Warning: When buying a $4,000 mini pig, do not use your debit card

When Meghan Robinson bought a mini pig named Peaches, she was devastated when the piglet was deemed unhealthy, and the sale fell through. But now she’s not only missing Peaches, but the breeder is refusing to refund the $4,000 Robinson paid for her.

Robinson wanted to know if we can help.

Her case is an unfortunate example of how a consumer can be negatively impacted by the lack of chargeback possibilities when making debit card purchases.

“Peaches” the mini pig

“I purchased Peaches from Mini Pig World,” Robinson’s remembers. “Specifically, I chose Peaches because she reminded me of my childhood stuffed animal. I have wanted a piglet my entire life, but when I saw her, I felt like I needed to have this specific one.”

(I know what you’re thinking. Yes, there is a Mini Pig World. I looked it up.)

So what happened next was terribly troubling to Robinson. Her childhood stuffed animal come-to-life was not meant to be.

A sickly mini pig

Just days before Peaches was to be delivered to her — and after she made the full purchase payment of $4,000 — she received a somber phone call from Mini Pig World. The owner explained that Peaches was not well and he could not sell her.

The owner offered Robinson several alternative minipigs to choose from to replace Peaches.

Robinson did not feel a connection with any of these piglets. And she had now done some research on the price of comparable minipigs. She believed the cost of Peaches to be quite high.

So, in her disappointment, she just wanted a refund.

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Even though Mini Pig World was unable to sell Peaches to Robinson, the owner refused her request for a refund.

This refusal didn’t seem right to Robinson. She purchased a specific pig, and Mini Pig World was unable to fulfill the contract. A logical conclusion would seem to be a refund.

What does the Mini Pig World Sale’s agreement say?

The Mini Pig World Sale’s Agreement that Robinson sent to us repeatedly mentions that she is purchasing this pig — not just any pig.

And the last part of the contract from Mini Pig World reads:

If the transaction is voided or if through some tragic accident the piggy were to die or to otherwise be seriously injured before it goes to its new home then, of course, the deposit will be returned to the buyer; unless the Buyer wishes to apply the deposit to another Piggy, if one is available, or to a puppy from the next available litter.

One would assume that this also applies to a “piggy” that is too sick to be sold. So why was Mini Pig World digging in its heels and refusing a refund?

The pleasantries end

I went over the paper trail. When Robinson requested the refund, she had also gone to her bank and asked it to investigate her situation. She wanted her $4,000 back.  This action seems to have caused the end of the pleasantries between Robinson and the owner of Mini Pig World.

The owner responded with accusations that Robinson was “extremely rude” and “trying to run all over our business.”

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Hardly a legally valid reason to deny a refund for a pig he could not deliver.

Fair Credit Billing Act

If we can just pause this piglet fiasco for a moment, it is important to point out that because Robinson used her debit card for this purchase, it was virtually the same as if she had paid cash for her new pet.

When a consumer uses their credit card to make a purchase, that purchase is protected by laws that govern credit card purchases.

Under the Fair Credit Billing Act, a credit card issuer must investigate any “billing errors.” These billing errors include, among other things, “charges for goods and services that you didn’t accept or that weren’t delivered as agreed.”

Like a mini pig called Peaches.

And during the credit card company’s investigation, the amount in question is reversed. Not so for debit card purchases.

The Fair Credit Billing Act protects consumers who use credit cards, but those protections do not apply to those who use debit cards (or cash) instead.

Mini Pig World’s response

Robinson’s bank did try to make some attempt to mediate this problem and sent a letter of inquiry to Mini Pig World.

In its response to the bank’s inquiry, Mini Pig World produced an entirely new sales contract, which Robinson had never seen before. This one specifically mentions that they do not offer refunds and an alternative pig is the only recourse in this situation.

Even though Robinson provided her sales agreement, her bank was not in a position to debate the merits of her complaint about the two contracts, nor was it required to do so. And it was unable to reverse the payment to Mini Pig World from her bank account. Ultimately, her bank recommended that she seek legal advice.

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The bad news

She first turned to our advocacy team and filed a complaint with the Better Business Bureau.

I contacted Mini Pig World on two occasions and asked for an explanation as to why Robinson was not entitled to a refund since Peaches was not fit for sale.

The owner ignored all my attempts at mediation and remains in possession of Robinson’s $4,000. Robinson remains pigless. The Better Business Bureau’s inquiry also continues to be unanswered.

Robinson has consulted with a lawyer and intends to retrieve her money through the court system. Given her use of a debit card for this piggy purchase and the owner’s refusal to participate in mediation, legal action, regrettably, appears to be the only path to a positive resolution.

Update

I first reported this story back in July. I checked back with Robinson this week to see if there might be a happy update. Unfortunately, Mini Pig World has continued to ignore all attempts to return Robinson’s $4,000 and she remains pigless. She is preparing for a court battle.

Should Mini Pig World refund Robinson's money? No, she should pick an alternative pig. Yes, "this pig" in the contract specifically refers to Peaches.

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Michelle Couch-Friedman

Michelle is the executive director of Elliott.org. She is a consumer advocate, writer and licensed clinical social worker who spends as much time as possible exploring the world with her family. Contact her at Michelle Friedman Read more of Michelle's articles here.

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