Disclaimer Notice: This blog post only serves as an objective recollection of the series of events regarding the travel deal transaction and also hope to serve as a fair warning to others who are planning on purchasing travel packages or accomodation packages offered online. I have no intention whatsoever of discrediting any of the companies listed in this post.
If you're looking for the contact details I was able to use for refunding the deal, please see below:
DTI Makati Office (see contact details at the bottom of this post)
MetroDeal Support firstname.lastname@example.org
"Bryan" (email@example.com) who posted in the PMT Forum thread
Dragonpay Administrator (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Ensemble E-Travel ensemble e-travel <email@example.com>; firstname.lastname@example.org
Group buying has been a recent online trend wherein you could purchase discounted tickets, coupons, or vouchers that you can use for products and services. I've started buying coupons since last year and have availed them mainly for stores & restaurants. There are numerous travel deals that can be found online ranging from overnight stays at hotels found in the Metro or in popular vacation spots around the country to 3 days/2 nights stays in Singapore, Taiwan, Macau, Hong Kong, Vietnam, etc.
Prices are between Php 2000- to 40,000 or more depending on the destination, the package inclusions, and the number of people included in the voucher. Payments can be settled either online (through Paypal or another 3rd party processor) or over-the-counter at the local banks. Most of the well-known group buying sites like DealGrocer, CashCashPinoy, MetroDeal, Ensogo, Pakyaw, ebay.ph offer these deals so if you're itching to travel, you might want to keep an eye out for those, just make sure you know what you're getting yourself into.
A month ago, I purchased 2 vouchers from an online group buying site, Metrodeal, which offered a "Two-Nights Stay in Palawan, Roundtrip Airfare, Hotel, Island Hopping for P5500 instead of P11,000." It was my first time to transact with a substantial amount of money online (half of which was shared with my college friend whom I'm going on the trip with) and what follows next is a series of events I do not want to experience again and I hope it can help others as well.
Paying for my Vouchers
I paid for 2 vouchers amounting to P11,000 via BDO's SM Makati Branch last September 24 Saturday. I received a payment confirmation email from DragonPay and an email notice from MetroDeal that my vouchers were already stored in my account. I sent an email to the travel agency that evening to set my booking dates for the package. That night, I tried to search for feedbacks or reviews online regarding the hotel included in the package and the travel agency, Ensemble, and to my dismay I discovered numerous negative feedbacks about delayed and incomplete email responses, rude people over the phone, additional expenses asked upfront prior to booking, and some even had the unfortunate experience of being at the destination only to discover that they don't have a hotel and a tour package that's supposedly included in the deal (check out the links here and here). I checked MetroDeal's website and part of their FAQ entry states that they will refund your money within 5 days after payment.
Booking for the trip and automated replies
During this time, I decided to wait until Tuesday for an email response from Ensemble acknowledging my booking dates but received no response. I even tried calling the numbers listed on the site but no one was answering. Since I had limited amount of time left to organize the trip, I sent two emails to MetroDeal informing them of my difficulties with contacting the travel agency and requested to have a refund for my unused vouchers.
I got an automated email response that stated "Thank you for writing in! This is to confirm that we have received your inquiry. We will respond to your email as soon as possible, typically within one business day (excluding weekends). Sincerely, Your MetroDeal Support Team." Another day wasted...
On Thursday morning (4th business day), I received this email from Ensemble... technically, an automated email handled by a 3rd party service. I immediately replied to the email.
("Bryan" - see this thread at the PMT online forum) telling him about my problem contacting Ensemble and requesting for a refund, but another person named "Dhen" replied instead (see below). "Dhen" was the one who emailed the Dragonpay Administrator (email@example.com) to refund the money.
On Friday (5th business day), I received an email from a "Carlo Pascual" of Ensemble asking for the Metrodeal voucher numbers. I decided not to reply yet since I was waiting on whether Dragonpay would be able to send me the refund.
On Saturday ( 1 week after my payment), I received an email from "Bryan" of Metrodeal (see below)...
I decided not to reply to this email, if my refund was going to be processed this could complicate matters even more since "Dhen" already emailed DragonPay.
On Sunday, I received this email from the administrator of Dragonpay (the 3rd party payment processor used by MetroDeal). I checked out if the email and the company was legit and what banks were included in their system. According to the email, they only process refunds on Fridays (I wonder why?!) Good thing my bank is included in their list, so I replied to the email with my bank account details.
I waited for 2 business days for Dragonpay's reply on whether they already acknowledged the info and sent them an email on Wednesday to ask about the status of my refund.
I received a reply the next morning that the refund was due for deposit the following day, Friday, October 7. And when I checked my online account on Friday, the money was already deposited, less P15 for the service fee. I felt so relieved.
After getting the refund, I scouted for tickets to Puerto Princesa online and booked via Air Philippines at their regular rates since we planned to be in Palawan from October 21-23. The roundtrip airfare for 2 people was almost equivalent to the travel deal I recently refunded. I didn't mind the cost if it saved me from the headaches and hassles we would have to go through had it been booked with Ensemble. I also contacted another PExer for our Puerto Princesa tours & accommodation.
Interesting thing though... on October 12, I received this email from Ensemble asking about the details for booking the Palawan trip ("touch base stage") ...
It was a good thing that I was able to get the refund by corresponding thru emails only. Others may not be as fortunate as I was and I empathize with their frustration and anger with the whole process. Since I blogged about it, there were still a lot of complaints not only from Metrodeal and Ensemble but with other group buying sites and their affiliated merchants as well. It was even reported in GMA 7's "24 Oras" and TV Patrol last year but I couldn't find any Youtube link. I've updated this post to include some recent information seen below. At the rate, Metrodeal is changing their contact numbers (are these prepaid numbers??), it's better to visit them at their office and talk to their supervisor.
The phone numbers in blue were posted by "pop aguilar" in the comments thread of this blogpost.
If worse comes to worst, please file a formal complaint at the DTI Office like what other consumers have done and include documentary evidence of email correspondence, voucher printouts, etc. You can also send an email to their Legal Department at firstname.lastname@example.org.
As a consumer, it is our right to be given the highest standards for products and services that we have paid for and to have issues or problems with the product or service resolved/remediated by the provider or merchant at the soonest possible time.
Updated to include Metrodeal's latest contact info (as of May 26, 2012) and DTI.