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I've been booking some train tickets through thetrainline.com, and aside from the steep £2.50 charge for using a credit card, I was disappointed to find myself on a pop-up page offering me a cashback voucher and other rewards. 

The offer comes from a company called Webloyalty under the name of Shoppersdiscounts, which has come in for flak before from customers who feel they have been duped, so should thetrainline and other e-commerce sites risk their reputations by using such schemes?

Shopperdiscount offer on thetrainline

How did I get to the offer page?

I arrived at this page after booking and paying for train tickets, and though I am guilty of not reading the small print, I do feel slightly tricked into clicking on the offer.

After entering my card details and confirming the purchase, I arrived at this page and, thinking I had one more click before I received a summary of my booking or some other form of confirmation, I pressed the 'continue' button, the clearest link on the page:

Trainline confirmation page

This happened because I was scanning the page and not reading the text properly, but it's hard to believe that this link wasn't designed for this purpose. Here is the detail above the button, which then opened up the Shoppersdiscount pop-up:

Trainline - discount offer link

The offer

The scheme offers cashback and money off future purchases from the trainline and other retailers in return for a monthly fee of £10. This may be a good deal, but the issue is the way in which it is laid out on the page and communicated to customers.

We have looked at this offer on the blog before and while it cannot be denied that the terms are laid out on the sign-up page before customers sgn up, there is a lot of text to go through, and perhaps some customers are not reading it in enough detail:

Shoppersdiscount offer on thetrainline

Now, customers should be reading terms and conditions, and Webloyalty has done nothing illegal here, and does communicate the terms of the offer to consumers, but still some customers feel they have been misled.

Customer reaction

Thetrainline and others that partner with companies offering such reward schemes should take note: customers who think they have been misled will not only blame the firm taking the money from their credit cards, but also the retailer that referred them in the first place.

A quick search finds a number of websites where trainline customers, and those from other sites, have complained about the scheme. This MoneySavingExpert forum has 100+ posts full of angry consumer comments. 

Here are a few random comments about thetrainline from the forum:

"I'm another victim - courtesy of those lovely people at Trainline. I certainly won't be booking with them again."

"Let's call this what it is, a con. Trainline.com, who won't be getting any more money out of me, got me. Much better and cheaper to use raileasy.co.uk anyhow..."

"I was duped by TheTrainline.com (will never use them again!)"

These kinds of comments should concern thetrainline and other e-commerce sites that have similar offers after their checkouts. Whether customers are guilty of not reading terms and conditons before they sign up, retailers still risk damaging customer trust, and creating a lot of negative PR around the web by using such rewards schemes. 

Graham Charlton

Published 5 February, 2009 by Graham Charlton

Graham Charlton is the former Editor-in-Chief at Econsultancy. Follow him on Twitter or connect via Linkedin or Google+

2565 more posts from this author

Comments (3)

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Anonymous

This reminds me of the membership scam on offer at www.redsave.com, yes they're cheap but the £19.95 monthly membership fee in the small print has really annoyed a lot of people including myself resulting in lots of lost custom!

Just be honest with your customers, retention is so important these days, why bother going to these lengths to deter people!

over 7 years ago

Chris Lake

Chris Lake, CEO at Empirical Proof

Personally I think you'd have to be mad to add this to your checkout process (even post-sale).

over 7 years ago

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Simon Waigo, N/a

Providing popup during check out or on a website has been proven to be a recipe for increase in bounce rates; check econsultancy report: http://tinyurl.com/mfuy8g (url is too long so thought to use tiny :)

With this retailers however need to find ways of attracting new customers to there sites, the whole notion of the internet is transparency so its no doubt that a customer will most likely choose to shop with a site that offers an incentive for their hard earned cash. However the key and the tactical point is to offer incentives that leverage the customers experience and does not damage brand identity in any way. Once a customer shops with you its down to your retention strategies to lure them back in...

Http://www.savvydealsonline.co.uk

Surf Smart shop smart

over 7 years ago

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