THE owner of a competitions website that has left couples up to €20k out of pocket has said that she kept running competitions – which ensured more couples lost money – as she felt she could ‘turn it around’.
In recent days, horror stories from couples who thought that they had won big in the “Win Our Wedding” competition – only to subsequently to be left looking forlornly for the money – have been outlined on RTE’s Liveline show and on Independent.ie
Elaine Whitney, company owner of winourwedding.ie, has now released a statement to the Irish Examiner in which she says she has had no option but close the company due to cashflow problems.
She insisted that she has not made any money from the competition.
The company, which is based in Dublin, ran competitions offering weddings worth €20,000.
Some couples and their families and friends spent hundreds or thousands of euro buying raffle tickets to enter the competitions. It was €1.25 for each vote – but Ms Whitney said that although some couples got over 20,000 votes, this did not mean €25,000 in income for the company as there were incentives such as five votes for €2.50.
The company owner claimed that the first competition took in just €17,000, and said she then got into a cycle of debt as she tried to continue to run competitions to make money to pay for the weddings.
“I’m a fool, I hold my hands up. I would never do anything to hurt anyone,” she told the Irish Examiner.
“There are two things I’m guilty of, one is not closing the company in 2016 and the other is letting couples down. I am absolutely heartbroken,” she said.
Cynthia Geelan and her fiancé, Michael Cruise entered the ‘Win our Wedding’ competition in the hopes of having their dream day paid for.
But with 19 weeks to go, Cynthia said she has been left asking “where is the money?” – despite winning the competition in June of last year.
The prize was €10,000 to be spent how they wish on their wedding. But over a year later, they have failed to receive anywhere close to the promised prize.
She told independent.ie she spoke to Ms Whitney at the time.
“I asked for money towards the hotel, but Elaine said she didn’t have it so I had to pay the €1,000 myself.”
Although Cynthia was eventually refunded the money, she claimed it was the only money she received from the competition.
“She kept giving me excuses, saying ‘I’m sorry I have no money,’ in every email it would be the same thing.
“She told me the weddings being held in September and August were a priority over mine.
“After my competition she ran another, each competition was paying off a previous wedding.”
Cynthia’s dream wedding soon turned into a nightmare when on July 21 she received an email saying that the company no longer had the funds to help with the wedding. The email, from Win Our Wedding read:
“Hi Cynthia and Michael,
“I wanted to email you to let you know that I have been forced to close Win Our Wedding with immediate effect.
“As you know the cash flow position in the company has been struggling for quite some time, despite my best efforts.
“ I have done everything possible to try to trade through the difficulties including investing my pension and other personal funds into the company along with not being paid any salary for a very long time.
“Because of very negative spamming of our social media pages which started in December last year by a couple who received their €20,000 wedding, the competitions started to fail and almost no revenue has come into the company since then.
“Our last two competitions had to be cancelled because the voting was so low.
“The level of negative feedback on our social media pages is damaging the brand hugely and it has now become impossible to continue.
“To date from my records you have received €1,250.
“I will check our records to see how much you and your supporters spent on votes and it is my hope, when I get back on my feet, to repay the balance of any voting revenue you and your supporters put into the competition.
“I sincerely apologise that this has happened, but there is no other option other than to close the company. “
Cynthia said the response was “absolutely shocking”.
“It’s outrageous. The business has shattered our dreams. It is supposed to be the best time of our lives, it’s heartbreaking.”
Cynthia asked Ms Whitney to come forward and address the people who have been affected by the competition.
“It’s time they stand up and apologise and stop hiding behind emails and Facebook messages.”
Over the last number of days a number of listeners contacted Liveline on RTE Radio One to say that they are waiting for funding for their weddings.
Peggy O’Callaghan, from Australia, and her fiancé Keith entered the competition in the hope of winning enough money for a wedding in Ireland.
Peggy told Joe Duffy that they planned to move to Ireland, and “winning was fantastic because we could afford to do that.”
But after the competition has failed to pay out, their dream of relocating to Ireland seems no longer possible.