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CleverBuy. Growl. Those bastards.

My readers would know that I’m really into group buying and online discount deals. My favorite websites are Deal Grocer, CashCashPinoy and Groupon Philippines. Thanks to these sites, I’m able to experience some really fun things and places at great prices.

The ONE time I strayed away from my favorite website trifecta was to purchase from CleverBuy. Bad Idea. I bought 6 vouchers for laser hair removal at a spa in Makati. To date, I’ve claimed three out of the six. I should have known already that there would be a problem when I was trying to set my appointment. I hurdled that setback and successfully started using my vouchers, thinking that would be the last of my problems. No, now I’m facing a bigger dilemma — I can’t claim the remainder of my vouchers at all, nor can I get a refund.

Why? Well, CleverBuy is closed. As in “ran away with people’s money” kind of closed. Luckily my peso losses amount to a mere Php 1,000. While this is by no means a small amount, some people are demanding refunds for vouchers valued up to Php50,000. This isn’t even counting the merchants who have administered services/food/products for CleverBuy vouchers without any compensation or payment. I feel horrible for these victims and I hope that the DTI can help them get even a partial refund. The news articles I’ve read aren’t too optimistic. Seems like they have no recourse. The owners (of both the travel agency and CleverBuy) have closed bank accounts and disappeared off the face of the earth.

I already know that this incident may result in tighter regulations for these sites like CleverBuy. I just hope it doesn’t deter people from online discount deals for good. Honestly there’s some really great stuff on the internet. You just have to be savvy. My number one rule when it comes to websites like this is: DO YOUR RESEARCH.

Some sub-rules –

  • Think before you buy. Think really hard. Try not to impulse buy.
  • Don’t feel pressured by the time limit. Just because it’s expiring doesn’t mean they won’t have it again. Check other websites, usually they’ll have similar deals. Massage deals are a dime a dozen. Trust me, I’ve been doing this a long time.
  • Stick to the bigger, more prominent deal sites that offer quality deals.
  • Background check the Deal Site on their Facebook Page or Blogs and see what people have to say.
  • Run an even bigger background check on the merchant. If this is a travel voucher, check out the travel agency. If it’s a Spa, Google the spa. Sometimes the quality of the merchant isn’t portrayed accurately. I see this most commonly with spas and resorts. It looks amazing in photos but a Google search will show that it’s just some dinky, disgusting place.
  • Stay away from the merchants/deals whom you can’t Google. For example, if it’s a product deal wherein it seems like it’s just one guy who is buying and selling a certain product, don’t do it. I took this risk before on Cashcashpinoy for a Bladeless Fan. It’s a good thing it worked out but I’ve heard from others that usually it doesn’t. (Item doesn’t get delivered, etc) I haven’t done it since.
  • Read the terms and conditions very carefully.
  • Be Forewarned – travel deals are CHEAP which means that more people are trying to use their vouchers and therefore you will have more difficulty booking on the date you want. There are a finite number of promo seats and promo fares. Be wary of sites that offer unlimited vouchers for super cheap deals. How can they serve all these deals when there are so many factors to consider (peak fares, promos, capacity of hotels, planes, etc). Expect that you will run into problems.

There’s dozens of these discount sites that pop up every day and only a few of them are reputable. If all else fails, remember the golden rule — If it’s too cheap and too good to be true, then it probably is.

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