Outraged customers of Christmas savings programme Hampsta are being declined at supermarket checkouts while buying their Christmas groceries.
Hampsta allows customers - for a $39 fee - to lock away and save money throughout the year. In December, this money becomes available to be spent through a Hampsta card, but only at the 24 approved retailers.
Hampsta dropped Countdown from its list of approved retailers in October, and replaced it with start-up Supermarket Online, which offers only dried goods.
Since credit was unlocked for Christmas spending this month, both Hampsta and Supermarket Online have been bombarded with Facebook complaints about the switch.
Some customers have said they were unaware of the change until they were declined at Countdown while trying to pay for their big loads of Christmas groceries using their Hampsta cards.
Others who had made the switch to Supermarket Online complained about slow delivery, high prices and missing items.
Some of them are opting out of the scheme, using their Hampsta credit to buy Visa Prezzy cards, which can be used anywhere.
Paula Ngata, of Wainuiomata, joined Hampsta after Countdown came on board two years ago, and saved $4000 for Christmas spending this year.
She was doing an early Christmas shop at Countdown about two weeks ago, only to be told at the checkout that her Hampsta card would not be accepted. "It has just blown everything out," she said.
She was told about the new online shop but not the decision to drop Countdown.
Ms Ngata had since bought a hamper through Supermarket Online but said it was costly and had too many cans. "They just need to bring Countdown back."
She had already converted $1500 worth of her credit into Prezzy cards and intended to switch more over.
Hampsta general manager Gary Alway said yesterday that only a handful of the company's thousands of customers had complained about the switch.
"We have been in touch with them, and 99 per cent of the time they walk away happy."
Countdown had been part of the scheme for about two years and most people used Hampsta for gifts rather than groceries. When Countdown was dropped, all customers were emailed, he said.
"We would have loved to have kept the supermarket, but we couldn't reach business terms."
Mr Alway said he didn't mind if people spent their Hampsta credit on Prezzy cards, but it was up to retailers to decide whether to accept them. "If you want to give little Johnny a $400 Noel Leeming voucher, that is fine."
Supermarket Online was set up only weeks before it signed up to Hampsta, and co-owner Kevin D'Ambros-Smith said there had been a big surge in customers.
He acknowledged there had been delays in getting Christmas groceries to some customers. "Some of it was just sheer demand."
- The Dominion Post
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