Cake fans unworried by prepaid coupon alert

PUBLISHED : Monday, 09 November, 1998, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 09 November, 1998, 12:00am

Cake fans have been snapping up piles of coupons, undeterred by Consumer Council warnings and the failure of other prepaid schemes.

Three major bakery chain stores launched discounted coupon promotions at the beginning of this month, offering 12 per cent to 26 per cent off for purchases of a minimum 10 coupons.

The coupons were originally priced between $43 and $96, each to be exchanged for a dozen cakes.

Counter staff at Maxim's, St Honore cake shop and Arome bakery said sales were brisk, with Maxim's selling several times more cake coupons than usual.

All the stores ignored a voluntary guideline issued by the Consumer Council in mid-October, urging them to print a reminder on coupons that consumers risked losing money should the firms close.

Maxim's, which has branches in every MTR station, promises customers its coupons are good 'forever', while Arome bakery does not state a period for redemption.

St Honore coupons are valid until June 2003.

Leung Chin-fai, marketing and sales manager of Maxim's, said the company would 'follow the regulations when they come about as laws'.

'At present, we are studying the voluntary measures and we make guarantees to customers as long as we are in operation.' He said consumer confidence had not dwindled since the closure of Maria's cake shop in April, 'in fact, our coupon sales have surpassed our past performances'.

The sudden closure of Maria left thousands of customers with useless coupons once worth $3.5 million.

Group managing director of St Honore, Carrina Wong Man-li, said her immediate reaction after receiving the council's guidelines was 'bafflement'.

She said the requirement to secure a third party to ensure obligations were met was unnecessary because the listed company was in healthy financial state with open accounts for audit screening.

Arome bakery was not available for comment.

In the first nine months of this year, the consumer watchdog received 2,668 complaints concerning coupons, against three in the same period last year.