'Unexpected error' has scores losing out on Vodacom's Black Friday deals

'I don't want a refund, I want the goods I paid for'

30 November 2023 - 10:24
By Wendy Knowler
Tolakele Hlawu at Woodmead Retail Park in Johannesburg, where people went to take advantage of the Black Friday sale.
Image: Thapelo Morebudi Tolakele Hlawu at Woodmead Retail Park in Johannesburg, where people went to take advantage of the Black Friday sale.

“Vodacom takes full responsibility for the inconvenience caused by this unexpected error.”

That’s the cellphone company’s way of saying sorry to those who joined the virtual queue to take advantage of its “up to 75% off” Black Friday bargains on it's My Vodacom and VodaPay apps, bagged the goods and made payment, only to discover later their orders had been cancelled with no explanation.

To make matters worse, it was days before they got their money back.

“An unexpected error resulted in a small number of orders not being processed and related funds being held as pending or reserved by the banks,” Vodacom said. “These funds were not transferred to Vodacom but held by the banks for release on a completed transaction.”

Wherever the funds were, the would-be bargain hunters were left without their Black Friday goodies, their money or an explanation.

About the delayed refunds, Vodacom said: “While the usual process would see banks release these funds back to customers within seven days of an unsuccessful transaction, we have a team working hard to ensure this process is reversed as quickly as possible.

“Most of these have already been effected.”

Mohamed Khan, who also lost out on a R3,500 PlayStation 5, is not appeased.

“I had an order number and funds were deducted from my account. Why should I be disadvantaged and not receive goods I paid for?

“There is no fairness in the way things were handled.”

The point of participating in Black Friday sales was to secure good deals and discounts, said “Juan L” on HelloPeter.

“Having an order cancelled after payment was not only inconvenient, but also counterproductive to the purpose of the sale,” he said.

“And the website continued to display the items as in stock even after my order was cancelled, creating a misleading impression for other potential customers.

“I received no notification about the cancellation and only realised the problem when I checked the order status. It is deeply disappointing that the company did not see fit to inform customers promptly when issues arose.

“I did my part. I waited up until midnight, I placed my items in the cart and paid for them with Vodacom charging my account. I don't want a refund, I want the goods I paid for,” he said.

He’s not alone in that demand, but it’s not going to happen.

Instead, this: “As a gesture of our apology, [we] will allocate 20,000 VodaBucks valued at R1,000 to each affected customer,” Vodacom said on Wednesday. “Customers will be able to redeem their VodaBucks through the MyVodacom and VodaPay apps.”

As for how many people were affected by the “unexpected error”, Vodacom said about 1.5% of orders were impacted. Based on the company's claims to have processed more than 10,000 Black Friday promotions, about 150 people lost out on the bargains.

Ahmed Jamal also lost out on a cut-price PS5 — they usually sell for about three times the price the Vodastore advertised them at last Friday. He was only refunded four days later.

“If a person had budgeted a certain amount for Black Friday and spent this amount on the Vodastore, only to have their purchase cancelled, with their funds locked, they would have been precluded from buying anywhere else,” Jamal said.

About the 20,000 VodaBucks “sorry”, he said it was an attempt to keep disgruntled subscribers on the network.

Do you need help with a consumer issue? Contact Wendy Knowler for advice via email consumer@knowler.co.za or on X (Twitter) @wendyknowler