Diane Luedtke’s Groupon for TSA PreCheck doesn’t work. Can she persuade the company to refund it?

Q: I purchased two Groupon vouchers for a TSA PreCheck application fee. I followed the directions on the voucher, entering one code to register at the TSA site. At the end of the registration process, the site asked me to bring a credit card, money order, or cashier’s check to the airport for payment.

That did not sound right to me. I scheduled my appointments at my local airport. My husband and I made the trip to the airport and completed the process for applying for TSA PreCheck. At the completion of mine, I handed in the voucher and after the gentleman entered into his computer, it came back as “already used.”

I was shocked. I gave him the second voucher and that worked successfully. But my husband had to complete the process and pay by credit card.

When I returned home, I contacted Groupon by phone and was basically told that all sales were final, even on a defective purchase. I sent an email and they offered a replacement code which I have no use for. Can you help me get my money back? — Diane Luedtke, Jim Thorpe, Pa.

A: You should have received a valid code for your TSA PreCheck. But when it didn’t work, Groupon should have refunded your purchase.

TSA PreCheck is a trusted traveler program that lets you get screened faster (shorter lines, no full-body scans). It costs $85 for a five-year membership, but I’ve always thought the government shouldn’t charge you for screening at the airport — something that should be included in the taxes tacked onto the cost of your ticket. But I digress.

Looking at the details of your case, I don’t think you could have done anything differently. It seems that there was a glitch in the system that prevented one of the two TSA PreCheck Groupons you purchased from working. You had no way of knowing that the Groupon wouldn’t work until you arrived for your interview at the airport. Then, you tried to reach someone at Groupon who could fix the issue in real-time. But that proved to be impossible. So you ended up paying full price for your husband’s TSA Precheck.

Groupon’s terms and conditions are pretty confusing, at least when it comes to nonworking vouchers.

It looks like you had two hours to cancel your purchase under Groupon’s terms, but what if the thing doesn’t work?

I don’t agree with Groupon’s contention that ‘all sales are final.’ Groupon had an obligation to send you a code that worked. When it didn’t, it should have made arrangements with the TSA to send you a working code or agreed to refund your purchase.

In your case, Groupon tried to issue a new coupon code for PreCheck after you had already paid the $85 application fee (and also after you had been approved for the program). Of course, no one needs two TSA Prechecks, so by then, it was too late. The offer from Groupon was useless.

You could have reached out to one of Groupon’s executive contacts. I list them on my consumer-advocacy site, Elliott.org.

I contacted Groupon on your behalf. It issued a refund, plus a $25 credit to make up for your inconvenience.

Christopher Elliott is the chief advocacy officer for Elliott Advocacy. Email him at chris@elliott.org or get help with any consumer problem by contacting him online at: elliott.org/help

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