Reading time: 7 minutes
It has come to our attention from our clients that there is a trend currently affecting the wedding industry. Many wedding professionals are reporting hostile couples asking for refunds after claiming unreasonable discrepancies. Some couples are threatening suppliers with negative reviews if their demands are not met.
The Wedding Insurance Group finds this behaviour concerning. Therefore, I asked our clients to share with us stories of their experience with hostile couples. The purpose of this article is to anonymously highlight examples of how couples are attempting to unreasonably obtain refunds. I’ll conclude with actionable recommendations to help protect your business.
We want to raise awareness of these issues so you have a better understanding of what’s happening in the industry, which hopefully will increase your ability to protect your business.
A bride deliberately misquoted table numbers leaving the supplier one table centrepiece short on the day. The venue staff overheard the bride stating she had done so in order to complain later and get her money back.
Luckily the supplier supplied the 13th centrepiece at no additional charge sinking the bride’s plan.
Attempted lie about prop working order
A groom complained that bulbs had gone in one of the illuminated letters despite posting a photo on Facebook of himself and his bride with said letters fully working.
Referencing the Facebook photo, the specific clause concerning bulbs blowing in the contract and that the venue staff are trained by the supplier to replace bulbs soon quashed his argument.
A threat of legal action after an amicable withdrawal of custom
The supplier, a designer of bespoke wedding dresses, had just completed the bride’s pattern and fit process in the mock-up fabric after sending a transparent quote.
The bride decided to go for a more expensive fabric when accompanying the dress designer to the fabric supplier. The supplier told the bride that the cost of her dress would increase dramatically as a result. The bride told the supplier that the increase in cost did not matter.
When the time came to take payment in order to purchase dress fabrics, the bride asked for a breakdown of cost, which was immediately sent.
The supplier then received an email from the bride informing she no longer wished to work with the supplier and asked if any outstanding payment was owed. The supplier’s response detailed no further payment was required from the bride.
A month later, the supplier received a hostile email from the same bride demanding money back and the threat of legal action.
This deeply distressed the supplier. The bride stated the supplier misled her and if the money were not paid back by a certain date, a case would be filed against the supplier using consumer rights as the foundation.
Luckily a friend with a legal background corresponded and negotiated a much smaller amount. The bride also demanded her deposit back. The supplier, who was against the idea of returning the deposit, was advised to pay back some of the amounts as a token of goodwill.
As a result, the supplier felt extremely disappointed and left out of pocket which dented her confidence. The most painful part of this story is the bride didn’t even get married.
The supplier, using legal professionals, has now created a contract and displayed her terms and conditions clearly on her website.
Using a reasonable fault for unreasonable demands
The supplier provided a wedding car and wishing well post box for a bride. Unfortunately, the 33-year-old car developed an electrical fault on the journey. The bride was unaware and at no point affected by this.
The rear light clusters failed thus preventing rear indicators or brake lights. The supplier was unaware of this problem having tested the lights prior to leaving as part of their standard procedure.
The following morning after the wedding, the bride messaged the supplier demanding refunds for the car and for the post box. The bride stated her friend who was following the wedding car noticed the rear lights didn’t work. As a gesture of goodwill, the supplier gave a refund for the cost of the post box.
The bride then called the following day demanding a refund for the cost of the car. The supplier told the bride she received the car for a discounted price compared to those detailed on the website. The supplier also informed the bride an electrical failure can happen on any car and she was taken to the church and reception on time without incident.
The supplier concluded they had fulfilled their contract and the bride was not entitled to any further refund. They didn’t hear from her again.
Enquirers retaliating with negative reviews
A young man enquiring about hiring a vehicle for a prom contacted the client, a supplier of wedding cars. The supplier politely advised they were regrettably unable to assist due to their local authority license being limited to weddings. As a result, the young man left a negative review on yell.com, which affected the supplier’s average ratings.
Facebook groups encouraging hostility
We have received reports of certain Facebook groups being a hotbed for advice on how to get refunds from wedding suppliers. Some of our clients have reported groups run by brides, others have reported groups run by suppliers who then use the engagement as a springboard for their own services. As you can imagine, access to these groups is tightly controlled.
Aggressive wedding passengers and blackmail
The supplier provides wedding cars. After leaving on time, the supplier arrived late by less than 10 minutes to collect the bride due to unexpected traffic. During this period, the supplier’s head office tracked the vehicle and communicated with the wedding party several times.
The supplier then continued to get the bride and her entourage to the venue early. In fact, they were so early; they had to wait in the car before entering the venue.
During the photos, the photographer asked the couple to stand up through the sunroof. This resulted in the bride getting oil on her hand. Being a classic car, the sunroof requires lubricant to ensure smooth operation.
After the wedding day, there were ongoing email communications and threats of negative reviews online if demands for compensation were not met. The supplier sought legal advice, as they were convinced that they had delivered the service with due care and skill.
In the end, the time and costs involved with challenging the wedding party claim along with potential damage to reputation resulted in the supplier agreeing to a partial settlement.
The supplier has since tightened their terms and conditions, updated their complaints procedure and put it down to experience.
Looking at these experiences, what can you do to protect your wedding business?
Terms & conditions ARE CRUCIAL!
‘Well, that’s obvious!’ I hear you say. You would be surprised how many small businesses do not have a solid set of terms and conditions. Some don’t even have a set at all! As an insurer, we are not in a position to offer legal advice on this topic. Having said that, there are a few key helpful points we can detail.
- Map out the entire process for every service you offer. Flow charts are one way of doing this. You most likely know your business inside out, however, this will help you visualise everything in one comprehensive layout.
- List every eventuality for each process. What could go wrong? Are there any external factors that may influence particular parts of each process used to deliver your services? Naturally, the longer you’ve been in business, the likelihood of you experiencing various eventualities increases. So if you are new, it may be a good idea to network with other professionals. If possible, chat about what they have experienced and add it to your list.
- Using the above, you can start to group together your terms for every process. It’s important to use language that is easy to understand and user-friendly.
- Consult a suitable commercial legal professional. You will most likely require a solicitor to help ensure your terms are legally competent. Yes, this will cost, but think about how much it will cost your business if a hostile couple exploits a weakness that wasn’t identified.
Consider creating a complaints procedure. You may wish to display this at an appropriate point on your website. Displaying your procedures may give prospective couples more confidence knowing that your business has a clearly defined process of accountability.
Back up plans and spares
Chances are you already have back up plans in place and spare products just in case. As we have seen above, this has stopped hostile couples from potentially harming businesses. Having said that, it’s worth ensuring you are reviewing your plans and spares at appropriate intervals to ensure nothing is left to chance.
Dealing with defamatory reviews
Defamatory reviews are a big problem hitting many small businesses. We understand Google is the review system most commonly used by our clients. Google is also one of the most notoriously difficult companies to deal with when it comes to dealing with defamatory reviews, which may have been left in retaliation by hostile couples.
Thankfully, our friends over at UNIMETRICS have created a thorough article on what your options are when dealing with both fake and defamatory Google reviews and how to go about implementing each option.
Don’t despair! 99% of couples just want a great day. Chances are you’re going to encounter a few bad apples at some point. So long as you have watertight terms and conditions and a process for managing your reputation, you are already geared up to protect your business so you can keep on trading. If you have any stories you wish to share, leave your comment below.
I would also like to send a big thank you to all of our clients who shared their experiences with us.
Adam is the brand evangelist for the Wedding Insurance Group. He continuously researches how the wedding industry is changing by liaising with our clients. Connect with Adam via our social media channels where he publishes informative videos on a regular basis.