(March 13 letter to editor from Home Direct also attached).
A Whangarei resthome resident has a succinct message for anyone contemplating buying items from door- to-door salespeople after she paid hundreds of dollars more than she needed to for a simple winter jacket: "Think twice."
The 59-year-old woman, who does not want to be identified, said she set up an automatic payment for a $99 jacket from door-to-door sales team Home Direct.
Nearly two years and about $1500 later, she was still paying, with $20 regularly being taken out of her Westpac Bank account and transferred to Home Direct. Home Direct have agreed to refund the money but only thanks to observant staff at the Morningview Village in Morningside, Whangarei, who noticed the continuous payments.
Clinical director and nurse Michelle Wang said the resident had asked her to check her bank statement regarding a $400 payment to Home Direct about five weeks ago.
It was then Ms Wang also detected the weekly $20 direct debit payments.
"We made a call on behalf of our resident to Home Direct to see if we could talk to a salesperson to sort this out for her but we have had not much luck," Ms Wang said.
"We asked: 'Why is she still paying money?' - but we didn't hear back. She is a vulnerable person and she is living in a rest home."
But last Friday, only hours after the Northern Advocate asked questions about the woman's account with Home Direct, a representative contacted the resthome and spoke about her account.
Staff at the rest home were told the $400 payment had been a mistake and it would be refunded plus about $1500 that had accrued since the woman had completed paying off the jacket would also be paid into her account and the direct debit had been cancelled.
The woman has yet to check her account to see if the payment has been made. But she is delighted to have had a response from Home Direct.
After a number of moves she has no idea where the jacket is but clearly remembers buying it.
"I remember they came into the street and then backed their truck up the driveway. They opened the doors and we had a look.
"To anyone think ing about buying stuff off these sorts of people - think twice."
Home Direct is a private New Zealand company that has been in business since 1973. They sell a a broad range of products including clothing, nursery, manchester, audio visual, gaming, toys, furniture, personal care, health and beauty products, phones, household appliances, whiteware, recreation and outdoor products.
In a statement to the Advocate a Home Direct spokeswoman said the company regularly wrote to customers which included a notice when their account was paid off.
"Customers have full control over their direct debit, which they can cancel at any time. Our call centre is more than happy to help with queries relating to direct debits and payments," she said.
In relation to the $400 purchase earlier this year Home Direct said: "After due investigation a purchase that was billed to the customer was reversed and credited to the customer's account - this was at no cost to the customer and the customer has not been affected by this."
Letter of response from Home Direct GM:
March 13, 2013.
Points to clarify Re Home Direct story Northern Advocate. I would like to clarify a few things about this customer's particular situation.
We attempted to contact our customer on a regular basis, but were unable to find her, due to her numerous moves.
When we were contacted by the rest home, legally we could only discuss her account at times when she was present, as we did not receive any written authorisation to work with the rest home on her behalf. This certainly slowed up the resolution of matters over the past few weeks.
With respect to the $400 mentioned in your article, Home Direct did not take an additional $400 payment from her bank account, however a $400 purchase was placed against the positive balance in her Home Direct Account. As soon as this was bought to our attention this was rectified.
The $1500 figure discussed in the article does not relate to the price paid for the jacket.
When our customer set up her account with Home Direct she opted for her direct debits to continue after she had paid off her jacket, and go towards purchasing Home Direct shopping vouchers, which she could use to shop at any time. At Home Direct customer service is paramount, and has greatly contributed to the the fact we are still in business after 40 years. We were more than happy to work with our customer (and with any customer) to ensure a positive conclusion. We would like to thank you again for support you have provided her over this time. Jodi Comrie General manager,
Home Direct Limited