Hidden charges in free Grazebox offer spark anger
Dunno if you caught my wee rant last week about the dodgy sales practices being used by trendy, online snack company Graze to part trusting customers from their credit card details?
I was raging after a couple of Holyrood PR staff got caught out by signing up for a free Graze boxes, stuffed full of healthy, organic snacks like nuts and olives.
In fact, what they were actually signing up for was a weekly subscription, with cash being siphoned out of their bank accounts (you can read the full blog here).
Seems like I wasn’t the only upset by the deliberately opaque wording on the Graze website for those taking up the offer.
Now another contact has sent me the hotly worded email of complaint he fired off to Graze when he realised he was receiving boxes he didn’t want and was being pickpocketed by a company he thought he could trust.
Let me be clear, this chap is no wet-behind the ears novice. He’s a web-savvy and canny guy with a family and bags of life experience. More importantly he knows the exact value of a pound and has a steely resolve when it comes to spending his money wisely.
Nor is he the kind of guy who would easily part with his card payment details, unless he implicitly trusted the credentials of the company he was dealing with, was clear about what he was signing up for and was absolutely sure the platform was secure.
Just like me, he was gobsmacked when it became clear what Graze was up to. And he clearly feels that Graze has frittered away a hard-won reputation for ethical behaviour in pursuit of a quick buck. Tawdry, disappointing and worst of all, a real breach of trust.
Here’s some of the choice snippets from his email correspondence with customer services reps at Graze (catchphrase: “Nature Delivered”):
“I am going to place a formal complaint with my local trading standards and mention your business practice to Which? Magazine to alert others about this situation.
“It is unacceptable to play these games with customers and your business model will ultimately fail. It is a very cynical way to treat people.
“My impression was that I was trialling the service on a one off basis and you have misled me and no doubt many others. A very unhappy experience.”
Later he adds:
“I think that you urgently need to review your free trial process as I certainly misunderstood the offer. Sadly for you, I liked the idea and hoped to use it at a later date. After this experience I will not return.
“Personally, I intend to never provide credit card details like this to any company in the future based on this experience.”
I’m still bewildered by what Graze were up to with this ‘offer’. They could easily have delighted thousands of potential new customer with the free Graze box – then used the email addresses they were given to market to those people and probably turn many of them into more regular customers.
Instead, they needlessly alienated half a dozen people I know and probably many more beyond. Perhaps the full scale of this won’t be obvious for a while, because many people may not notice the small sums (£3.89 a time) disappearing from their bank accounts.
When they do, I suspect Graze will get quite a few more angry emails from ex-customers.
In fairness, it seems like the company may already be looking into this.
While the company rep defended the practice (insisting customers are advised throughout sign-up that they are signing up for weekly deliveries and can cancel at any time), she also acknowledged that Graze will be looking again at the process.
She wrote: “In light of your feedback we will be looking very closely at our sign up process to see if there are any ways that this can be made even clearer when people join up with us, as the last thing we want to do is mislead people, so your email has been passed onto our accounts team and the website team to study.”
I genuinely hope Graze get this sorted quickly. They come over as a likeable and ethical company – which only serves to magnify how unpleasant this kind of cash grab is.
With a wee bit of luck, quick action and a heartfelt ‘sorry’ to those who were confused by the sign up, they might yet keep hold of that reputation.