Tough time tracking watch refund

Rondebosch resident and businessman Arthur Wienburg bought four GPS watches for R1 200 from online store, Snatcher, based in Honeydew, Gauteng.

Sadly, they didn’t work and after Mr Wienburg returned them he battled to get his money back.

It ignited some acrimonious correspondence to Snatcher.

Which could have been avoided had Snatcher explained the problem to him. But that’s the trouble at many call centres, the agents haven’t been trained to think laterally. Or, go off script.

Mr Wienburg said the watches were collected by courier on February 22 and he was promised a refund. Snatcher’s administrative assistant, Thando Hlatshwayo, wrote in an email: “We understand your concerns and we are very sorry you feel that way about the items. However, we do have a policy that we must abide with. If you not (sic) happy with the items you can return them to us bearing in mind the 7-day cooling period for a refund. If you want us to request a collection we will do so then subtract the shipping fee from your refund.”

“I contacted Snatcher on March 9 to follow up and they confirmed that the refund would be processed the same day. On April 6 I contacted Thando about the refund again who said that it had not been processed yet but would be done the same day. But it would take three to five days to reflect.

“Well, it wasn’t,” said Mr Wien-burg, who called Snatcher again on April 11, when he still hadn’t received his refund. He asked to speak to the manager or supervisor but they were not available.

“Please advise how you can assist me in this matter. I am considering issuing summons in the Small Claims Court,” Mr Wienburg said.

I called Snatcher and spoke to general supervisor, Peter van Zyl, who apologised to Mr Wienburg for the inconvenience.

“Towards the end of February and beginning of March, we underwent a complete system revamp and look, in which some backend systems were affected including some front end functionality (that’s jargon for a new website) and there were some failures with the banking systems,” Mr Van Zyl said.

“We have since been furiously working really hard to sort out all and pending technical issues experienced with much emphasis on streamlining the refund process to be much more smoother in operation. Meanwhile, the accounts department are currently experiencing quite a bit of a backlog due to one of our bank system failures that took longer than expected to be resolved due to our ongoing site changes. The system and site revamp issues towards the end of February and beginning of March certainly added to our back and front end issues affecting in some cases major functionality.

“As a technology-driven business and company, we do at times encounter such technical issues and have to have alternative measures in place like third party assistance, Payfast, to come to our rescue in very dire circumstances such as Mr Wienburg experienced,” Mr Van Zyl said.

But Payfast wasn’t very fast.

Mr Van Zyl’s explanation about the refund to Mr Wienburg was gobbledygook, at least to me.

“But Payfast will contact Mr Wienburg to confirm his banking details, and though they indicate that the process may take seven days, we have found it to be very quick with an average of three days depending on customer confirmation and response time.

“Snatcher has grown tremendously in a short time and hasn’t been without its teething issues.

“We use various suppliers as a reseller of their products and the issues experienced by Mr Wienburg is certainly not one that has not popped up before with other suppliers of other products.

“Based on a supplier’s return rate, we will either continue showcasing their items or remove items from our site completely if there are more returns on a particular item. Customer feedback is also our biggest tool in promoting and showcasing products. In Mr Wienburg’s case the watches were defective and our supplier replaced the bad batch after a thorough re-check. We have since sold many more of the same watches and have had no other complaints or returns,” said Mr Van Zyl, who added that Snatcher was fully compliant with the Consumer Protection Act (CPA).

“We have some customers trying to abuse the CPA for their advantage, however, that is to be given in any business,” said Mr Van Zyl, who told Mr Wienburg that “it may have taken time to refund you but we can assure you that cheating you out of your money is not what we as a business do. We are completely transparent in our dealings with all of our customers and suppliers”.

“Thank you for your help,” said Mr Wienburg, who told Snatcher to delete his name from their subscriber base which they did. At least I thought they did.

Dirk van Greunen, the owner of Snatcher, told me they had learnt a valuable lesson through Mr Wien-burg’s experience.

Mr Wienburg confirmed that Payfast repaid him R1 196. “However, I paid R1 275 and I want you to pay it back immediately without excuses,” he told them.

The R79 is the courier fee. Although the agent did tell Mr Wienburg he would have to pay it. I think it is unfair of Snatcher to charge him for collecting the watches, especially since Mr Van Zyl confirmed that they were defective. And despite Mr Van Zyl’s assurances Mr Wienburg’s name is still on their mailing list.

I’m not sure if Mr Van Greunen did learn any lessons. Until now Mr Van Zyl has not responded to my query about why their customer has to pay a courier fee for returning watches that were defective. And, Mr Wienburg’s name is still on Snatcher’s subscriber list.