Opinion: why is it such a hassle to get that 'brilliant deal'?

Our writer wonders why a great financial deal often requires a good deal of patience on our part.

Financial websites like this one love nothing more than to bring you astonishingly good deals.

Our writers scour press releases and best buy tables, looking for the kind of bargains that will help our readers save money on spending or earn more on savings.

Pretty simply, doing so is one of the ways we keep our readers coming back; we have to bring you useful deals and information.

Unfortunately, sometimes deals are so good that they end up being almost unusable because of a stampede of customers – a stampede often caused by money journalists writing and tweeting about what a bargain there is.

And that’s when the customer races to the shop or website or broker or wherever, and discovers that the shelves are bare. The deal is all gone.

It happens all the time with the best two-dine-in-for-£10 deals. By the time many people leave work and stop by the shop to get a luxury main course, starter, pudding and wine, there’s often just one forlorn packet of salad and a bottle of grapefruit juice left.

That’s frustrating but it’s not the very worst thing that can happen to a good deal. The worst is when you are in time to buy it or sign up for it but then the company simply can’t cater to the number of new customers it has attracted.

Now that’s both frustrating and can potentially leave you out of pocket or receiving poor service. So what can you do?

When good deals go bad

It happens time and time again. One loveMONEY contributor told us that he recently switched phone companies, using a really great deal available through a cashback website.

That deal has since been pulled, suggesting it was very popular and they website has filled all its spaces. Yet our contributor says that communication is poor, his router arrived a week later than planned and he hasn’t actually managed to switch yet.

Another contributor said he had switched energy suppliers to take advantage of a £100 cashback offer but it then took three months to actually switch. The provider just kept telling him they were inundated.

Far too many of us have snapped up a particularly good offer for a spa day or restaurant chain only to arrive and discover it is rammed to the ceiling with other bargain-hunters and the whole treat is ruined.

When I was a teenager, I worked in MacDonalds at the time of the infamous two-for-one Big Mac offer. We had queues down the street, fights breaking out in the restaurant (literally) and only a fraction of the burgers we needed to satisfy demand.

The restaurant ended up taking out full-page adverts in the newspapers to apologise for its failure and a good deal simply ruined loads of people’s lunch.

Ruining the fun

It takes the joy out of finding a good deal if it’s ruined by poor, overloaded service. Worst of all, when you start to complain about it, it is easy to feel like you can’t stand up for your rights as much as you would if you had paid the full amount.

When the supplier is totally overloaded, it can even be hard just to find a human being to talk to, let alone make a successful complaint.

It’s easy to see why these deals sometimes go so sour. They are the result of a marketing team or sales team failing to communicate effectively with the rest of the business about the anticipated surge in demand.

Sometimes they are the result of a business simply not realise just how extensive that demand would be, perhaps because they failed to realise how competitive their offer was or perhaps because they didn’t anticipate it being shared via social media or covered in the press.

The good news is that if you’ve snapped up a deal, even a bargain, even a 90%-off two-for-one near-giveaway, you still have rights. And those rights include the service and standard being of a certain quality.

Your rights when things go sour

When a company of provider offers an incentive or a discount that doesn’t mean your consumer rights are correspondingly reduced unless the discount relates specifically to any problem you then encounter.

For example, if I buy a jumper and it is marked down in a sale, I am still allowed to return it if there’s a hole in the sleeve. But if I buy a jumper that is marked down because it has a hole in the sleeve then I can’t return it for that reason.

But even when there’s a special offer or a sale or a discount or an amazing cashback opportunity, the Consumer Rights Act still stands.

Under this act, any goods you buy must be of satisfactory quality, they must be as described, fit for purpose and last for a reasonable length of time.

And any services you pay for should be carried out with reasonable care and skill, within a reasonable time and at a reasonable price.

Yes, ‘reasonable’ can vary depending on what the service or item is. It’s reasonable to expect a £70 jumper to last for several years but it’s also reasonable for a cheap novelty toy to just last a few weeks.

The good news is that we’ve broken down exactly what your rights are when you shop in our guide to returning unwanted or faulty goods.

We’ve also taken a look at your rights when it comes to poor service and your rights if a gig or event you’re going to get cancelled.

For your rights when you’re travelling, check out our guide to delayed or cancelled flights.

Ultimately, you have rights but sometimes you need to know them to make sure they are honoured.

And no matter how good the deal, no matter how big the discount or how large the cashback incentive, nothing detracts from your right to satisfactory goods and services.

What do you think? Do you hunt good deals or do you assume the service will be worse? Have your say using the comments below.

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