Tasty, Tasty Worms

I want to write a post about Groupon.


I know many of my colleagues, including several of my most respected peers in the industry, have had some experience with Groupon from a merchant's point of view and many of them are now trying to get word out about those experiences.


Most of those words are not fit for polite company.


So I made a promise to myself to put off the understanding light-curing technology obsession that seems to have consumed the greater part of my brain lately, and sit down and do some research about Groupon.


Because, frankly, from the first time I ever heard about the company and the way doing business with them as a merchant works, it seemed a no-brainer that this was a marketing opportunity that required careful mathematical consideration before making any agreements.


But I'm a tiny business. I hobnob with other tiny businesses. Many of the people from my industry who are coming forward to share their miserable, disillussioned, and devastating experiences with Groupon are real people whom I really know and whom I respect as fellow professionals; it's kinda hard to take a hard-line, "Well you're an idiot for not doing the math" approach to someone you consider a friend... not to mention doing it while reeling in absolute shock that some of these people are people I would never have suspected would agree to this type of promotion without having first considered the math.


It kinda makes it hard to take a side. And leaves me desperately wanting to believe that this giant corporate monster of a company must be playing dirty with the small businessperson.


Surely, these sales reps from Groupon are not just hard-sell, high-pressure salespeople who camp outside your door until you give in, but they must also lie, scheme, and lure you into a deal under false pretenses. They have to be telling you one thing and then changing the terms of your agreement in the fine print, right? I mean, if they tell you you can cap your sales at 100, why would they sell 6 billion and then hold you responsible for honoring them all? Right?


And now I am caught in between my peeps — fellow tiny tiny business owners (owners of tiny businesses, not business owners of personal diminutive stature) who are suffering from the choice to try a new form of advertising — and article upon article about this company and its various clones telling tales of similar woes from damaged businesses that still leave me shaking my head thinking, "OK, so you don't know what the terms “loss leader” or “yield management” mean, but how are you running a business without knowing what those things are?"


And I am left holding a very big, Costco-sized and clearly labeled can of worms in one hand, and a very sharp can opener in the other, trying to decide how I will ever manage to write enough posts to cover all the thoughts this subject is bringing to mind.


Fortunately, we're all safe for the time being. I happen to be left-handed, so it'll take me a while to find a left-handed can opener before I can open this can up.


Editor’s note: For more on the subject, check out NAILS’ article, “Should You Be a Groupon Groupie?”

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