Wednesday, November 30, 2011

What's so hard about "read the fine print?"

Interesting article today from alarm:clock, complaining about perceived fraud about a deal they purchased from Gilt City for Virgin America flights. Normally, I'd comment right on the site, but that was not an option. In essence, the author is using "Virgin America" and "fraud" as linkbait to, as they fully acknowledge, get a refund. All for the power of the free Internet press; good luck.

My issue here is that they are clearly overlooking the main details:
  • No one made them buy the deal.
  • The deal stated, clearly, among the frankly terrifyingly large amount of fine print:
    • Offer is final sale and nonrefundable.
    • Fares, routes, fees and schedules are subject to change without notice.
    • Travel must occur between August 15, 2011 and June 15, 2012.
Honestly, looking at the sheer quantity of conditions to this deal, I would not (and did not) buy it. However, the author did. And then, while acknowledging that they were cognizant of the terms, and that they did not do the diligence to see if there was a route available, knowing full well that was a risk, is now trying to shame VA/Gilt to giving a refund.

What's the right recourse here? I can think of a couple of options.
  • Gilt should offer credit towards future Gilt purchases, in equivalent to 50% of what was paid. The buyer is not out completely, and neither will Gilt be, as they have already paid VA.
  • VA should offer a 20% discount on a future flight to the author.
  • The author can dispute the charge with their credit card company. Let Gilt fight it out with them.
All are legitimate responses for an informed consumer. But using a good journalistic source as a soapbox to try and overcome a mistake made is not great for the author, the publication, or the general industry.

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