Dubai: Many people use them for entertainment, dining and shopping. But some have had bad experience that make them cautious about using these sites again.
Whether you are for or against them, deal sites are becoming more and more known with their “discounted” offers on dining experiences, internal trips, physical exercising classes, sea trips, hair treatment and kitchenware — among other services.
Many of the deal sites are registered in free zone areas in Dubai, a fact that puts them below the radar of the official economic monitoring and customer complain departments.
But many of the deal sites do take customer complaints seriously and try to solve “problems” between customers and advertisers, as one of the means to keep the business going on.
Wasif Amin, CEO and founder of Hit The Deals, a site registered with the Dubai Economic Department, said the launching of deal sites at present is not as big as it was used to be two years ago, when a new site appeared every two to three weeks.
“A lot of deals websites start and close within the first 3-6 months. It is not an easy business model, getting a new deal every day at high discounts is not an easy sale, and then marketing those deals is the tougher part,” Amin told Gulf News. “Not having a customer base to start communicating the deals to, is quite a challenge. You have to be strategic,” he added.
Moreover, a combination of marketing, loyalty, trust and commitment were behind the growing of Cobone.com, which was established in 2010.
Conbone.com, which is licensed through the Tecom Freezone Authority, is one of the first start-ups in the UAE, also now has a presence in Saudi Arabia.
“It’s taken us six years to reach this position, and a staff of over 50 to ensure the quality and range of services is maintained. And of course significant monthly marketing spend behind our database of 3 million subscribers,” said Gail Livingstone, COO of ME Digital Group (Cobone.com), in a written interview with Gulf News.
According to officials of both deal sites, a thorough procedure is followed between the advertiser and the merchant for the product or the service. This includes, requesting samples, mystery shopping and sales team visits to sites.
Yet, some problems arise for different reasons. Some complain that the service/product was below expectation, or the merchant/provider of the service is playing with the hidden clauses and fine print that do not attract the attention of the buyer easily and would include certain conditions and limitations.
Terms, conditions, restrictions, branches included in the offer are stated clearly for customers before they take the decision and buy the product or service, officials at site deals emphasised.
But as the saying goes: “The customer is always right.”
“Expectations and demand of every customer is different, so it does become challenging to successfully cater the same deal to all customers,” Amin said.
But he continued that “we do check the quality of the products. In some cases if the quality of the product does not meet a customer’s standards, we refund them with a Store Credit on our website, as long as the product has not been used.”
And if some questions were raised about the merchant, stricter procedure will be followed in the future by the deal site, he said.
“We make every effort to satisfy our customers whether it’s mediating with the merchant, offering a redo, an alternative or a refund — all dealt with on a case-by-case basis,” stressed Livingstone.
“Integrity is a core value to all ME Digital Group business and if we’ve made a mistake we’ll do everything in our power both to correct it and prevent the same thing happening again.”
“We encourage our merchants to take care of Cobone customers- the whole point of being on a website like Cobone is to gain new customers- our customers are trying out their business and service — if they are treated well they will come back again, as well as recommend the business to others”, she added.
Despite the checking process, one “disappointed” customer said that after buying a deal for 10 exercising classes, the provider said the fine print of the deal states that all the classes need to be used by one person. The customer checked carefully the deal and could not find it. The customer even tried to complain on the website of the deal site, but it was not friendly enough to lodge the complaint.
However, another customer after buying a deal for a certain treatment was told that the provider is no longer dealing with the advertising site. Later she was reimbursed by the site.
The Dubai Department of Economic Development (DED), which is licensing some of the site deals, said the “very few number” of the complaints it received were related to “delay in delivery”, according to a spokesperson of DED — Dubai.
“DED works with the consumer and trader, focusing on resolving complaints amicably. We handle such complaints with reference to the UAE Consumer Protection Law (24) of 2006,” added the spokesperson to Gulf News.