Online 'ultra' money savers wreck charity bake plans by exploiting 'free bread for a year' offer
Some try SELLING 80p-off charity coupons on eBay
14:34 GMT, 28 March 2012
One of Britain’s biggest charities was today trying to salvage a key fundraising event after a money-saving coupon used to promote it was hijacked by 'ultra' online money savers.
The Wright's offer on the hotukdeals website was swiftly removed when the company complained
In a sign of the desperate measures some cash-strapped Britons will now stoop, thousands exploited the vouchers, meant for fundraisers, that gave 80p off bread and cake mixes, discounting it to 5p or less.
Some even tried to sell the vouchers on the online classified website eBay.
The Multiple Sclerosis Society's annual Cake Break was last night forced to withdraw the offer.
money-off coupon from Wright's Baker, sponsors of the event due to be
held on 4 May, had been included in packs sent out to nearly 2,000
people who had offered to raised money.
it had started to appear on hundreds of websites as a way for people to
get free Wright's bread mixes priced in supermarkets at 75p – 85p for
the rest of the year.
The charity is today beginning to inform its fundraisers that the voucher was invalid.
‘We regret to say that the 80p
designed to assist this charity has had so much fraudulent abuse that we
have had to contact our coupon company Valassis and cancel this
facility in its entirety,’ said Debbie Gaffney, author of the company’s
blog Deb the Bread.
A spokesman for the MS Society added:
‘The majority of packs have been requested already and no more will be
sent out before we’ve decided how to make it clear the voucher is void.’
Free bread: A member of MSE's forum posts a pictures showing off their 'free' loaf
Coupon specialist beforeishop had included the charity's voucher on its website – an 80p off Wright's Bread or Cake Mix. It omitted to say the voucher was for a fundraiser.
Asked how it obtained the voucher, Dave Shuttle of Coupons.com which publishes the Beforeishop website, said it had copied the voucher from the forums of the giant consumer website moneysavingexpert.com, where users had been posting pictures off the free bread they had baked.
Moneysavingexpert still had the links live today under a thread title 'Ultra Couponers' and and members said they were still able to use the vouchers today in Tesco. The supermarket has not responded to our requests to explain why.
Over five thousand web users had clicked through before it was taken off beforeishop, following a request by Wright's.
But by then it had spread to other freebie websites and some people were even trying to sell them on eBay.
Yesterday, Wright's was chasing
dozens of websites and 11 eBayers, asking them to remove the charity's
voucher. Research by This is Money showed many sites still advertising
the voucher as a money-off coupon for discount shopping.
year's Cake Break is the third year the charity has run the fund
raising event as an appetising way to raise money for people affected by
Debbie Gaffney: 'The experience has told me half the country is broke.'
'Sign up and receive a free Cake
Break pack containing all the information you'll need to organize an
amazing event,' says the charity. ‘It's as simple as inviting your
friends, family and neighbours, providing them with plenty of cake and
then watching the donations box fill up.’
The event is popular with those whose families have been affected by MS, a crippling illness that affects the nervous system. Many fundraisers sign up for the Cake Break year after year.
Andrew Craven, aged nine, from Coulby
Newham in Middlesbrough, Yorkshire, whose father has MS, has held Cake
Breaks before and so far raised 281.35. He found it such
fun, the charity says, that he is now trying to to organise more Cake Breaks with his
Claire Noble, another Cake Break supporter, said: ‘My sister has MS and Cake Break is my way of feeling close to her.
Raising money: The MS Society Cake Break will still go ahead
‘We have supported the MS Society for many years. We sell cakes in the court offices to staff and members of the public who visit on the day.’
A member of hotukdeals, a consumer website whose members exploit glitches, viewed the vouchers differently, saying: ‘Wright's bread or cake mix 85p (5p with voucher) Tesco & Sainsburuy's’ on hotukdeals.’
A ‘0.05 go to deal’ link took members to Tesco's website to buy.
The website, owned by a Canadian-born software developer Paul Nikkel, makes money when retailers pay to put links to offers on the site. But most of the deal, like this one, are posted by site users and generate no revenue,
The anonymous hotukdeals' member posting under the name ‘stuttgard’ with an image of the Grim Reaper included a link to the MS Society's website for a PDF copy of the charity's information pack with the voucher for ‘unlimited prints’ and the voucher's expiry date of 31 December 2012.
‘I am tempted to go and get 20 of the b****** for a quid before they cotton on,’ wrote hotukdeals' member ‘hollymia’.
Sour taste: Organisers from the MS Society are hoping Cake Break's bake event will still raise as much
A link was added by member ‘Nicojo’ for ‘4 vouchers on 1 A4 page’. He said: ‘I can hardly believe this. I regularly buy Wright's Mixed Grain Bread Mix (500g) in Tesco for 85p and make 2 loaves from it. Now only 5p for the rest of the year – fantastic.’
Hotukdeals' member shutsy2033 posted ‘Just got 5 different bread mixes for 13p. Ace! Shall print a load more off tomorrow and relieve Sainsburys of their stock.’
The site was quick to shut down the offer yesterday. A spokesman said: 'As soon as the site’s moderators picked up on it, the stream
on the deal was marked spam and immediately withdrawn and can no longer be
found on the site.'
Upset: David Wright
David Wright, the owner of independent flour miller's Wright's Baker and great, great grandson of George Wright who founded the company in 1867, was said to be deeply shocked and upset.
Wright's is London’s last miller and runs a small business in an industry dominated by huge milling companies. It has prospered by producing high quality, specialist flours and by becoming involved in local flour. It is Enfield’s oldest business as the mill dates back to the Doomsday Book and has been on its site since 1067.
The company’s Debbie Gaffney said: ‘This is the third year we have sponsored the MS Society Cake Break, due on 4 May, to raise funds for MS. David, this year, very generously has devoted an 80p off any Wright's Cake or Bread mix to the MS Society for cake break which appears as a printed coupon in their information packs and on their website. This has cruelly been pilfered from the site.’
Ms Gaffney said eBayers she had contacted reselling vouchers had agreed to take their listings down but one claimed their listing was a printing service.
‘I offer a printing service for the vouchers as the selling price only just covers the cost of ink, paper, envelope and postage. I have many customers who find it difficult to hold scissors for example who have found my service useful,’ the eBay seller told Ms Gaffney.
‘The experience has told me half the country is broke,’ she added.
Clare Moore-Bridger, head of corporate communications for eBay UK, said: ‘Generally vouchers are allowed to be sold on eBay. It'd be nice if the seller listed charity vouchers as charity listings (our buyers and sellers donate millions from charity listings each year) but we can't enforce that.’
Nicola Tallett, director of fundraising at the MS Society, said: ‘The money off voucher was created by our partner, Wright’s Flour Mill, as an incentive to encourage people to take part in our annual fundraising event Cake Break, raising money to support people with multiple sclerosis.
'Wright’s support is very valuable to us and we’re really pleased to be working with them. However, due to massive demand, Wright’s have asked us to remove the offer from our website.’
The MS Society will push ahead with the event. Full details are at www.mssociety.org.uk/ms-events/2012/05/cake-break (minus Wright's' 80p money off voucher).
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