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Most read: Complaints made to Commerce Commission after Celebration Box's sweet startup gig turns sour online

This story was first published on Thursday September 13.

An image posted on Instagram by Iyia Liu, left, and a screenshot of Celebration Box products, pictured right.
An image posted on Instagram by Iyia Liu, left, and a screenshot of Celebration Box products, pictured right. Source: Iyia Liu/Instagram/Screenshots

Complaints have been made to the Commerce Commission about Auckland company Celebration Box after numerous customers said their orders were lost, late, or not as described - and that they were blocked after making complaints online.

Celebration Box, co-owned by Iyia Liu and Briar Howard, sells customised boxes of confectionery and desserts which are delivered to customers on a certain date, with prices ranging from $39.95 up to $139.95 for a box.

The company is facing an online backlash after a surge in orders over the Father's Day period left them apparently struggling to meet demand.

Screenshots of a complaint made about the quality of a Celebration Box.
Screenshots of a complaint made about the quality of a Celebration Box. Source: Supplied

Jade Schutte posted about Celebration Box on Facebook on Friday, collating complaints from people who said they had a negative experience with the company.

"So many of my friends are out of pocket, they can block as many people as they like, hide all their reviews and delete all the comments thinking that it will cover this all up but I’ll make sure the word gets out," Ms Schutte wrote.

She told 1 NEWS that many of her friends had been affected, and that after she posted about Celebration Box, others came forward to share similar stories.

"I then realised the extent of how many people had actually been ripped off and blocked and it really upset me ... like, these people paid with their hard-earned money, and most of these boxes were gifts for other people," Ms Schutte said.

"To then be blocked when complaining about their orders not showing up or receiving no refund - it just didn't sit right with me."

In complaints seen by 1 NEWS, customers said their Celebration Box arrived late and completely missed the occasion they were purchased for - especially around Father's Day.

A handful of the complaints made online about Celebration Box.
A handful of the complaints made online about Celebration Box. Source: Screenshots/Supplied

Some people said they were blocked by Celebration Box after complaining, and comments made by the company seen by 1 NEWS suggest they have blocked people for "writing rude irrelevant posts".

Other complaints revolved around the quality of the product itself, with some saying the food was in poor condition or that their box was not as described when it arrived.

A Commerce Commission spokesperson confirmed an undisclosed number of complaints have been received about the company and declined to make further comment.

CO-OWNER PLEADS FOR EMPATHY - WHILE SUNBATHING IN BALI

In an Instagram post made on Tuesday from Bali's exclusive OMNIA beach bar, Ms Liu responded to some of the criticism, saying "people don't realise the complexities of a rapidly scaling start up business.

A post made by Iyia Liu on her Instagram page responding to complaints about her Celebration Box business.
A post made by Iyia Liu on her Instagram page responding to complaints about her Celebration Box business. Source: Screenshot/1 NEWS composite

"In the past six weeks we have had to scramble to find staff, we've run out of space to operate meaning we had to find a warehouse, we kept running out of supplies of EVERYTHING and we would call around Auckland or NZ trying to find them but often we had bought all the stock they had, meaning we had to substitute," she wrote.

"On our busy days we had to shift our entire team to dispatch, meaning other parts of the business weren't able to operate ... our entire team being new also meant everyone is still training and learning processes.

"It's been so easy for so many people to criticise without being able to stand in our shoes or have empathy."

Ms Liu has been behind a string of brands in recent years, selling products marketed heavily through social media, including Waist Trainer, Luxe Fitness and Bambi Boutique.

Iyia Liu has sold two businesses for millions, but says she learnt the most from a business that failed. Source: Seven Sharp

In 2016, she paid Kylie Jenner almost NZ$300,000 to post a picture of herself wearing a Waist Trainer, leading to a surge of revenue and profit, and she has since sold Luxe Fitness and Waist Trainer for millions, she told Seven Sharp earlier this year.

She is in the process of having a house built near Auckland, and recently purchased a V8 2012 Mercedes-Benz G-class SUV.

"We've only had the best intentions, we have tried to right every wrong and are still trying to," Ms Liu wrote on Instagram.

"Give our little team who is still learning some time to fix every problem, because we're all still learning and all trying to do our best.

"Of course we wanted it to be perfect but the business grew so quickly, which is the point of this post," Ms Liu wrote.

"It's not an excuse, it's an explanation and reason, we have refunded anyone who has emailed in who is unhappy."

'WE ARE SINCERELY SORRY'

Co-owner Briar Howard told 1 NEWS that they "acknowledge that not all our customers have had the experience they were expecting", and said they are looking at ways to limit the number of orders they receive to manageable levels.

Ms Howard said orders over the Father's Day period were 35 per cent higher than in a typical week, and admitted that "some orders were not to our standard which is something we regrettably consider could have been avoided.

"Father's Day was a big learning experience for us ... we had an unprecedented amount of orders, but we worked extremely hard and quickly hired staff to ensure we could meet the demand."

Ms Howard confirmed Celebration Box had hidden or deleted negative comments made on their social media accounts.

"In the initial stages of the negative feedback, a couple of comments were deleted from the page as we had spoken directly to the people involved and it had reached spam levels on our pages ... we acknowledge this was done in error, and we no longer delete or hide any comments," Ms Howard said.

Only users who were deemed to be abusive were blocked, she said, as "a number of the comments we were receiving were personal attacks directed towards us and our staff members – including a number of death threats which were reported to the police".

Ms Howard said they had made the decision to disable the review feature on their Facebook page due to negative feedback.

"We do think customers should be able to share their positive ratings with us on Facebook, however, it was our preference to deactivate this as there is no control within Facebook over illegitimate reviews.

"We do believe only customers should be able to review their experience with us, however, we will keep this decision open for regular review by our team," Ms Howard said.

"We have remedied the issues of those who have contacted us directly following our standard process ... refunds or replacements are our means of fixing issues and we have taken extra consideration for customers during the Father’s Day period as we acknowledge we made mistakes.

"We have apologised on our Instagram stories – upon reflection, this possibly wasn't the best platform as it isn't permanent.

"We are sincerely sorry to all customers who haven't had the experience they expected with us, and we accept full responsibility for this.

"The only other thing we'd like to say is, we have had a huge number of happy customers however we want to make sure all our customers are happy customers."