Groupon Guilt

I used a Living Social coupon tonight at a champagne bar and felt dirty afterwards. Living Social is one of the throngs of Groupon-like competitors in the market right now and functions the same way– even if Groupon is still the most ubiquitous name. I paid $25 and got $50 worth of champagne. Sounds pretty great, right?

Except I felt like I was a leper actually using it.

The same thing happened a month ago when I used a massage coupon. The masseuse sighed when I gave him the coupon, groaning that they only had 200 left to be redeemed. Out of 600. The spa had a $50 for $100 worth of service fee.

I think there are likely a few issues afoot, albeit none of them are my (or the consumer’s fault). The main issue is that Groupon/Living Social salesmen reach out to the store owner, of course. And that owner decides that the deal is good for business. But, that knowledge may or may not get passed down to the servers. And, it may not be clear to the consumer that they still need to tip based on the non-discount price.

And, even if they do tip the full price, the establishment has already been paid for their goods whether or not the customer actually uses them. In fact, it’s better for the business when the customer totally forgets about the coupon. Certainly, between serving a Groupon customer vs a normal customer, it’s a better choice to serve the full-paying customer.  The same concept applies to Restaurant Week.

Strategically, I understand the above, but . . . it still leaves me feeling like I somehow shortchanged the waitress.  That she spilled a drink on my boyfriend and comped one of our 4 drinks actually only made it worse. We both felt horrible — guilty even.  We both kind of wished they hadn’t comped him at all, and we just paid a bit more beyond our coupon for the drinks.  Heck, we almost wish we hadn’t gotten the Living Social Deal…which I’m fairly certain is not the desired effect that business wants.

So. How to make it better? First, business owners need to educate their staff on their business goals and how the deal helps them. Does it bring new customers to the store enhancing the likelihood of future business? Does it get rid of excess stock? No matter the reason, the staff needs to be on board. Maybe the owners need to pay a bit more to compensate the staff for the deal users’ first visit.

There really are quite a few ways to handle this issue — but me itching to leave the establishment isn’t it.

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