Category Archives: Groupon

Group Moan?

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Consider this. You buy a Groupon worth $60 for $30 for ‘Hot Crab’ Malay restaurant. Lets assume you go to the extent of grinding through their menu online to confirm that the ‘Satays’ and ‘Kueh Teow Thon’ are reasonably priced. But remember, Groupon parts with only a currency, and there is no guarantee on how much the currency is worth when you exercise your Groupon. The prices on the menu could be very different and you could end up getting lesser value.

Scan through the ‘Yelps’ and the ‘Zagats’ of the world. It is not unusual to come across stories of how close to impossible it is to get an appointment/reservation if you are Groupon laden.

A good example is this cleaning company with the capacity to clean 6 houses a day ending up selling 1008 Groupons! At that rate if I were the last guy to be considered, I would be serviced after 6 months! For all you know I needed a clean house this weekend. Make no mistake, small and medium businesses often find the response overwhelming.

The instances of treating Groupon customers differently is also on the rise. As Groupon negotiates hard with small businesses, margins are wafer thin. Very often establishments deny prime time/real estate to this ‘cattle class’. Disgruntled, despondent Groupon holders who feel like second class citizens are being more emphatic on the social media.

To make matters worse, the promise on the site ‘If you ever feel like Groupon let you down, give us a call and we’ll return your purchase – simple as that.’ Is nowhere close to being straight forward. Groupon does not refund – it credits, which means you are possibly forced to use the currency for something that you hadn’t thought of purchasing even in your wildest dreams.

Don’t get me wrong, consumers find real deals, which is why Groupon clocks $3.5 Million on an average every 3 days (That’s slightly lesser than eBay’s yearly revenue when it went in for an IPO!). But like most technological phenomena, this too has incidental flaws that needs to be corrected.

And now here is a story for Valentines day:

Sam and I were driving back home in his car, and Sam was visibly petrified. His expression was a combination of how you would look like when you are mugged and then when the mugger asks you stay fixed to avoid ‘consequences’ (When he says consequences, you are pretty sure he does not mean a treat at Taco Bell!). I could see Sam’s sweaty hands slipping on the wheel, which is when I thought I should possibly converse to lighten the…well situation.

Me: “So what if you bought a Groupon to the upscale Vietnamese restaurant instead of the reservation you were asked to make at the therapeutic spa? You know..Valentine’s day is not about where you are, its about who you are!” (Authoritatively, with an intense look, animatedly)

Believe me, I have no clue what I meant when I said that last line, but I really couldn’t think of a smarter line.

Sam, was panicking about his wife’s response to his Groupon vs. what she wanted. He had forgotten to grab the deal while it lasted and was left with this Vietnamese thing.

Hoping to see some possible signs of ‘recovery’ I continued:
Me: “Romantic couples massages are passé…but international cuisine is in vogue, trust ME!”

Ha! Trust me? Wish I said that with more conviction! Sam was silent, but his visage was speaking loud.

We drove into his garage and Anne walked out to greet.

After the usual (In this case short lived) niceties through which Sam managed to stay alive.

Anne: “Arun, so Sam and I have booked an appointment for a couples massage at this spa, we are really looking forward to it.”

I smiled innocently and pretended to be elated for Anne and her ‘soon-to-be- slaughtered’ husband.
Sam: “Actually honey……”

I wished I wasn’t sitting bang in between them, you know just so that possible projectiles don’t become the reasons for me being physically challenged for life.
Sam stuttered: “You know I found this fantastic deal on Groupon, $40 worth of Vietnamese gourmet, only for $20.” “Why don’t we do that instead of the …you know…kinda overpriced massage? “

I wanted to give Sam a massage seeing the stress he was undergoing.
Anne: “Did you forget to buy the Groupon yesterday dear?” “Can I have a word with you inside”

Anne walked into the bedroom, following her like a child was Sam.
I was hoping that Sam came out of the irreconcilable ‘Groupon’ war alive.
The incidental implications of some otherwise incredibly innovative ideas sometimes cant be fathomed. Groupon is no exception.

As for Sam, he paid a full price for a therapeutic massage and ended the Valentine’s day with a Vietnamese ‘Groupon’ dinner! Win Win?

Written by Arun Varma

Follow me on Twitter: @varmaarun
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Arun is a digital marketing professional who previously worked with Google in India and is currently an MBA student at HULT International Business School in Cambridge. He also is a business quiz enthusiast and has hosted and conceptualized several of them.


Groupon Responds to Super Bowl Ad Complaints

[tweetmeme source=”equalman” only_single=false Groupon CEO Andrew Mason responded to the backlash on Twitter and Facebook about Groupon’s  “Tibet” Super Bowl ad via the Groupon Blog:

We take the causes we highlighted extremely seriously – that’s why we created this campaign in partnership with many hallmark community organizations, for whom we’re raising money at

Groupon’s roots are in social activism – we actually began as cause-based website called The Point, and we continue to use Groupon to support local causes with our G-Team initiative. In our two short years as a business, we’ve already raised millions of dollars for national charities like Donors Choose and Kiva.

As Mason points out, Groupon’s  roots are cause-based, The Point, and is designed to help small and local businesses have a platform to compete against corporations.

Mason further goes on to state that the ads were designed to poke fun at Groupon, not make fun of the people of Tibet.

Christopher Guest was the director of this spot and he is best known for the spoofs “This is Spinal Tap,” “Best in Show,” and “Waiting for Guffman.”

The creators of the ads,  Crispin Porter + Bogusk, are known for making waves. The Miami & Colorado based agency was also behind the Whopper Sacrifice campaign for Burger King that gave away, ironically enough, a coupon to people that would “defriend” ten people on Facebook.  Facebook removed the campaign in 2009.  The controversy surrounding this campaign resulted in 32 million free media impressions.

The question remains, is all PR good PR?  Will the controversy around this Tibet ad actually drive Groupon’s stated desire: to raise awareness around these causes in the hopes of increasing donations to them?

Greenpeace supports Groupon:

The commercial was part of a Groupon campaign called “Save the Money.” Greenpeace is happily participating in the campaign. The truth is that the “Save the Money” campaign and the commercial are really helping us save the whales.

Here’s how it works: Groupon is collecting donations from individuals to help Greenpeace save the whales. People can purchase a $15 Groupon to save the whales and when they do, Groupon matches that by giving the person $15 in Groupon credit. It’s a great campaign and it’s really going to help us in our work.

This is in reference to another Groupon Ad with Cuba Gooding Jr. around saving the whales (below):

Groupon plans to edit the commercials to call-out ways in which people can donate money to

Only time will tell if it appeases people like @rohitbhargaya who posted “Groupon seems to have achieved the unique feat of paying $3M to lose customers who previously loved them.”

A viewer named Vinod posted on the Groupon blog in response to Mason’s explaination:

I know what you were trying to convey, but you had 2 problems.

  1. The ad wasn’t very funny to being with. If it made people laugh you wouldn’t see all of the negative feedback. It simply lacked the humor necessary to trivialize a topic like Tibet.
  2. The ad didn’t explain your intentions enough.

Another reader named Mary posted:  “I thought they were great.”

Mason’s quick response is a step in the right direction (something more companies should do) and if more money is raised as a result of this controversy than perhaps things will end positively for everyone.

By Erik Qualman