Tuesday

Can You Trust Groupon?

Until recently, I adored Groupon so much that I had a big, flashy, Groupon banner on this blog. I even blogged for them, and I had a wonderful editor who they were insane to let go of, but I became disenchanted with the company after I noticed some changes in the way they treat customers and others. These changes happened so fast that I began to wonder if there was any truth to the rumours that the company is in trouble.

They recently halved the amount they were paying bloggers, without warning, which doesn't smell like a company surfing the never-ending wave of success, but should recent revelations about their financial performance be ringing bells for others looking to make a name in the same space, or is it a wobble in an otherwise unwobbly bike ride to good fortune?

Groupon's View of Customers

My experience? I won't bore you with every detail, because some will only apply to writers, bloggers, or affiliates (email me if you fall into those categories and I'll fill you in) and also my aim here isn't to be a whining and disgruntled type, but rather to save you from going through what I'm currently enduring, and to get some feedback from other customers of the company to work out whether my experiences are isolated or the symptom of a bigger problem. If the former, I'll reinstate banners and keep recommending the company for non-urgent purchases. If the latter, I can't in good conscience continue to recommend them to you. Your trust is paramount.

Other issues aside, here are my experiences as a customer in the last couple of months:
  1. An item was delivered with a European plug on it rather than a UK one. No adapter supplied with order. Item delivered after 28 days.
  2. Numerous other items were all delivered late. Some after 28 days.
  3. An item I ordered on 26th June still hasn't arrived. It hasn't even left the warehouse. No refund has been provided. I am just in a constant cycle of being pointed to emails and phone numbers with no resolution in sight.
  4. I have received rude and patronising treatment by customer service and other departments.
Now, clearly, after waiting for nearly two months for an item that has yet to leave a warehouse, I may have lost my cool on the phone - not to the point of dropping the f bomb or anything but there may have been a 'do you have any idea who I think I am?' rant when I ran out of other options. Never a power move. I don't recommend it. That aside, I've given them every opportunity to fix this, and I've given them multiple warnings that they were leaving me with no option but to warn others of their lack of professionalism and customer service. I did actually get one decent customer service person on the phone once - which gave me hope - but I think she may have been whisked out of there on the back of the nayan cat to pastures new because my experiences since then have been dire. 

I'm right in the middle of this, so it's difficult for me to be objective but I'm going to try.
  •  I have found some great deals on Groupon, and for that reason I would still consider recommending it to people on a budget. Being the largest player in the niche, it probably gets some of the best deals. If you're buying for yourself, you don't mind waiting, and you can handle being patronised by customer service, go for it. 
  • If you're relying on Groupon to provide your wedding day, give it some serious thought first. I promoted such a deal when I was still hopeful about Groupon resolving my issues, but I wouldn't do so again, unless completely convinced they've turned things around. Anything where speed of delivery and reliability are absolutely crucial look to be a gamble at the moment. Maybe my experiences aren't typical (feel free to tell me so in the comments) but I'd urge caution if you're buying presents, etc so you don't let people down if Groupon lets you down.
  • Keep an eye on Groupon's competitors. There are plenty of hyper-local sites popping up that may offer better customer service and local knowledge. Compare what's on offer and go with the company that treats you with the most respect. Promote companies that care enough to earn your trust.
Here's how I would have handled the situation (and I'm only giving edited highlights of the problems I've had with the company in recent weeks):
  1. I would have treated the customer with respect. The customer may not always be right, but when you're clearly in breach of contract (and at over 28 days, you're also in breach of statutory rights so the customer is 100% right. No question) hand over a cash refund, whether they paid in cash, by card, or with special mcnopoly money and plead for forgiveness, or say 'goodbye' to any the shiny paintwork on your brand.
  2. It's nice to be important, but it's more important to be nice. If you've screwed up as a company and inconvenienced your customers, don't patronise them. Don't try to make them think it's their fault that you failed. Don't make them phone foreign countries and do your work for you. Educate everyone in your business that the customers are worth more than the money they spend. We all have networks online. We tell our friends about your brand. If you value your brand, value the people who are talking about it. 
  3. I would have apologised, and meant it. How hard is it to say the following words? 
  • I've looked at your case and seen the mistakes we've made in recent weeks. We've messed up here and we want to make it right. I've spoken to [person who can make it right] and they are [doing thing to make it right] so that [thing will happen to make it right]. If it hasn't happened by [date when things will be right] phone me directly on [number] and I will make absolutely sure that it is made right. In the mean time [something to sweeten the wait]. Please accept our apologies again. I've cc'd [person who makes things right in a more general way] and she's going to take steps to make sure this doesn't happen to anyone else again. 
A final point. Google+ is constructed of purest win, and the team behind it do care about their customers. Google attempted to buy Groupon once. Groupon turned them down. Google's now opening their own version. It's in beta now if you're a business looking for this kind of service. Personally, given my experience with both companies, I'd recommend going to Google first. They treat people with respect, and I trust them.

I hope that my experiences are isolated, and maybe the result of some staff changes they've had recently, but I'd welcome your feedback. Do you trust Groupon?

EDIT: By the end of the day following this post, of the two outstanding items, one arrived and the other was refunded in Groupon vouchers. I was also called by the head of customer services and given £25 of 'good will' groupons. Where does that leave me? I have to remain a customer of the company despite their poor treatment of me. Having said that, it gives me the opportunity to monitor how they change. If I receive no further bad treatment from them, this is just a blip. If so, I'll feel confident about recommending them, and will put up the banner again. If, however, they mess me around again, I'll let you know. 


One of the assurances I sought from them was that they would look at the broader context. We are in a very difficult economy at the moment and many of their customers are buying from them because they can't afford to buy the products at the normal price. If they order a birthday present or wedding present and it doesn't arrive, that's a huge kick in the teeth. When your market is people without huge amounts of disposable income, in a recession, it's important to treat them with respect. You never know when someone's on the edge. Hopefully they've listened and this will help to nudge them towards a better approach towards their customers. I'll keep you posted.

7 comments:

  1. Indeed they take your money - you dont get your goods, customer service says just wait - 6 weeks isn;t long enough - consumer direct here we come - (Groupon already under investigation)

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  2. Hi,
    I placed order in month of October from groupon and yet not received the item. Only once i was able to reach them on phone. After that, the phone is always busy. I also e-mailed them, but there has been no response at all. Can anyone guide me what to do next

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  3. I am new to Groupon shopping (http://www.groupon.co.za), but I found that the supposedly 'discounted' offers that some companies have on is just a way to deceive the public. They claim to offer 50% discounted prices, but when I check the relevant company’s original prices, it is false advertisement - the user buying the group deal might save R1 ( a far cry from 50% discount) and sometimes the prices are exactly the same as the 'original' prices. I won’t use Groupon anymore, because I believe it is just a backdoor for false advertisement which is obviously not monitored by Groupon for validity of these 'offers'. Be warned Groupon users, check the company’s original prices before being lured into this marketing sham.

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  4. I have recently bought some vouchers from groupon but a bad experience I am having with them now means I will never visit their site again. I am trying to get a refund for a voucher for a salon but my account says the voucher has been redeemed already when I haven't even been there yet. Groupon has asked me to get an email with confirmation from the salon saying that I have not used the voucher. The salon says it will not do this unless groupon gets in touch with them directly. Groupon says it will not do that, so I am left between the two parties with a lack of distrust for both. I do think it is between groupon and the salon to sort out their accounts as i do not work for them. This has been going on for a week now without either side budging!It's been time consuming for me without any sign of me getting my refund, so I'm not sure what i paid for...

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  5. They do not stand by their offers. If the supplier does not supply, then the customer is the loser, not Groupon. I was given a voucher for 4 people, value $328, by my daughter for a resaurant which closed because of a flood. I couldn't redeem the voucher because the phone was disconnected and a later drive-by showed they were gone. I rang in March right through to the expiry date of 5/4/12 (Thursday before Good Friday). On last day, I rang Groupon who were supposed to ring back but they didn't. I sent an email, no response; sent a second email and got a reply saying my daughter, as the account holder, should contact them. My daughter followed through, and they asked her for a copy of my first email, which I supplied. It was dated Easter Monday, after the expiry date, but this was because they did not respond to my phone call which was within the expiry date. Groupon finally agreed to refund only $119 to my daughter because it had expired. Never again!

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  6. Ordered something as well from Groupon on July 31 and it still haven't arrived yet. What the heck? Their customer support told me that there was no way to check on it, since it didn't have a tracking number yet. Well, duh. I could have told them that.

    Great article, it's good to know that somewhere out there other people who are experiencing the same problems with them.

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  7. Have had the same issue. Ordered the item on Dec 26. Its now Jan 26 with no item. Groupon however has refunded me everything because of the order passing the 2 1/2 week mark. I do however have a complaint as to why they "have no information as to the items whereabouts". I feel if they're selling an item for a business, then that said business should give them answers as to which Groupon passes onto us. The whole "we're not sure" answer doesn't hold well with me personally.

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I appreciate your comments. :)