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Help Squad: Customer seeks refund for WeDeal dinner party

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Help Squad,

I’m writing to request assistance in gaining a credit of $679 for a surprise birthday/anniversary dinner I purchased a year ago on WeDeal, which expires July 30, 2014. I would rather not get lawyers and the Better Business Bureau involved.

Here are the specifics:

My husband and I and our daughters love the Food Network, “Chopped” and used to love “Hell’s Kitchen.” We often make dinners from recipes from these shows, and when struggling last year for a b-day and 29th anniversary gift for my husband, I purchased a WeDeal Private Party offer for Chef Brian Merel to cook at our house for between 8-10 people.

I was one of four that purchased this deal and two received dinner parties – two of us did not, as Chef Brian had not been paid, so he stopped fulfilling these orders.

I called and emailed WeDeal monthly from last September. Many live conversations were had, and although apologies made, no credit nor dinner was provided.

Can you please help me recoup my money so I can use it to take my husband downtown to a restaurant instead of trying to “cook at home?

— Janice Howse, Deerfield

Janice cc’d Chef Merel, as well as Brad Pielet from WeDeal on her email to us, and no more than 30 minutes after she sent it, we were cc’d on Merel’s email response to Janice:

“Thank you for putting this together, Janice. I have been in a battle with Brad Pielet and WeDeal for over a year. It’s a horrible situation that is both completely unethical and absurd.

I truly hope this is resolved immediately, as I have been attempting to resolve my own situation with them for an obscene amount of time. I’ve had my lawyer contact Mr. Pielet, to no avail. How their business is run is completely unprofessional, unethical and stands for everything I am against in my own business practices.”

Merel sent a second email with a link to an article that was published online last February, when WeDeal’s website abruptly went offline.

Pielet responded to our email chain, only to clarify that part of that article was “bogus.” He said nothing about Janice’s dinner party.

So, Help Squad called Pielet. After conversations with him, as well as with Merel, we decided that our goal was to get Merel paid, so that he would make the dinner for Janice.

Here’s what resulted from our efforts. Pielet asked if we would arrange a meeting for he and Merel to “sort things out,” but Merel would not agree to the meeting unless Pielet was planning to pay him all the money he was owed (not just the money from Janice’s deal). Merel claims he is owed in excess of $3,000 from other WeDeals he was never paid for, and said he’s been attempting to be paid for more than a year.

Merel also called Janice and told her that whether he got paid or not, he was going to honor the deal and make her the dinner party.

Pielet could not commit to paying Merel the full amount at the meeting, so Help Squad switched gears and asked Pielet for a refund for Janice’s deal. Then it would be up to Janice to decide if she wanted to hire Merel, and the two of them could set the price. Pielet said he’d get back to us.

Here’s where things get a little mysterious, but really good! Help Squad received a call back from someone representing WeDeal, who asked that we not use his name for this article. He told us that things are changing in WeDeal’s management, that this would soon be announced, and that all vendors who are owed money from WeDeal will be paid.

He then agreed to give Janice a cashier’s check for $679, which he was set to deliver on Monday, July 14, the day this article went to press.

Dear Janice,

We are so pleased that we were able to help you get your money back, so that you may buy your husband whatever birthday/anniversary gift you choose. We wanted you to know that we looked up Merel’s website and we were very impressed, so we’d recommend going with your original plan of hiring him!

As far as WeDeal, we’re not sure what will happen in the future, but if things start getting handled the way this clandestine representative handled your case, chances are, WeDeal could become the company it was a few years ago: convenient, trustworthy and full of great deals.

Bon Appétit!

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