Check terms of promotional discounts

Maria Middleton of Bloubergstrand bought two items on “appro” for R1098 through an RCS/Cape Union Mart promotion, after receiving an SMS offering her a discount of R100 if she made a purchase of R500 or more.

She returned the goods because they were not suitable.

While she was at the store she saw another jacket for R599 and instead of getting a credit of R1 098 she was credited with R599.

“When I asked I was told it included the new item: R1 098 – R1 098 + R599 = R599.

“I went to pay the balance of R599 less the R100 discount I had been promised. So I paid R500 and thought my bill was paid up. I was also being charged ‘R45 a month for other fees’. I phoned Cape Union Mart to remind them to credit me with the R100 they had promised on a purchase of R500 or more. I was told my account would be credited,” Ms Middleton said.

She continued to receive “special offers” and then realised that she had not been given the R100 credit.

“I phoned five or six times, and spoke to different people who promised to sort it out. But they never did, not even when I threatened to close my account and not pay another cent.

“Varencia Plaatjies promised to email me the invoices. This didn’t happen: all I received were balances via SMS. When I called again, Nicole Levendal gave me a reference number and said she would speak to the manager of the accounts department, Raashiq Kannemeyer, and phone me back. Meanwhile, the charges keep piling up and at the moment my balance is R230.33 when it should be nil,” said Ms Middleton.

Ms Middleton told me in late December that she phoned Cape Union Mart several times. But all she got were promises and emails asking for her ID and card number. However, she was informed that her outstanding balance was over R300 (and it continued to grow) although this bill was paid in full. Cape Union Mart told her the balance owing on her bill exceeds her credit limit: over R12 000 and they threatened to hand her over to debt collectors.

“I opened this account to benefit from their specials. I have used it four times. Each time, my account was debited and in the same month I paid it in full after they credited me with their special promotional discount. All except this last purchase. I cannot close my account, but my balance keeps growing. It’s not the R100, it’s the principle. Please help,” Ms Middleton asked me.

So what did Cape Union Mart and RCS say?

Zainab Samuels of customer service at Cape Union Mart promised to investigate. A few minutes after I sent her an email, I had a call late one Friday from Noreen Kolbe, operations management of RCS in Goodwood, who told me she would investigate and send me a statement. There was a stony silence from RCS although Ms Middleton confirmed that Ms Samuels was looking into it.

Then Ms Middleton had a call from Ms Kolbe who was extremely apologetic and said RCS would write off the R317.43.

“Ms Kolbe asked me not to close my account and to withdraw my complaint to you. Because of her sincere attitude I am willing to keep my account open,” said Ms Middleton, who at first asked me not to “splash her name in the papers”.

She changed her mind when I explained that if I investigate a story I carry it through to its conclusion and it is published.

RCS told Ms Middleton: “It is important for us to resolve all queries amicably and to the satisfaction of the customer. As such, a decision has been made to write off the outstanding balance of R317.43”.

But Ms Kolbe, despite her promise, only sent a comment to me after some prompting.

“We contacted Ms Middleton and have resolved the complaint to her satisfaction. She decided to withdraw the complaint and we would appreciate it if you would respect her wishes,” said Ms Kolbe, who explained that the rules of the in-store competition were clear and concise.

“A customer who spends R500 on their Cape Union Mart Card by July 31, would receive a R100 credit. Ms Middleton made a purchase of R699 on July 28. “However, she returned one of the items to the value of R499 on August 2, which meant she did not qualify for the promotional credit. The rules were clear that a customer would only be eligible for the R100 credit, if the customer spent R500 on their Cape Union Mart Card.

“The advertisement was fully compliant with the relevant advertisement standards, as well as the National Credit Act and Consumer Protection Act,” said Ms Kolbe, who added they value their relationship with their customers and it is important for them to resolve all queries amicably and as such, a decision has been made to write off the outstanding balance of R317.43.