Two Winnipeggers who turned to online "group coupon" retailers TeamBuy and Dealfind to attract more customers say the two websites are not playing fair.
The websites' business model is based on group purchases to get deals at local retailers.
The popularity of such e-retailers has risen in recent years, prompting Barb Nziggy of Diplomat Hair Salon in Winnipeg to offer a discount highlighting package on TeamBuy.ca.
Nziggy said she has long relied on word of mouth to bring clients to her salon, but she recently decided to try something new.
"I had just gone through a horrible divorce; I had to give all my money away. So for me, after 30 years of doing hair, I had to refresh my client base," she told CBC News.
Businesses that sign up to offer deals receive a percentage of the discounted price, while the websites keeps the rest.
But Nziggy said TeamBuy has only paid half of what she has been owed.
"I have a family to pay for. I have a house to pay. I have to pay … my suppliers and distributors," she said.
Esthetician Anita Vij said she signed up with TeamBuy's sister website, Dealfind, in October to offer discounts on waxing services, but she has not received her money.
"They just screwed me over," she said, adding that she may soon be forced to turn away customers with Dealfind coupons.
"This is not fair for me, and I'm using all [my] products and everything."
'Hiccups along the way,' CEO admits
The Better Business Bureau says in the past three years, it has received a total of 1,076 complaints against both TeamBuy and Dealfind, with 45 of those complaints from Manitoba.
- CBC Marketplace's investigation on Dealfind
- Teambuy left Halifax small businesses struggling, say store owners
The two websites merged into one company, Couch Commerce Inc., in December 2012. The BBB says its current complaint numbers break down as follows:
- Team Buy: 113 (including 9 from Manitoba).
- DealFind: 806 (including 27 from Manitoba).
- Couch Commerce: 157 (including 9 from Manitoba).
Ghassan Halazon, the president and CEO of Couch Commerce Inc., admitted that there have been issues since the two websites merged into one company in 2013.
"This is a business that grew from zero to tens of millions of dollars, so of course there are some hiccups along the way," he said.
Ghassan said TeamBuy and Dealfind combined have dealt with about 15,000 businesses, and 70 per cent of them have returned to work with the websites again.
"We are a legitimate business. We recognize fully that the longevity and the growth of our business depends on satisfying the merchant partners that we have," he said.
Both Nziggy and Vij are getting the money they are owed, Ghassan said.
But that may not be good enough for the two Winnipeg women, who say they're not sure if they'll use Dealfind or TeamBuy again and want other businesses to think twice before signing up.