Dreams of a great adventure end with a great big headache!

When Julie Fried purchased a Groupon to go on a hot-air balloon ride, she imagined an adventurous, once-in-a-lifetime experience. Unfortunately, she never got to go on that ride, and the difficulty she encountered in getting her money back caused her to turn to us for help.

This is not about someone wanting a refund on a nonrefundable purchase. In fact, Groupon tried to do the right thing for Fried. It’s a reminder of how things can get complicated, even when there is a fairly simple solution.

It wasn’t Fried’s fault that she could not take that balloon ride. She tried to use the Groupon voucher. However, it seems that the company that offered the deal was having problems that resulted in the actual balloon pilots refusing to honor the ride vouchers.

She called the adventure company that offered the deal and was told she would get a refund. Instead, she got nothing but unreturned calls when she tried to follow up. Had she done a quick online search before buying, she would have found the company’s name associated with an “F” rating with the Better Business Bureau because of complaints about unusable vouchers and missing refunds.

Here’s something to consider. If you’ve never used the business offering a discount or are unfamiliar with it, do an online search to be sure that the company and the deal are legit before you buy. Not all deals are good deals.

This isn’t a criticism of Groupon or their business model. I’ve used Groupon and been happy with the deals.

Fried contacted Groupon, which agreed to issue her a refund. While the company’s Terms of Sale language doesn’t say much about adventure experiences such as the one she booked, they apparently chose to honor what they call the Groupon Promise. It says in part, “If you purchase a Getaways voucher and the merchant is unable to book the stay you want during the available dates before the book-by date, we’ll refund your purchase.”

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This wasn’t a “stay” in the sense of a hotel room, but Groupon didn’t quibble. That’s great. They offered her a choice of a Groupon credit or a refund. She chose the money and asked that the $325 be refunded to her credit card.

Groupon sent her the refund. But when it didn’t show up in her account, she called Groupon to find out why. There was a good reason.

Between the date she made the purchase and the time she sought the refund, she had canceled the credit card she had used. She should have kept the card until after taking the balloon ride and until she was sure there were no problems relating to any recent purchases on that card.

Fried asked Groupon to post the refund to her new card, but they told her they could only send it to the original one. That led to a series of emails and phone calls, in which she tried, unsuccessfully, to get the funds credited the new card.

That’s when she contacted us. Instead of the repeated and frustrating phone and email exchanges with the company’s customer support group, she could have written to one of Groupon’s executive contacts which we list on our website.

Our advocate took a different approach. She suggested that Fried contact the bank that had issued the old card and ask them how to deal with this. The only problem, Fried said, was that she could not remember the name of the bank. She searched her financial files but could not find that information.

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Then she had an “aha moment.” As Fried wrote back to our advocate, “Omg you are brilliant!! You somehow made me think to look in my credit report and I found the closed account. My credit report even had the phone number right there. The bank is working to help me.”

The old bank agreed to send her the refund by check. Problem solved.

The lesson for the rest of us: It makes sense to keep financial records, even for canceled credit cards and closed accounts, until you are really sure you won’t need them. And before you jump on a deal, do some homework to be sure the merchant and the deal are legit.

Abe Wischnia

Abe started his working career as a television news reporter and newscaster before moving to corporate communications and investor relations. Now retired and having learned useful tips from Elliott.org, one of his volunteer activities is writing for us. Read more of Abe's stories here.

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