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A Deal Too Good To Be True
By: Caitlin Quarles
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When a close friend of mine received an email from Groupon about a discounted photo booth in her area in April, she was ecstatic. Her wedding is in November, and hot damn, those things are expensive. Groupon was “selling” the photo-booth rental for roughly 66% off of the original cost, ensuring my friend savings and guaranteeing friendly, fun services for her wedding.

I think you know where this is going.

Last week, she attempted to contact the company regarding a question about their services. The email kicked back an automated “To Whom It May Concern” message letting her know that they were unable to contact anyone due to unfortunate circumstances, so she tried calling them (disconnected), looking at their Facebook (“Content Not Found”), and visiting their website (completely gone, taken right back to the Google main screen). Digging a little deeper, she found a thread on a wedding website that had a copy of an email from the photo-booth company dated in June that cited they were unable to honor any of their vouchers, but promised to be in contact with them. Considering they’d never reached out to her in the first place, it didn't look too promising for her.

So what went wrong? This certainly wouldn’t be the first article about “daily deal” websites actually harming the company they’re trying to attract business to. Whether the business owner or the website is at fault is largely debated, but most can agree that for a small business, the cons usually outweigh the pros. I personally have used various deal websites for personal services (haircuts, massages, etc) that I would have never been able to afford otherwise (although I did always tip on the original cost of the service — once a server, always a server!). And yes, it does give great exposure to restaurants and eateries that may be lost in the shuffle of a bustling metropolis. But is the cost of attracting a lot of customers at once worth the price of sacrificing the customers you already have (in the sense that a different clientele may come in, or the business will simply be too crowded and overwhelmed to service all of the clients)? Is it fair for these sites to attempt to claim at least 50% of the cost of the voucher, if not more? Could your company handle the physical and financial toll the “deal” may take on?

Apparently, this small photo-booth company could not. Fortunately, Groupon has a policy set into place that ensures the purchaser will be refunded their money if the company goes out of business, but she is still out the $99 she paid through PayPal directly to the company for an extra service that they recommended. She told me that although they did get the money back to her within five full business days of the date she requested the refund, the Groupon representative told her that he knew what he was doing, as they “process thousands of these things a day.”

Yikes.

Have you or anyone you know personally been affected by a daily deal voucher site? If you are a business owner, would you consider putting your company on one of these sites?


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About the Author
Caitlin Quarles is the founder and owner of CEQ Consulting, a freelance editorial company based in Pennsylvania. Traveling, cheese, and dogs make her happy. Find her online here.
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