When Groupon Promotes a Really Bad Deal

Groupon Gives a Full Refund When they Sponsor a Bad Deal
Groupon Gives a Full Refund When they Sponsor a Bad Deal

When I look at a Groupon deal I assume that the deal-making company has been vetted by Groupon.  I expect that Groupon has made sure that the company is real and is sufficiently big to handle the traffic that the deal will bring them.

As a consumer I took comfort in believing that Groupon knew its deal makers were quality companies.  After all, Groupon was standing in front of a company, and their reputation was at stake.

I have bought 10’s of Groupons and have had no problems.   I felt that any Groupon I bought would lead me to a quality company whose products and service I could safely sample at a reduced cost.

I have learned better. Buyer beware!

Bin32 is a Napa wine seller who offered a Groupon for $198 of wine for only $54.  Great!

Except that in February when I went online, selected my wines, and went to check-out, the Groupon did not cover the full amount of the charge.  In addition to shipping, which was an acceptable extra, in my opinion, there $4.54 was not covered.  I gave the site my credit card to get the order placed, and decided to complain to Groupon separately.  Groupon emailed me back after a day or so that Bin 32 reported that they charged the extra amount for ” … for all taxes and processing fees.” Of course, $4.54 is not a tax amount or anything that maths out.  It was just Bin 32 trying to get more money.  After I complained again, Groupon gave me a $10 credit for my inconvenience.  I was more than made whole, so I was happy.

Except the wine never arrived. After about a month I checked the Bin 32 site and saw that my order status was “Processing”.  I sent Bin 32 email inquiries (I could not find a phone number on their web site) in March and then again in April.  Nothing.

When I checked a couple days ago — we’re now in May — my order on the Bin 32 site was listed as “Complete” and there was a note that the order had shipped by UPS.  Except, of course, I hadn’t received any wine.

I contacted Groupon yesterday, and today I received a full credit for what I paid Groupon.  I am still out about $13 that was charged to my AMX, but after the earlier $10 Groupon credit, I am only really in the hole for $3 and change.

$3 is a pretty cheap cost for a consumer education.  Here’s what I’ve learned:

  • First the positive.  Groupon has been responsive and wonderful.
  • But, Groupon doesn’t do a flawless job of researching its dealers.  Bin 32  has 78 ratings on Yelp. All of them are 1-star.  Some of the Yelpers complain that in addition to not delivering the goods, BIN32 kept charging their debit and credit cards for orders not placed.

Yelp’s deals include links to the business’ ratings page on their site.  That’s handy.  In the future, I am going to be more careful when buying a Groupon and do some research before clicking “Buy”.

Don’t Send Me This If You Want to Keep Me as a Customer!

My Shopper App's Automated Reponse to Automated acknowledgements can reassure clients that their message has been received and will be responded to when you’re back in the office.

Other automated messages, like the one above, convey disinterest and unhelpfulness.  Getting no response is better than getting a message like this.

Worse, this email was the only answer to my support request when I checked my mail the next day.  When I saw the message in my inbox I expected that it was going to be the actual answer to my problem.

Folks, don’t tell me that you’ll get back to me “at a later date”.  Geeze!  The next day after never is a “later date”.  If you have to, tell me something concrete yet far away like “within 10 working days”.  Or better yet, hire enough people to quickly respond to your clients (adding staff actually can increase your profits because like Costco and others you get more business;  read the research).

Moreover, telling me that I am one of many questions waiting around for an answer is not reassuring.  It doesn’t speak well about the quality of  your software, nor does it make me feel like a individual, valued customer!

I responded to this automated message with something like a “Huh? What does this mean?”  Miraculously enough, the reply-to address worked, and after an hour or so I received a real answer to my original question. They told me to do something on my iPhone that I don’t know how to do, but it least their real response gives me something to work on when I have the time.  I have no idea how long I would have waited for even this information if I hadn’t responded to the automated message.

This company fell victim to a common problem.  They saw an available technology (auto-response email messages) and used it.  They should have remembered this Ozdachism:  Just because a technology exists, it doesn’t mean you should use it!

Your Low-Risk Web Developer

A potential client spoke to me last week about the different problems he’d had with various web designers.  Of course I wanted to reassure him that I was not like them.

Some of how I am different is listed on my web site under my biography and web design philosophy, but I realized that I didn’t state the standards I work to.  Basically, there wasn’t any promise that would reassure the prospect that I wasn’t like all the rest who had treated web design and Search Engine Optimization like inconvenient tasks they had to do for money between creative graphic gigs.

I am serious about serving clients and want to let them know what to expect. I want them to know they’re not going to be surprised.  Here’s a list of commitments and expectations I have for my work.

Does this list cover enough fears? Let me know what changes or additions you think would help clients know that I’m the low-risk choice for web design and Internet promotion!

Commitments to My Clients

Communications. I will respond to phone calls and emails within one business day.  The exception to this schedule will be announced vacation times when I am away from the Internet.  These off-the-grid vacations have occurred on the average of less than two weeks per year since Ozdachs Consulting started operating nine years ago.

Cost estimates. I will provide you with a cost estimate for clearly-defined jobs and will not overrun that estimate by more than 5%.  If the costs appear to be greater than initially estimated, I will advise you as soon as I see the potential for growth.  When the scope of work has changed we will agree either on a revised estimate or a mitigation plan to control the costs.

Schedule. I will provide a schedule for the work before you engage me.

Ownership.  You will own the text and graphics you provide for the website.  You will own the text and graphics I create for you, including photographs I take and edit for you.  If I use third-party stock photos or other tools, we both are subject  to the licensing agreements of the third parties;  I will not select any tools which require on-going payment for their use without getting your approval. The components of the web site design coding  such as style sheets and scripts will be owned by me or whoever I licensed them from. You will have a perpetual right to use these components on your web site without additional compensation.

On-going Support. I will be available to maintain or enhance your web site for the foreseeable future.  I enjoy updating sites. My professional plans are to continue to develop Ozdachs Consulting, and I am not seeking other employment.

References. I will provide contact information of past or current Ozdachs clients on request.  I will also give you links to their sites so you can ask detailed questions about my work.

Say "We Made a Mistake"

My frustration started early Monday morning when I retrieved voicemail left at 6 am-ish from  Dell from whom I had ordered a workstation.  The voicemail was a timely response to my weekend email inquiry asking about the status of my computer order.

On May 12th I originally ordered a workstation and an hour or so later decided I wanted to have Office Professional preloaded on to it.  I had called my sales rep, and he said that there was no problem. He’d cancel the original order and add the $300-some-odd dollar software to a new order configuration.  He said that I would receive an acknowledgment and that there would be no delay in my receiving the computer.

Over last weekend I flashed on the fact that I had not yet received the promised email acknowledgment.  I wrote the sales rep so he could check on Monday, and promptly received an out-of-office message saying the rep was on vacation.  The response gave me another email address to write, and I forwarded on my concern to that new email address.

Which brings us to Monday morning’s voicemail and follow-on calls.  The short story is the obvious one:  the sales rep had left for vacation without entering the updated order into the system.  No computer was en route to me, nor was one being built.

This was annoying enough, but the mistake was very understandable and very human.  I would been content if the vacation cover representative apologized and moved the new order up in the production queue.  Eventually, that’s what happened.

Unfortunately, the covering rep’s first response was to tell me that since I had changed the order I was responsible for the configuration not being built.  Didn’t I know that they don’t store credit card numbers and that I should have given my credit card number to the original rep again after I added the software?

Actually, I did NOT know that I needed to retell the credit card number.  In fact, I would have been happy to recite the card numbers again while I was on the phone with Rep #1, if he had but asked.

I then was told that Rep #2 wasn’t part of the original conversation so he couldn’t tell what happened.  But, since I hadn’t given my credit card number last Wednesday when I should have, all Rep #2 could do was to place the order now.

Snarling ensued.

A simple, understandable error had transformed into a finger-pointing shouting match.  Worse, from my business perspective, I see no upside to Rep #2’s reluctance to say, “We made a mistake.”  I couldn’t sue for malpractice.  At worst, I would find another computer vendor, and that possibility was much likelier because of Monday”s phone conversation than it would have been because of the original error.

In fact, doctors who can get sued for malpractice, are discovering that admitting mistakes reduces both malpractice costs and patient anger.  And, admitting the obvious mistake this morning would have made our conversation shorter and more pleasant.

The customer is, of course, not always right. But, before arguing with a customer, at the very least you should make a cost-benefit calculation.  What would saying the problem was your fault cost you?  What would it gain?

A house guest who had heard Monday morning’s phone conversation told me afterwords about a call he’d taken for his drug and alcohol testing business last week.  A client of complained about a missed delivery, and my friend and his client briefly discussed the chronology of the episode.  My house guest said he told his customer, “It sounds like we screwed up.  I’m sorry.”

Instead of invective, the put-out client started laughing.  She said that the was the first time in years that someone straight out said that they had made a mistake. She would tell everyone how honest and responsive my friend’s company was.

Not all confession stories will have a happy ending.  Not all mistakes are fixed with a simple mea culpa.  But, admitting your mistake might be the most honest — and most profitable — first step to take.

Dell, are you listening?