due to adverse circumstances, and it’s not anyone else’s fault.

      • pecan 3.14159265 says:

        It’s understandable the OP would try, but I don’t see why he expected them to bend the “24 hour” rule. It says that he can get a refund “up to 24 hours” before the trip. He called that morning for an evening trip, so that had to be less than 24 hours.

    • raitch says:

      Because he’s a jerk. Obviously.

    • mikedt says:

      I think, because of the time line as described, he waited until the DAY of the evening trip and attempted to cancel/move it. He gambled hoping his wife would feel better and lost. I don’t see LivingSocial doing anything wrong here – short of keeping the lion’s share of the event sale price.

  2. Blueskylaw says:

    “According to the local paddling center owners, they would only get a couple
    of bucks if the couple canceled…but LivingSocial would still keep the entire fee.”

    So the middlemen keep all the money while the actual
    service providers have to return most of the cash.Got it.

    • Bsamm09 says:

      They provided their service which was the coupon. What else are they supposed to do? The business contracted with living social to provide X coupons and make them available on the living social site and that’s what they did. If you go to a printer and they make you a bunch of shirts and some don’t sell or are returned, do they give you your money back? No, except if they were defective of course.

      If your business uses one of these deals, set a no refund policy or specify how much you will give back if not 100%.

      • Blueskylaw says:

        I don’t disagree with you, but the fact is all that Living Social did was advertise on the internet which costs basically nothing while keeping the entire fee while the actual providers of a labor/service basically get a pittance (that is regarding a cancelled appointment).

        • ajaxd says:

          Are you saying it costs nothing to build a website, market it to millions and maintain staff to sell it to thousands of small businesses? You can argue about sustainability of fairness of the business model but their costs are pretty big.

        • Bsamm09 says:

          All living social does is the advertising. Pretty much evey cost they have from employees to buildings, legal fees, utilities, their own advertising, etc. goes to this service. I’m willing to bet all those things are not cheap. Unless you are referring to the marginal costs to host one more coupon, which you are probably right as long as it won’t trigger another level of step costs.

          But that is no way to look at the cost of the service from an outside perspective. It is valuable from an internal standpoint of whether or not to produce more, outsource production or other decision making scenarios that cost accountants and financial analysts deal with.

        • Kate says:

          Um, no. Advertising on the internet is not cheap nor easy. You have to be or have a specialist to keep from loosing your shirt doing it which is easy to do.

  3. madrigal says:

    The fine print said a refund up to 24 hours. I don’t see why the OP is making a fuss.

  4. Bladerunner says:

    “They said less than 24 hours wouldn’t get a refund, but when I asked for a refund in less than 24 hours, they wouldn’t give it to me?!”

    Sheesh.

    On a side note, his rambling on the subject of how much the kayak place would get if they’d showed vs. not showed hurts his complaint even more; LS offered to give him “$20-25″, and “Living Social would have paid the paddling center $25 for the two of us had we shown up which we did not.”

    So LS offered a credit (granted not a refund) of the actual “cost” of the trip, refusing to refund the (granted inflated) “service charge” of booking the trip etc., all of which actually happened.

    And he still is complaining.

    And he wonders why they didn’t want to do more for him.

  5. AustinTXProgrammer says:

    This falls into the category of stuff happens. They are following the policy. Frankly you had a spot on their tour. It’s too late for them to sell it to someone else. This is like buying milk but being too sick to drink it before it goes stale. Does the store replace the milk?

    • Princess Beech loves a warm cup of treason every morning says:

      Yeah. You can cry all you want, but there is no use crying over spilt milk.

  6. travel_nut says:

    Living Social is simply abiding by the set terms and conditions. I don’t know why the OP has a problem with that. It would be nice if they would refund or reschedule him, but they are in no way obligated to do so.

    On a side note, I wanted a 2-night bed and breakfast getaway offered by Living Social. I knew that LS gets a huge percentage of the deal price, so I called the B&B to ask if I could book it directly through them at the LS price. They said no. So I booked it through LS. I don’t know why they’d refuse to do that since they’d make more money that way, but that’s their prerogative.

    • Darury says:

      I’d take a guess that they are legally obligated to avoid doing that type of thing when they run a promotion with LivingSocial. Also, they probably have fewer restrictions on a “standard” stay versus a LS deal and don’t want the hassle of writing out contracts for a normal booking.

  7. pecan 3.14159265 says:

    Thanks Living Social for reinforcing to us the importance of buying locally from people and businesses we know, can trust and who are more focused on developing positive relationships with local customers than Internet based businesses are.

    So…why didn’t he frequent the paddling company before? Because it was too expensive? The paddlng company contracted with LivingSocial to provide a better deal for local customers. If it weren’t for LivingSocial, he probably wasn’t going to pay for that kayak tour anyway.

    The OP is getting upset over a policy that is reasonable. Like hotel reservations, you have a certain amount of time to call and cancel and get your money back. It sucks this happened to be $70, but the OP should have called the day before the trip, not the morning of the trip. The fine print is very clear and he’s going to blame a company for following its own policy?

    • Darsynia says:

      IDK, there are quite a few places I’ve never heard of and hadn’t gone looking for that I became interested in after they advertised in places I frequent. Chances are the OP just hadn’t heard of the paddling place until they saw the deal on Living Social.

  8. longfeltwant says:

    “The LivingSocial adventure he purchased for her birthday, a kayak tour, required 24 hours’ notice for a refund. What that fine print didn’t mention was that if you were too sick for an adventure on the day of the event, you wouldn’t be able to reschedule to a different date.”

    These two sentences contradict eachother. If you need 24 hours of notice, then less than that isn’t enough. Is that a difficult concept? What does the guy want, “24 hours of notice, even if you are sick“? If there were a sickness exemption, then that would be specified. If it isn’t specified, then there is no exemption.

    Sometimes a company will give you extra, beyond their contract with you. It’s nice when they do that. Sometimes they won’t do so, and that’s understandable. It’s also understandable for you to take your business elsewhere, but not to mope around and pretend like you deserved a better deal.

  9. njack says:

    Ran into similar situation with a whale watching tour. I made repeated attempts to reach the service provider by phone, as that was the only available means of contact. However, the business apparently had no answering machine/voicemail because the phone would just ring and nobody would answer. I finally got in touch with them and found out there were only a few dates left, none of which would work due to my wife’s work schedule.

    I requested a refund in Living Social deal bucks since I was past the 5 day refund window for the deal. They declined the refund in deal bucks although my interpretation of the refund policy for the deal was they would refund ‘cash’ if within the 5 day window, or in deal bucks after.

    I used to buy deals from Living Social all the time, but probably won’t anymore. I’ll also pay attention to the terms for other deal sites before purchasing any.

  10. Howie411 says:

    LivingSocial has the worst Customer Service of any of the online deal sites I’ve ever dealt with. Here are the exec email addresses if you need them, but so far my emails have fallen on deft ears.

    , , , , , , ,

  11. RedOryx says:

    “I told [Living Social] that given how inflexible they were being”

    I fail to see the inflexible part. The fine print requires at least 24 hours and the OP contacted them the day of. Look. Shit happens. I get that the OP is frustrated but I don’t understand this need to villify Living Social because they weren’t willing to break their very reasonable policy for him.

  12. BennieHannah says:

    If I was too ill to go on the trip and the money could not be refunded, I would have told my husband to call up one of his friends and go. Why should they both be stuck at home? When I’m sick I just want to be left alone anyway.

    I don’t blame the OP for calling and trying to get something back, because if you don’t know until you ask, but the terms were pretty clear.

  13. jimbobsq says:

    “Paddling center.” huh huh huh

  14. calchip says:

    As a consumer of both Groupon and Living Social deals, and as a Groupon merchant, I have to say there’s no comparison. Groupon is VERY customer oriented and will go out of their way to ensure their customers have a fantastic experience. Living Social… not so much.

    On the merchant side, Groupon also has it extremely together, is very organized, and actively works with the merchant in situations like these to ensure that everyone is treated fairly. I’ve heard less positive things about Living Social, and our own experience in attempting to work with them was equally underwhelming.

    While the OP was technically outside the terms for cancellation, most organizations that provide services will bend the rules a bit if there’s a genuine situation out of the customer’s control (i.e, sickness, auto accident, etc.) It sounds like the actual provider wanted to help and offer cancellation, but Living Social would not. And that’s too bad… how much bad publicity will they get from this one article? It never ceases to amaze me how companies don’t get this sort of thing.

    • Jennlee says:

      I agree. Groupon is much more customer oriented than Living Social. I’ve had much more luck and better service with my Groupon deals than Living Social.

      As an example, Living Social allows you to sign up for alerts to warn you if your deal is expiring soon. Bad part is they don’t actually send out the alerts. Or at least not all the time. I’ve lost money because of that. It’s my fault ultimately, because I should have kept track, but my account is set up for alerts, which seems like they are promising an alert service and then not delivering.

      I’m surprised that the original place doesn’t get any moneys for no-shows. That doesn’t seem fair.

  15. biggie says:

    Living Social is terrible about this stuff. I’m in a situation now where I got a deal that had no expiration date provided in the email confirmation or PDF vouchers sent to me. When I went to schedule the activity, I was unable to and per the note at the bottom of the scheduling page, I called Living Social customer service. After sitting on hold for over 30 minutes, I was told they would not issue a refund since the “original deal page” listed some deadlines on it. I spoke with a “manager” who said the same thing. So i called my credit card company and disputed the charge. Sadly this activity is with a business I have frequently visited since it opened and i’ve had many great deals via Living Social but all of that ends today. The customer isn’t always right but it would be smart for all parties to issue a refund or credit so we could all be happy moving forward rather than everyone losing as it stands now.