What to do when Ashley’s Home Care is a no-show


The $99 voucher Gabi Tanis bought through LivingSocial for power washing is worthless. Making matters worse, the company won’t refund her money. What now?

Question: I never thought I’d be writing one of these emails asking you to act as my advocate, but here I am.

I’m a member of LivingSocial and have been a happy customer for a while. On Aug. 1, I purchased a $99 voucher — a $180 promotional value — for power washing from a New Jersey-based company called “Ashley’s Home Care” for power washing of our house.

The voucher said you had to call the company to make an appointment. I phoned the company the same day and made an appointment for Friday, August 30th.

Since the appointment was made over the phone, I didn’t receive confirmation of my appointment in writing, but suffice it to say that all the details were confirmed, including address and arrival time of the crew.

Aug. 30th came, but the crew never did. I called the company several times, but was never able to get a live person on the phone. I left a message, too, inquiring whether I should still expect someone to arrive later in the day, but again, no response and no returned call.

As the day went on, I got more and more suspicious and started to search the Internet for clues about the company maybe being not as customer-focused as I thought. Initially, I found nothing. Then I went to the website for the Better Business Bureau of New Jersey and found a notice from the Better Business Bureau that Ashley’s was believed to be out of business.

Needless to say, I was quite concerned as a result, so I called LivingSocial to alert them and was promised they would look into the case. LivingSocial suggested I try to contact Ashley’s again, and I tried multiple times. Its online reservation system did not offer any open spots until January of next year (and surprise — the voucher expires in December!).

To this day, I have not been able to make contact with Ashley’s Home Care to schedule the power washing. LivingSocial won’t give me my money back, saying I could only request a refund within seven days of my purchase, which in this case was long before I even knew there would be an issue. Can you help? — Gabi Tanis, Philadelphia

Answer: Ashley’s should have responded to your repeated calls, and once you showed LivingSocial the BBB notice, it should have promptly refunded your voucher.

LivingSocial’s terms and conditions are pretty clear. “LivingSocial will always honor your request for a refund of the Paid Portion of any unredeemed Voucher if the Merchant goes out of business before the promotional period expires,” it says.

But is Ashley’s out of business, or just refusing to accept your calls? By your account, it’s just busy through the period of your voucher. I’d say that makes your LivingSocial voucher pretty much unredeemable.

I believe LivingSocial should ensure that the companies it works with can actually provide the service they’re offering. Otherwise, what good would the site be? I just can’t imagine it not honoring your request for a refund.

Remember, the customer service department is only your first step toward resolving your complaint. Why not appeal your case to someone higher up the food chain? You can find the right names on its website. Email addresses at LivingSocial are firstname.lastname@livingsocial.com.

I contacted LivingSocial on your behalf. A representative contacted you and apologized for the “unfavorable experience” you had while trying to redeem your voucher. It refunded your credit card $99 and added 15 “Deal Bucks” into your account.

Does LivingSocial take enough responsibility for its vendors?

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Christopher Elliott

Christopher Elliott is an author, journalist and consumer advocate. You can read more about him on his personal website or contact him at chris@elliott.org. Got a question or comment? You can post it on the new forum.

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  • sirwired

    Chris, you aren’t reading the correct portion of the user agreement. The part you quoted is the bit about LivingSocial not being liable if you are injured through the use of the voucher. (i.e. You break your leg on a rock-climbing experience.)

    The section you should have been looking at is “Refunds”: Right after the bit about requesting a refund within 7 days: “In addition, LivingSocial will always honor your request for a refund of the Paid Portion of any unredeemed Voucher if the Merchant goes out of business before the promotional period expires.”

    It sounds like LivingSocial screwed up here, but not in the manner you state.

    EDIT: To anybody else reading this now non-sensical comment, an earlier version of this article quoted a different part of the purchase agreement that did not refer to refunds, and the story stated that because of the liability waiver clause they weren’t bound to refund you for anything (even merchant bankruptcy) after seven days. This was incorrect, and Chris, as stated below, has corrected the article.

  • http://elliott.org Christopher Elliott

    Thanks, you’re right. I’ve fixed that in the story.

  • Raven_Altosk

    Glad this one had a happy ending. I’ve always been skeptical of LivingSocial and Groupon and all of the “pay first, get stuff later” companies.

  • John Baker

    This one is pretty cut and dry to me…. LivingSocial sold the OP a voucher. The company the voucher is for is unwilling or unable to redeem the voucher. LivingSocial needs to either refund the OP’s money or get the OP in contact with the vendor to redeem to voucher. Otherwise, there’s little difference between this and LivingSocial selling the OP something counterfeit.

  • emanon256

    I mostly steer clear of any of the collective buying (Living Social, Groupon, Deal Chicken, Plum District, etc.) companies when they offer a home based service. Sitt, I voted yes. Four times I have bought service deals where the company went under. The three with Living Social, they gave me a 100% refund only my credit card on my first call. The one with Groupon would only give me a Goupon credit.
    I am not sure why Living Social gave the OP a hard time when the company went out of business, they have never even questioned me.

    I think a lot of small companies who typically do 10 or so jobs a week decide to offer these deals, and then start getting calls for 200-500 or so jobs a week and can’t handle it, and eventually get so many complaints they go out of business. We had a local caret cleaning business that consisted of a guy on our block and his brother with one carpet cleaning truck. They decided to offer a Groupon with an expiration date of 4 months, and they sold over 4,000. With both of them working 7 days a week, it would take them close to 3 years to honor all the Groupons sold, and people got angry because they were booked over 4 moths out within a day of issuing the Groupon. They eventually had to shut down because their phone rang non-stop and they couldn’t even call scheduled customers, everyone calling was yelling at them, the had lines of people showing up at their small shop yelling, they started getting death threats, etc. They were out of business within a few weeks.

    Also, it could be the perfect scam. Come up with a great Living Social deal or Groupon deal, sell thousands, provide minimum service until you get your full share, and then split. But I prefer to sleep at night.

  • Joe_D_Messina

    I saw a story about a bakery that offered a great deal on cupcakes hoping to bring in a little extra business and ended up with thousands of orders to fulfill at the cheapo price. They were working around the clock paying overtime the whole while and didn’t have any time for the regular jobs that actually made them money. I believe they actually went out of business as a result.

  • emanon256

    Its actually sad what these collective buying sites can do.

  • sirwired

    The collective buying sites make it perfectly clear what they are selling. Businesses can limit voucher quantities, reduce the offer “service” area, or not participate at all if they so choose. If a business goes under because they sell too much of a good deal, they have nobody but themselves to blame; the math involved is not difficult.

    Personally, I think there are very few businesses for which these voucher deals make sense for both the business and the consumer, but it’s up to the business to make that call.

  • DavidYoung2

    Have tried both services and, like you, always had that uneasy feeling until the deal is finally redeemed. So I’ve adopted a new outlook — view it in its totality. If four deals work and one is a bust, you still come out ahead.

    The problem with viewing these deals in totality is that you realize you bought a bunch of stuff you probably wouldn’t have bought at all. So how is that a deal? It’s like my dad says, “You can go broke saving money on a bunch of stuff you don’t really need.”

  • acproductions

    When I had an issue with a living social voucher, they promptly stepped in and fixed it. This is most likely a one-off that Chris had to get involved.

  • Amy Oven

    I had a very similar experience with Living Social and had to appeal to both their Facebook account and report them to the BBB (Living Social) prior to finally receiving a refund of my money. They tried to hide behind the statement that they are only a third party merchant and once I purchase the voucher my only remedy was with the driveway company and not with Living Social. I have never purchased another voucher from them and I make sure to tell other people about my story in hopes that eventually people will learn what type of company they are truly operating.

  • omgstfualready

    I have looked into these to help get some business for my little side project and the rep will totally say all you mention, but then they don’t follow through. In the case of a bakery that can bankrupt them as they must pay for supplies while the buying site may take up to 90 days to pay. For a business like mine which is service based, it would give me a terrible reputation because I cannot take on more than a set number of clients at one time. Do some research and you’ll see how badly Groupon treats the business (LS is more business friendly but less consumer friendly).

    I do buy off Groupon or LS occasionally but I know full well it is a new business or a business on last legs hoping for a quick cash infusion. For some weird reason I also feel badly and whatever I buy I wait a few weeks to use it to give the business a breather from the crush of customers.

  • SallyLu

    I purchased an auto detailing deal from living social a couple of years ago. When I initially tried to schedule the job, they said that they had a way better than expected response to the LS deal, so it would be a few weeks. I said that was fine. After about a month I tried repeatedly to schedule a time for them to come out to do the detail in my office parking lot, but couldn’t get a response. At one point a guy showed up at my office with no appointment, but I didn’t have my car that day. After 4 months of trying to schedule something, I finally gave up, and contacted LS. Without any hassle they gave me a credit, which I was happy with. About a month later I got an email.from the detailing company saying they would be happy to schedule an appointment for me!

  • mizmoose

    I don’t trust any of those group-deal sites. I’ve heard too many horror stories of people buying certificates only to have a company refuse to honor them (restaurant.com is apparently one of the worst for this), or the company gets totally overwhelmed and stops honoring the coupon (because they failed to put limitations on their coupon, and the sites don’t make sure the businesses put in a limit, since the more coupons sold the more money for the site), or people simply getting really bad service when the coupon is used (again, restaurant.com is notable here).

    In many horror stories people buy the coupon and can never use it, and the sites simply say, “Sorry, no backsies” and people are out their money.

  • anacoluthon

    I was curious about booking a vacation through the Groupon Getaways. However, the thought of paying that much money upfront for an unknown experience to an unknown and untrusted company just skeeves me out.

  • Fedor Pikus

    I had a very similar experience with a pressure-washing company disappearing after a LivingSocial deal (in my case it was for a roof washing). First I was on wait list, then the company would not answer calls, then the phone number was disconnected. I called LivingSocial and had a refund in 3 days.

  • Kathleen Proud Keyte

    Ouch! Just been burnt by a Living Social Deal, so I voted no. I think it’s too easy for companies to offer services through their vouchers and then never deliver what you paid for. The company says “you didn’t buy the voicher from US- sorry no refund” and LIving Social says “you sort of got what you paid for” and the consumer is caught in the middle.

  • mbods

    After reading the below, sounds to me like companies who want to promote a little business REALLY need to limit the amount of coupons sold. Problem solved.

  • ambrothe

    I also had a very similar experience with LivingSocial. I had purchased a voucher for a whole house clean for $79, and when I called the company to schedule, the voicemail recording told me to send an email to their email address to schedule an appointment. I did so, and tried again and again, leaving several messages by phone and email for 30 days before contacting LivingSocial to see what recourse I would have since the company was completely non-responsive. LivingSocial told me that refunds were only issued if requested within 7 days of purchase, but that I could gift the voucher to a friend if I wasn’t able to use it. Hmm, if I couldn’t reach anyone at the company, the voucher would make a pretty lousy gift for someone else, and that doesn’t solve the problem. I tried to appeal higher up at LivingSocial, and got no response. Ultimately, I had to contest the charge on my American Express card, which instantly credited me the full purchase amount. I have never had such a bad experience with Groupon (who has refunded my money promptly if a company was not able to be reached for an extended period of time), so I will likely never use LivingSocial again.