Why Living Social’s daily deal was no deal at all

December 2nd, 2010 26 Comments By Paul Smith

It should have been the perfect money saver just in time for Christmas; instead, nearly two hundred Londoners paid up for a deal that seemingly wasn’t a deal at all. Bitterwallet has learnt that Living Social, a daily deal website, offered customers a £20 saving on Christmas trees yesterday – trees which increased in price by exactly the same amount just before the deal was offered.

Daily deal sites have been all the rage in 2010, with Groupon the first and best known. Plenty of copycats have jumped on board and experienced varying degrees of success and failure – you’ll be familiar with UK clone Groupola after our extensive coverage of their flaky iPhone4 deal and fake Facebook reviews.

Living Social is another US-based daily deal company which yesterday offered this deal for customers in London; “For only £20, you’ll get £40 to spend on a spruce, fir, or artificial tree up to 12 feet in height – with potted and table top options also available”.

Picture 13 500x282 Why Living Socials daily deal was no deal at all

The company offering the trees through Living Social was The London Christmas Tree Company. If customers chose the lower priced option, they effectively received a £20 saving on particular types of trees. For example, here’s the price list for spruces from the website as it was yesterday:

Bitterwallet Norway Spruce current 499x467 Why Living Socials daily deal was no deal at all

However, here’s the Google cache of the same page at the end of October:

Bitterwallet Norway Spruce cached 500x465 Why Living Socials daily deal was no deal at all

Every one of the prices has increased by £20 at some point in the last month. And according to the Bitterwallet reader who alerted us to the story and has been monitoring the prices over the past several days, the prices changed yesterday – the day the deal appeared. We can’t confirm that, although our reader also sent us screenshots taken in the past several days that show the lower prices – not only on these trees, but all trees on offer.

Were Living Social aware of the price hikes? The daily deal business model is very new, so at the very least the company would have had some input into how the deal was structured. Since deals need to be scheduled in advance, if the cost of product did rise by exactly the amount the deal was worth, presumably somebody would be likely to notice.

Living Social eventually sold 179 of these deals to customers; the order values will be at least £40 each, meaning over £7,000 in revenue. But who got the better end of this bargain?

Comments (26) Jump to most recent comment
  1. Posted by PokeHerPete December 2, 2010 at 9:37 am

    The name of the company has “London” in it. Which basically implies that they are liars, deceitful and con men.

  2. Maybe it’s due to demand – not many people are interested in a Norwegian spruce in October ;)

  3. Posted by will December 2, 2010 at 10:17 am

    @Joff – totally agree. Christmas trees more expensive in December than Oct/Nov? Outrageous!

  4. Posted by Dean December 2, 2010 at 10:20 am

    Joff/Will – Agreed – you can sell ice lollies for more in July than you can in February. But the timing (price changed yesterday) is either very coincidental or very cynical. I know which one I’d plump for.

  5. Posted by Bing chandler December 2, 2010 at 10:26 am

    Ignoring the 2 apologists above, if Bitter Wallet’s source is right then that’s outrageous. Changing prices for a “deal” is the sort of thing you think might happen….. all prices jumping £20 just in time to save £20???? HA!

  6. Posted by James David December 2, 2010 at 10:31 am

    The prices were hiked yesterday – not in October…. yesterday the tree i wanted was £47, i bought the voucher and today when the “voucher” was active the tree is now £67! Scams are worse at Christmas, but im sure Living social will refund us… right?!

  7. I was stung by this deal – bought a £20 voucher yesterday which couldn’t be used until today. Today the prices are suddenly £20 higher than they were yesterday – outrageous. Luckily, I had a tree stored in my cart from yesterday’s research and it was still at the lower price. At first the voucher kept disappearing when I tried to check out but I called the company and eventually they sorted it out and I got the full discount.

    If you’ve bought the deal it’s definitely worth checking if you have a tree stored in your cart, that way you’ll get the REAL discount not the sham non-discount.

    If not, I’d recommend calling Living Social and trying to get your money back, that was going to be my next move. There would probably have been tears – fancy ripping people off like this at CHRISTMAS. Outrageous.

  8. Posted by -] December 2, 2010 at 11:05 am

    Apologists on BW? Who would’ve thunk it?!

  9. Posted by Cluster Buying December 2, 2010 at 12:16 pm

    (a) not sure Groupon was the first one. Pretty much sure that cluster buying was there at least 10 years ago online.
    (b) Where does the onus lies with the purchase? Who is responsible if something goes wrong

  10. Cluster Buying – you’re right, assuming you’re counting the likes of LetsBuyIt. Because I am. I remember buying some Domino’s deals whereby you’d pay about £1 for a book of free pizza vouchers.

    Those were the days.

  11. Posted by Kate Harris December 2, 2010 at 5:22 pm

    Hi, I bought this deal yesterday and have placed my order no problem. The prices are fine as far as i can tell here is a link for anyone who is unsure.
    http://www.londonchristmastreecompany.com/our-catalogue/Real-Christmas-Trees/Norway-Spruce/
    I’m sure if there has been a mistake then the company will honour the cheaper prices

  12. Posted by faith green December 2, 2010 at 5:57 pm

    I was worried when I saw this and called them. they say it was a glitch. HAHA! but they are now honouring last months prices. so I did get my discount after all…

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  14. Posted by The Real Bob December 3, 2010 at 1:57 pm

    Oh come on, everyone plays this game, I’m having an extension built atm and was browsing Wickes tiles @ 15% off, I didn’t buy them and they went back up to normal price, Wickes promptly sent me a 15% off voucher as I’d abandoned my basket, begging the question why not just sell it at that price anyway?

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  18. Posted by C Baker October 24, 2011 at 11:16 am

    Beware. They do not check the legitimacy of the companies or deals that are featured!

    I ordered a teeth-whiting kit, still no product or response to emails.

    Alarmingly the company had only been trading for 1 week before livingsolcal.com emailed the offer.

    Not happy!

  19. Posted by Robert December 1, 2011 at 6:49 pm

    Living social are the most rude cocky business to deal with ever!
    What they don’t seem to get is that if it wasn’t for small local businesses they would not have a business at all, Emma that works their has to be the most stuck up cocky person to walk the planet. Stay clear business owners you will be disappointed!

  20. Posted by shelllanc February 23, 2012 at 12:18 pm

    I would just like to say DO NOT ORDER via this company, I ve had an issue with redemption of an offer for months for 2 orders, (seller wont allow me to book) I have been trying to resolve this via living social and basically been told tough, I am now going to illustrate to others how bad this company are, they deny liability and wont refund my money for the unused vouchers, they are the worst company I have ever dealt with, and as a law student I am taking this matter further. If anyone else has had problems please message me as I am building a portfolio of cases together to bring before watchdog and consumer direct. All I wanted was my money back, and you have turned this into a battle!

  21. Posted by lesley brett March 8, 2012 at 12:19 pm

    Shelllanc – I had a nightmare visit to a hairdresser last December. He arrived nearly 20 mins late, told me the voucher wasn’t valid (it is, until March 20th), then refused to do my hair unless I paid an extra £40 for a process that I couldn’t afford, but which he insisted on 3 times in all, at the top of his voice. My embarrassment reduced me to tears when he refused to cut my hair if I couldn’t pay the extra £40. I went straight to the nearest hairdresser for advice and was told that there was no reason at all that my hair could not be cut. I contacted LSD that p.m. – yes they were very apologetic and would get back to me asap. They said they same when I called again in January – having not heard – and again in February. Eventually I wrote recorded letters to their HO in London and USA. This prompted an e-mail which denies any responsibilty – and suggests that I ‘gift’ the voucher (I cannot according to the voucher) if I feel ‘uncomfortable’ using it! I have spoken to Trading Standards twice and the CAB both of whom say my only recourse now is the small claims court. Which I would do if I could afford it. As you say, all I want is my money back. He has made it impossible for me to use the voucher ( ‘The voucher isn’t valid’ and ‘I won’t do your hair ‘ until I spent another £40 on another process first – plus the humiliation of course). Living Social certainly need to show more responsibilty over these matters and – might I add – a hint of professionalism like answering complaints before it gets to the stage where 2 months, 3 phone calls and 2 recorded letters have passed before any contact is made, proving their customer service to be pretty useless!
    How can I contact you?

  22. Posted by D.Walters March 20, 2012 at 11:16 am

    I bought a deal for leggings from a company called Laser Spa in September. I was told I had to order by email to a specific address, I duly did this…….. and again in October, and again in November but no goods arrived.
    When I called the numbers were either not recognised or never answered, so I contacted Living Social. They assured me the company had not gone out of business and that they would sort it out.

    I have been emailing them about 2-3 times a month since December and all I am told is that they are looking in to it. I despair of ever getting the goods or a refund and am not sure where else to turn!

    Appalling customer service and while other deals have gone through OK needless to say I shall not be using again.

  23. Posted by Kirsty Maher March 26, 2012 at 12:44 pm

    DO NOT PURCHASE ANY OFFER FROM LIVING SOCIAL as far as I’m concerned they are a sham! They will not refund my money they have been holding for 4 months even though 3 months ago I was told my voucher cannot be used. Basically I have been left out of pocket a 13 yrs old without a birthday present and a high phone bill contacting living social and the company the deal was with.

  24. I went to a restaurant yesterday; Goode & Wright in Notting Hill. PS Never, ever, ever go to this restaurant. Despite calling 4 times before to make the booking, confirm it and check the menu etc etc, the restaurant refused to honour the booking. They didn’t do this beforehand. They didn’t do it when I was sitting at a table. They only did it when I produced the voucher (thankfully before we’d ordered any food). They had the gaul to tell me they had no food for me, even though the offer was for the a la carte menu and they were seating and serving customers after me.

    I called Living Social this morning expecting rather naively that they would be like Groupon and KGB who offer immediate refunds. Instead of which I was told Living Social would “investigate” and then “mediate”. I asked what this mean’t. Apparentely according to Andrew Ward Asst Manager Customer Services it mean’t “they would check whether I was telling the truth”. I kid you not. Oh and the “Mediate” mean’t they might be able to get the Restaurant to honour the booking in future. Why I asked would I go back to a restaurant where I had been insulted, treated like dirt and portrayed as a scrounger looking for free food?

    Three hours later and Living Social had spoken to the Owner who said I hadn’t booked in advance (I had the proof on my iPhone I had), and they had no tables spare (my lunch partner was more than happy to corroborate that was untrue and also state what happened). However I felt very much as if I was “guilty” unless I could prove my case.

    As a “gesture of goodwill”, Living Social agreed to give me a refund but no compensation for the time spent dealing with their robotic staff. I informed them they had had no choice in the matter, under the law they had to give me a refund. Their Customer Services Manager Arti (she refused to give her surname) told me that was not the case. I told her I was more than prepared to take it to court but she quickly said they were giving me the refund anyway.

    The reality is the whole espisode could have been resolved in minutes, but the way they have behaved has left me wary of Living Social. The true worth of a company is how they react when things go wrong. Amazon bend over backwards to help you and I have passed alot of custom their way as a result. Living Social instead treat customers like dirt, make you jump through hoops and assume you will give up and go away. Scarily I have read that they don’t treat their Suppliers much better either!

    Now for some tips: I got the whole matter resolved in 3 hours. How? Well don’t bother calling them; Put a nasty post on their Facebook page (livingsocialuk) and then send them a Direct Message with your voucher details and mobile number. Also try this on their Twitter feed. In my case an Assistant Manager called me within 5 mins. 1 hour after that they had called the restaurant and were back to me to offer me a refund. Unfortunately I wasted 3 hours of my time, was made out to be a liar by Living Social but at least I got it resolved.

    If you’re still getting nowhere then do the following:

    1. Report them to the Citizens Consumer Advice Line or your local Trading Standards Department. I’d do this anyway.
    2. Stop the payment on your credit card or else ask them for a Chargeback. Under the Consumer Credit Act 1976 they have not got a leg to stand on.
    3. Issue a Letter Before Action. If you google it you will find firms who will do this for £2. If you have to go to a Small Claims Court this costs literally pennies. Living Social will not want the aggo and will pay up before you even file the claim. They can quote their Terms and Conditions all they want but I would wager they would not stack up in court. English contract law is based on whether it’s reasonable and also the behaviour of both parties. As consumers we have enormous rights so don’t be cowed by Living Social and their “contract”.
    4. Contact all the main newspapers. They all have consumer sections and love stories like this.
    5. Tweet, Blog, Youtube, Facebook your experience. You may think this will do nothing but “United Breaks Guitars” almost broke United Airlines and all from one video!

    Best of Luck

    Susan

  25. Living social, What a con! I booked a double oven clean at £25. Tried 5 Times to get through to Codsall Cleaning in Wolverhampton, Received an answerphone reply to contact them on Gmail, this I have done 5 TIMES.!! GUESS, no reply. So someone has walked away with £25 of mine for nothing. I have sent emails to Living Sociual and had auto reply reference numbers but no reply in reality to the problem. DONT BOTHER WITH CODSALL CLEANING, OF St JUDES COURT, WOLVERHAMPTON. WV6 OBT UNLESS YOU WANT TO PAY MONEY FOR NOTHING.

  26. I SEE MANY PEOPLE HAVE HAD PROBLEMS WITH lIVING SOCIAL AND SOME OF TRERE DODGY CONTACTS. SOMEHOW IT IS AMUSING EVEN THOUGH ITS COSTS MONEY TO KNOW THAT THE GOOD OLD ARTHUR DAILY BRIGADE ARE ALIVE AND KICKING.

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