January 25, 2013, 11:28 AM

JustDeals.com bounces back from robberies

The daily-deals site makes up for lost items by offering customers refunds and discounts.

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At 6:30 a.m. one morning, flash-sales e-retailer JustDeals.com received a phone call: a truck had backed up to its warehouse and, within two minutes, thieves stole about 1,000 cameras, says vice president Richard Chemel. With more than 500 orders to fill for models included in the stolen bunch, the retailer scrambled to contact its camera vendors and the customers awaiting shipment, he says.

JustDeals.com sent the customers an e-mail explaining what happened and offered them a full refund, along with an alternative camera model it was able to supply immediately from some cooperative vendors, Chemel says. The cost of the refunds and replacement cameras totaled at least $10,000, he says—but JustDeals didn’t lose many customers. Key to its success, including revenue growth of more than 50% in the year and a half since the incident, is maintaining the utmost level of service in all situations, he says.

The warehouse thief was never caught. The retailer noticed that some of the stolen cameras, identified by their serial numbers, were later listed on eBay Inc.’s marketplace, Chemel says. JustDeals.com tipped off the police, but he isn’t sure what happened thereafter. “It’s something we put behind us,” he says. “We’re resilient.”

While criminals haven’t again broken into the  warehouse—the retailer strengthened locks and added inside cages around items after the robbery, Chemel says—a couple of times robbers have intercepted suppliers’ trucks on the way to the warehouse and taken all the inventory on board, if not the truck itself, he says.

“The vendors and trucking companies carry insurance,” he says, “But the protection doesn’t always suit when the deal is running and you’re expecting it the next day.”

In those cases, as with the warehouse break-in, JustDeals.com sends customers a full refund and an offer to replace the item with something similar, Chemel says. Sometimes it also offers additional deals, like a coupon to Restaurants.com, he says. While Chemel has only anecdotal evidence about customer satisfaction with the offers, he says about half of JustDeals.com’s visitors each day come directly to the web site rather than via Internet searches or through links from such sources as social media sites or e-mail, indicating that they chose to return.

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