Business under scrutiny: 'Have you run off with my money?'

HAVE you ever had that awful sinking feeling that you've been scammed?

That's how Byron resident Clare Sweetnam felt when she thought she was almost $1700 out of pocket.

The online shopper has warned of potential scams when shopping online, after allegedly being "ripped off" by an online Byron Bay business selling cane furniture.

Ms Sweetnam ordered a bed from The Rattan Collective for $1699 in May, but then heard nothing from the business for some months.

Beds from the Rattan Collective.
Beds from the Rattan Collective. Jasmine Burke

After several messages in August, she got a refund in September, but said others weren't so lucky and now she's warning others to be wary.

"At first I was looking online and had filled my cart and left it unattended then she contacted me and offered me a $100 discount and free delivery because I was a local," she said.

"I bought a king size bed and direct transferred the money into her account.

"It was $1699. I did that in May and she said it was due in August.

"I started emailing her at the start of August for an update and I got an automated reply.

"At another stage I even tried adding to my order through another email and she still wouldn't reply.

"It came to the end of September and I had written five emails."

Small business claims they are overwhelmed with orders

The Northern Star first contacted The Rattan Collective on October 3 via email. While we have not received a direct response, an automated email reply advised they were a family business that worked "very hard to get all the orders out as soon as possible".

It advises the job is "a very labour intensive process (that) takes time".

"Low margins means low staff. Me. Responsible for completing everything from replying to your email, submitting orders, dealing with the manufacturer, shipping agents, customs, unloading containers, quality checks, organising freight quotes, packing for shipping, meeting couriers, bookwork and stuff. Lots of stuff. Amongst this chaos, I try to balance having a young family," the automated email reads.

"So please understand that there may be a delay in replying to your email due to the volume of enquiries we receive (SO many!) or that I'm currently unloading a 40ft container and organising deliveries."

"I hope it's not a scam"

Ms Sweetnam said after her emails she could not find any contact details the business's website and noticed comments on the business' Instagram account had been turned off.

A Facebook thread Ms Sweetnam started attracted numerous messages and she said she was "shocked" by the number of them who claimed to have had similar experiences with the business.

Eventually, Ms Sweetnam received an email from the business, followed by a phone call.

During the call, she recalled repeatedly stating: "I just want my money back".

"She (the business owner) said she has to work for herself and said she has to deal with people in Hollywood.

"There were (seven) people who messaged me from that (Facebook) thread who had been ripped off or knew someone who had. Some people had given up on getting their product. Some people got it 13 months later.

"She transferred me back my money that afternoon after our phone call but that's after being relentless.

"Fair enough if things are late just update someone.

"It's not fair and I cant imagine the amount of businesses who probably go out of business trying to do things the right way. Then someone like that comes along, takes all of your money up front and then doesn't provide the service."

Business online reviews

As of October 9 on on productreview.com.au, The Rattan Collective had 12 "terrible" reviews.

"Have you run off with my money?," one wrote, while another said they waited 18 months to receive their product.

Other testimonials on the business' website praise the product and note "quick delivery" and "amazing communication".

Fair Trading

According to NSW Fair Trading, traders subject to 10 or more complaints in a calendar month would be published on the Complaints Register.

A spokeswoman for Fair Trading NSW said: "Fair Trading's advice to customers who are dissatisfied in their dealings with The Rattan Collective is to contact the trader and try to resolve the matter in the first instance.

"Customers who are unable to resolve their issues with the trader are advised to lodge a written complaint with Fair Trading at ww.fairtrading.nsw.gov.au."

Scamwatch has some tips when it comes to shopping online:

  • Do some independent research on a website you're thinking of buying a product from and check out reviews from other consumers
  • When making online payments, only pay for items using a secure payment service-look for a URL starting with 'https' and a closed padlock symbol, or a payment provider such as PayPal
  • When using retail websites, find out exactly who you are dealing with. If it is an Australian company, you are in a much better position to sort out the problem if something goes wrong. You can check ABNs at: http://abr.business.gov.au/ (link is external)
  • Check if the website site has a refund or returns policy, and that their policies sound fair. The better online shopping sites have detailed complaint or dispute handling processes in case something goes wrong.


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