Recap: Riverside Spa, that's not all....

Recap: Riverside Spa, that's not all....

This week Wendy Knowler brought us updates on the past two ECR Consumerwatch shows.

Saving discount coupon voucher in shopping cart,

Listen to the update below, or read the details beneath the podcast.

I’d love to be able to tell you that all those people sitting with Riverside Spa vouchers are going to be able to redeem them after all, but sadly I can’t.

A quick recap of our show of two weeks ago: the Riverside Spa in Durban North suddenly closed its doors last month, leaving many people with gift vouchers worth nothing.

And while the spa shares a property and part of its name with the Riverside Hotel, it is, as general manager Keith Bentley puts it, “completely divorced” from the hotel.

It was owned and run for the past two years by a woman called Louise Davies, who bought it from the previous spa owner.

That's one of the downsides of gift vouchers - the spa gets the money upfront, valid for three years, by law, but if the business closes, the consumer loses out.

A lot of those voucher holders emailed me, asking for advice, but, like them, I couldn’t reach Louise by phone or email, and nor could Riverside Hotel.

After the show, I got an email from Louise Davies, apologising for not being contactable, and saying she’d been overseas for two weeks.

The downturn in the economy meant that she couldn’t run the business profitably, she said, and the landlord putting the rental up dramatically was the last straw.

“Naturally there were a lot of costs involved in paying off our staff and settling outstanding supplier invoices,” she said, and when that was done, the business was insolvent.

“I do not feel that I can be accused of reckless or fraudulent trading,” she said, “The bottom line is that the Spa has closed and unfortunately, there are people who now hold vouchers that are worthless.

“The Riverside Day Spa does not have the resources to refund these vouchers and I have given away all the products I had to people with vouchers who approached me soon after the news of our closure got out.

“Sadly those people who have vouchers will not be reimbursed and they will need to take whatever action they feel is necessary in terms of the law.”

I’m still getting emails from those with now-worthless vouchers.

The most upsetting one was from Gregan Wahl, who works for a Durban company which bought Riverside Spa vouchers for its 13 staff members in February - at R990 that was an outlay of R12,870.

Only two of them had redeemed their vouchers when they found out the spa had closed in July.

“We are shocked and extremely disappointed that they did not even have the decency to approach our company and advise us of their impending closure so that our staff could have used their vouchers before they closed down,” she said.

Going after a company that’s insolvent is bound to be a waste of time and money, I’m afraid.

Some people were able to get their money back by doing a chargeback dispute with their bank, but the banks impose a time limit on that, and for many, it had expired by the time they realised the spa was closed.

But there is a consolation offer.

Martin Pearman, the owner of Martin Pearman Hair Creative - the hair salon based in the same premises as the Riverside Spa - emailed me to say he was "very disappointed to hear of the unhappy situation with people using their hard earned money in this difficult economic climate to be treated in this manner” and is willing to offer those with unclaimed vouchers a R300 voucher for use at his salon.

He can be contacted on 0795016268 or 031 8253484.

The lesson: 

By law, all pre-paid vouchers have to be redeemable for at least three years. But an alarming number of spas and tattoo parlours still make their vouchers valid for only three months or six months, so always check that when you’re buying a voucher.

That said, if you’re given a voucher, use it as soon as possible.

Last week we told the story of the Mathe couple of Umlazi, whose boundary wall - which had weathered all manner of storms for 30 years, collapsed in the massive storm which hit Durban, and especially that part of Durban, on April 22; Easter Monday.

Absa Insurance rejected their claim, saying it wasn’t that super-fierce storm which toppled the wall, it fell down because it was badly built - three decades ago.

The couple lodged a complaint with the Ombudsman for Short-Term Insurance, but that office sided with the insurer.

The cost of rebuilding the wall is almost R30,000.

After Consumerwatch took the case with the Absa Insurance, the insurer offered the Mathes R10,000 as a goodwill gesture.

After the show, a Durban insurance assessor with 24 years’ experience contacted me, saying he’d like to assess the wall and compile a independent report for the Mathes, free of charge.

That’s going to happen next week. A wonderful gesture, Marthinus Nothnagel, thank you.

To be continued...

Finally, I can’t pass up an opportunity to give advice on this issue yet again, to spare others paying for insurance they can never successfully claim on:

Before you buy a property, find out what your homeowner’s policy requires in terms of your boundary or retaining wall, and if you don’t know whether yours complies or not, have it professionally assessed.

Often the wall or fence has been extended, when its foundations were constructed to support a much lower structure.

“If you discover that the walls or other structures are not built according to the required standards, you must disclose this information to your insurer so that they can adequately to assess the risk,” That’s the advice of the Ombudsman for Short-Term Insurance, Deanne Wood.

“It may mean that you will have to pay an additional premium in order to enjoy cover for otherwise excluded portions of the property.

"Or, it may mean that certain portions of the property will be excluded from the ambit of cover,” she said.

 Also read: Flood damage? You could well be on your own

To contact Wendy, go to her Facebook page and click on the Send Email tab.

In case you missed any of the past Consumerwatch shows, find them below:

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