(emphasis added)

I’m not sure if you are still doing the series on daily deals on TechCrunch.com but I figured some of my experiences as of late.

This is from the perspective of pure user experience, and I have not tried to promote my business on Groupon either. I think you are mostly interested in the business owner side of things, but I figure that I, and maybe others will join in as well, to give you some material for a story.

I also want to clarify that I do not want to bash any of the local businesses here, but facts are facts, and in some cases it is not good practice by the owners. I am not sure whose fault it really is, so I’m not going to try and point fingers, but rather elaborate in the next few paragraphs on my experiences with local businesses, which offered discounts on Groupon.

My first negative encounter with a business that was featured on Groupon was a beer festival here in Houston. They completely overbooked the event, and even though free entrance and a t-shirt were offered, neither was “available” at my arrivaldue to the huge amount of admissions to the event. [ related news story: Houston Beer Fest Outsells Its Venue by 8,000 Tickets; Attendees Furious ] I would consider this somewhat of a success for the business, but bad for the customer who had to pay “full price” for the Groupon but got nothing in return. It was rather disappointing to get such a bad treatment, considering I had to drive over 90 minutes round trip. Luckily a few days later, Groupon stepped up and refunded the purchase price in full, to sooth the unhappy customers, I guess. After all I managed to get out of this deal with not too many expenses on my end. Bad experience No. 1 😦

The second experience was the fault of the manager of a local Quiznos restaurant, for not providing the proper training to his/her employees. Upon arrival with my groupon on my Groupon app, I was told that I can not redeem the Groupon just yet, because the manager didn’t program this into the register yet. Considering that I waited a few days after the deal close, to go redeem my Groupon, I was quiet surprised by this answer. A few days later I left to travel, and was not able to return to the business before I again returned from my travels 5 weeks later. Upon going to the restaurant again, the employee first said that I need to have a physical printout to redeem anything at their locale. I insisted though that a printout is not necessary, since I have all the necessary information on my device, and she can write down all the information in order to redeem my Groupon. After a rather lengthy discussion, she took my information and compared it to a list that she had hidden under the counter. This makes me question, why I was given false information about the Groupon in the first place, and then why I needed to have a discussion in order to get my “price”… I ended up with the punchcard, but wasn’t too happy with the customer experience in general.

My third, rather unpleasant encounter with a business, featured on Groupon, wasn’t really an interaction with the business itself, but rather with an email from Groupon, stating the the business had gone out of business and hence will not be able to offer the Groupon after all. This email arrived rather quickly after I had purchased the Groupon, but I don’t remember the exact timeline anymore. Groupon gave me a full refund, but considering I dished out $99 in the first place, I decided to place my orders rather on the safe side in the future. This decision has changed in the meantime as well (but I will come back to that later).

My latest experience, which happened today wasn’t terrible, considering I got pretty good food, but I am not so sure about the rules that were set. I rather explain: I had a groupon for a local bar & restaurant, and I printed out the coupon out by accident today, and hence I brought it along with me. It was a restaurant where you had to order at the cash register and then someone would bring the food to your table. Sounds okay, nothing bad about the system here. But at the cash register it also had a sign saying that any online coupons, need to be in print (according to Groupon it can be in print or display in one of their various apps) and a gratuity of 18% will be automatically added. It did not mention any of this in the rules, and I understand that tipping is supposed to happen either way, and not on the discounted price, but rather on the original cost of food. Generally I would say that im a rather generous tipper, usually never under 18% and most of the time between 20% and 25%. In locations, where I have to go to the counter to order the food and wait until someone brings it to my table, I usually dont give more than 5 to 10 %. I understand that this business did this “drastic” move to require the gratuity to protect themselves, but it did not state any of this in the rules on Groupon at all. The link to the Groupon can be found at this link: http://www.groupon.com/houston/deals/beaucoup-bar-and-grill

I am rather upset about this kind of practice. Yes I have read in your stories about people who do not tip, or only tip on the discounted price, and I dont think that is fair to the waiter. But simply bringing out food, does not constitue 18% in my opinion. The question now is who is at fault: Groupon for not specifying stricter rules for the customer, that a business can set itself, or the business for making up their own rules, and not being “controlled” by Groupon once the deal has run. I do not plan to contact Groupon regarding this matter, since I was more than satisfied with the food at this restaurant, but I do not condone this kind of forcing of tips.

In total I already redeemed 10 groupons and 2 of those were for a concert/movie, hence not really applicable in the sense of being local businesses. The other 8 experiences were rather positive and I was not treated differently even though I mentioned that I have a groupon right at the beginning. This might look terrible now, since the paragraphs about the “bad” experiences are so long and the good experiences only get a very short paragraph, but if im happy about something, I’ll just enjoy it and recommend it to my friends.

I still have about another 15 groupons left, but have not purchased any groupons in the past 4 weeks, and do not intend to further do business with Groupon. Even though I find it a fantastic idea, the terms for the local businesses are most of the time so bad, that I do not want to hurt them. After all, where am I going to get food/other services, if everything in a radius of 5 miles is out of business??? (Yes, i know that im exaggerating)

Again, I don’t know who exactly to blame, but considering I did the initial business with Groupon, it is my belief, that they should “take care of me” as well. Reading from your previous stories, it might be a problem of the local business not expecting as much publicity and then trying to protect itself but creating these different “barriers” for customers with Groupns.

Anyways, I hope this will help you create future content for your stories, and if you do have some more questions, please feel free to ask me anytime.

Best regards,
Toby Berster