My rule of thumb when it comes to buying things from Groupon, Living Social, or any other deal-of-the-day site is to purchase things that I would likely have purchased anyway. Typically this has limited us to buying vouchers for restaurants (since we eat out sometimes anyways), and for stores where we do shopping anyways (e.g. Amazon, CVS, The Body Shop).
I knew I was stepping outside of my ‘comfort zone' a little bit when I saw a Living Social for a lawn and garden company named Final Touch Lawn and Landscaping, based in Livionia, MI. They were offering lawn aeration for $45. This is a service that I had been planning to do sometime soon anyways. For those who aren't familiar, they basically come with a machine that pulls plugs of soil (about the size of a wine cork) out of your grass. These create thousands of holes, and the idea is that it loosens the soil, it provides space for the roots of the grass to grow into, and allows space for fertilizer and water to penetrate. The plugs eventually break down, and the soil works its way back in, though now looser. It's not an essential service but one that I've never had done and was hoping to do.
Living Social tells you how many people have purchased the deal, and I think I was roughly 110 or so on that deal.
After purchasing and receiving my voucher, I tried to contact the company.
That was my first sign that something was amiss.
Their phone number went to voice mail, which instructed you to go to their website and fill out a form if you were redeeming a Living Social or Groupon (so I guess they did both).
I did so. I wrote that I had purchased my voucher, gave them the e-mail associated with the voucher, and asked that they contact me to schedule when they were in my area.
I got an automated form response back assuring me that they would follow through.
In fact they did.
About a week later, I got a call that I couldn't take. It was someone from the service telling me that I was scheduled for May 23rd between 3-5pm. I actually did call back because I had some questions about what prep work I would need to do but assured that them that time would work.
Never got a call back.
Still, the time worked for me, and so the night before I gave it my best shot. I put flags by all the sprinkler heads, so they wouldn't run those over and break it in half. I also crudely marked off a couple of areas that I didn't want them to cover, one because of a cable line I know is buried shallow and another because of some soil erosion that I know has left some sprinkler lines close to the surface. I actually did this the night before, which was my wife's birthday, so after everybody went home, there I was in the dark sticking flags and such everywhere.
I get home around 4:15pm every day, so I thought I might catch them the next day when I got home from work. Not a sign of them. I figured they'd be toward the end of their window. Nothing. I thought, well, maybe they're running late and will be here sometime in the evening. No big deal.
I called the number and this time I knew it was trouble when the ‘voice mail box was full'.
The next morning, I went to their website and filled out the same form, politely asking them when they'd be able to re-schedule, and hopefully it'd be soon since I still had flags all over the property (which I'm sure my neighbors just loved seeing). Didn't get a call or e-mail, and this time didn't get any automated e-mail back.
I waited one more day and now was getting angry. They have a Facebook page, so I went to it and they bragged about how they've been in business for five years (apparently, this is a long time for landscaping service companies) and it even gave the names of the two co-owners. Typing their names in Facebook's search box took me to their page. One of them had his occupation as owner of Final Touch, so I knew I'd gotten the right guy. I wrote a message explaining the situation and asked them to make it right.
Parallel to this, I went onto Living Social and opened a case. They'd now blown it by 48 hours and had many opportunities to contact me back.
My guess is that Living Social had been hearing it from other customers who had been ignored by these people, because they immediately issued me a refund.
I wrote one more Facebook message to the owner indicating that I no longer wanted them to contact me, and in fact, that they would be trespassing if they did come to my property.
These deal of the day sites have been around long enough that there's no excuse for this anymore. At first, I did feel bad when businesses got overwhelmed by demand that they weren't anticipating, but that information was well distributed, discussed, and is readily available, so that excuse doesn't fly anymore.
As far as I'm concerned, Final Touch Lawn and Landscaping of Livonia, MI deserves to lose all of their customers. I hope that Living Social didn't have to eat my refund or refunds to other customers that they surely had to issue. I sincerely hope that Final Touch Lawn and Landscaping had to pay back every single last penny for their incompetence.
(Note: There are likely other companies around the country with the name Final Touch, I would go on record as recommending each and every one of them wholeheartedly. Just stay away from the one in Livonia, MI.) And, thanks to Living Social for stepping up. Big props to you.
Ever been burned by a company that refused to honor the deal that nobody twisted their arm to offer?