As I write this, Tushar Patel is waiting for his money back from Red Electronic Cigarettes. He has had customers coming back to his shop, Heathfield General Stores in Crawley, West Sussex, for all the wrong reasons. The product just wasn’t delivering the kick that quitting-to-ex-smokers expect.
“A rep came calling and initially I bought a couple of boxes,” says Tushar.
Following his original outlay of £160, he bought two more boxes. But then customers started coming back. After he had made eight refunds he decided to stop selling the product.
He contacted me after he had spent months trying to get redress. “Since August 2012 we have been trying to get the rep back as customers were not at all happy with their product,” says Tushar.
His wife went to Trading Standards at the beginning of February and was told she would need to put it in writing before they would take action.
At the same time, I rang the company and left a detailed message. I got no reply, but the Patels quickly got a phone call from the rep, saying he had been out of the country for two months and would visit in mid-February. That date came and went and no visit. I called the company again, leaving another message on February 22 and the following day the rep did visit and at first offered a credit note.
“But I persuaded him to give me a refund,” says Tushar. “He opened a pack himself and saw that the nicotine filter didn’t go red or produce any vapour. So he has taken the product back.”
E-cigs are a trend that no retailer can ignore, so as the couple await the actual arrival of the refund, they are planning to stock E-Lites, which they will buy from Booker. It is always difficult to put the supply chain into reverse, but a tad easier when you have a depot that you frequently visit.