After waiting for more than a year, a customer of online baby clothing brand Wiegenkind finally received her order.
But only after a flurry of WhatsApp messages and voice notes, some with threats and nasty words from its proprietor.
The customer – and many like her – wishes to remain anonymous for fear of retribution by the store’s owner. She is one of 431 unhappy customers who belong to a Facebook group called Tired of Wiegenkind.
There is a WhatsApp group, too, with 235 frustrated customers. At the centre of it all is Wiegenkind proprietor Karli Malherbe of Pretoria.
Wiegenkind’s Facebook page, launched in August 2018, shows comments to the page have been disabled and, at the time of writing, its website had also been shut down, albeit temporarily.
Natalie Jardim decided to take up the cause after friends were seemingly duped and says: “I almost ordered on Wiegenkind… I got cold feet, but decided to investigate the matter and discovered the Tired of Wiegenkind online community.
“I was shocked. And to join the Facebook group, you must produce proof of purchase from Malherbe. This told me that there are hundreds of people that may have been duped.”
Malherbe, who is also, allegedly, known as Karli Chinner, denied the accusations and says the Tired of Wiegenkind Group members “are yet to be confirmed customers. I am being declined access to these groups and the available content [that is visible] is limited as I am not a member”.
She adds: “In my attempt to reach out, my comments were deleted. The groups are only encouraging the negativity…”
Malherbe did reach out to unhappy customers and hundreds of voice notes flying across messaging platforms confirms this. In one message, she tells an unhappy mom that “people like you will be dealt with. Your insults to my business on a public forum are already with my attorneys … I am not afraid of you”.
In another voice note on WhatsApp, she claims to have processed 310 000 orders and, on another, she admits she is presently processing 7 000 orders.
A quick calculation leads The Citizen to conclude it must be oneof the most successful e-commerce sites in the country, with an average of 8 000 orders daily (based on its Facebook launch date and claimed sales).
Takealot reportedly processes an average of 35 000 orders daily and is the highest-performing site in South Africa. Malherbe has allegedly blamed personal challenges for non-fulfilment of orders.
“Earlier this year she said she had cancer and before that, that her daughter was in hospital,” says Jardim.
Some moms have shared receipt of recent deliveries but, says Jardim, “what’s the point if a child has already outgrown its size, or a special gifting occasion has come and gone?”
To date, says Jardim, nobody has received a refund, with Malherbe offering to pay one customer off over five months. “It is a ridiculous situation”.
Jardim did a snap survey and calculated R99 000 to R140 000 worth of unfulfilled orders.
Malherbe told The Citizen: “Wiegenkind is unfortunately not premised on an ‘in-stock’ model and we have been relying on more than 60 suppliers to provide us with all the products on time.”
She declined to name them. In her written response, she did commit to resolving all outstanding orders. It seems she is following through, albeit at snail’s pace, with about five orders filled over the past week and a half.
“I am merely asking for the time to do so. I am not a scam, I have many happy customers, too,” she said.