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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?
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:
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:
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:
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.
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.