Marlon’s Meat takes holiday as coupons expire: Roseman
Marlon Pather, a butcher who sold 22,000 prepaid vouchers last year, has closed his store just before the Sept. 1 deadline for redeeming them.
The store (on Yonge St., near Eglinton Ave.) has a notice on the door, promising to reopen in September after a break. It thanks customers for their continued support.
Pather issued a flurry of deeply-discounted coupons with several websites in a two-month period in early 2011.
He couldn’t handle the demand and stopped honouring coupons. Then, he shut the doors for three months of renovations.
After reopening last October, he extended the deadline to Labour Day. But he never caught up with the backlog and kept turning away buyers.
I’m one of them. I paid $ 100 for a Webpiggy coupon, which entitled me to buy $ 350 in organic and naturally-raised meat and $ 50 in fish at a new store, Marlin’s Fish Shop, to open across the street.
The original store, called The Butchers, changed its name to Marlon’s Meat after the renovations. Marlin’s Fish — spelled differently for some reason — never got off the ground.
Today, the store’s phone number is out of service. The website is down. And the Twitter feed stopped last December.
Many readers have told me about their disappointment with both Pather and prepaid promotions in general. They see how easily they can be victimized by retailers who don’t hold up their end of the deal.
Charlotte Ward bought a $ 50 coupon for $ 150 worth of Marlon’s Meat. She shrugged off Webpiggy’s offer of a $ 50 credit to use on other coupon deals.
“I didn’t donate $ 50 so that the butcher shop and the group coupon retailer could stay in business. I bought meat and then never received it,” she said.
“In the end, Webpiggy sold me a useless piece of paper.”
Another deal website, Buytopia, is giving a credit — with no expiry date — to buyers who ask about redeeming their Marlon’s coupons.
Dealfind, which sold 11,500 coupons (about half the total amount issued), decided to give cash refunds to all buyers.
President Gary Lipovetsky remembers inviting Pather for lunch last year and being asked for a $ 100,000 advance on payments to come a few weeks later.
“I reminded him of his obligations. I said, ‘Please don’t run with anyone else. Don’t wear yourself too thin.’ The day after that, he was running with a competitor’s site. To me, it felt like a cash grab,” Lipovetsky said.
Dealfind tried to sue Pather, who owned the business through a partnership.
“There was no lawsuit, his counsel said,” Lipovetsky said. “He had signed personally with us and he had declared personal bankruptcy.”
I often visited the store when I was in the area. The outdoor sign vanished and wasn’t replaced. The renovations looked shabby. Some freezers didn’t work properly.
When I last saw Pather, working alone in an empty shop on a Sunday in early August, I asked about the coupon deals. He said most were redeemed and few people were showing up to ask for meat any more.
However, I know some buyers gave up after running into grief at the store.
Lisa Zaretsky and Bonnie Koreen spent $ 500 on vouchers and came out empty-handed after a visit last December.
“Marlon was rude beyond belief. As we left the store, he said, “Take your Halloween costumes and leave,’ and we’re really not bad-looking women,” Zaretsky said.
So, here’s my advice. Don’t pay in advance for coupons without trusting both the deal website and the retailer involved. Ask about the refund policy. Read reviews and complaints online to see how they treat people.
Memo to the Ontario government: Outlaw expiry dates on prepaid vouchers. Treat them the same way as gift certificates. And ensure that deal websites make amends to clients when retailers refuse to meet their obligations.
Ellen Roseman writes about personal finance and consumer issues. You can reach her at email@example.com or www.ellenroseman.com
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