Unless you have been hanging out under a rock lately (no offense to those gutsy Chilean miners), you know that daily deal sites like Groupon and Living Social are incredibly popular right now.
For example, Groupon has sold nearly 14 million vouchers through their site since late 2008. It’s a strong model in a weak economy: Small business owners partner with these sites to offer deeply discounted deals on salon services, restaurant certificates, etc. The consumer gets a great deal. The business owner gains the opportunity to boost business by turning new customers into repeat business and word-of-mouth advertisers.
It’s a win-win situation for everyone.
Or is it?
Several weeks ago, The Oregonian featured an interesting article tackling this topic, Coupons Come With Downside: Consumer Bullies.
- A consumer bully is one who knowingly misuses a deal or coupon for their benefit.
- When dealing with consumer bullies, businesses are often stuck between a rock and a hard place. If they deny service, the disgruntled customer becomes a vocal opponent of the business. Whether it’s by word-of-mouth or some online forum, bad reviews hurt business. It’s often easier to give the pushy customer what they want.
- Many businesses are happy with the social buying model. It brings in new customers and new money. Many owners also attribute voucher misuse to first-time buyers.
- Companies split the Groupon amount 50/50. It’s the classic loss leader to get you in the door. Smaller businesses are taking a gamble on repeat business and consumers willing to spend more than the voucher.
A follow-up article also offered some interesting observations : Social Buying: Fun for Customers– Not Always a Blast for Businesses.
- According to researchers at Rice University, deals on social buying sites are more beneficial for consumers than business owners.
- In a survey of 150 businesses, they found 40% of businesses who partnered with a Groupon-style site would not do it again. This number is in contrast to the 95% satisfaction rate that Groupon advertises.
- “Because the Groupon customer base is made up of deal-seekers and bargain shoppers, they might not tip as well as an average customer or be willing to purchase beyond the deal,” Dholakia said. “So employees need to be prepared for this type of customer.”
Did you catch that? According to this professor, deal-seekers are lame tippers. [According to 100% of waiters, lame tippers are lame customers.]
Over the last several weeks, I have been thinking about how these articles apply to couponing in general. I love couponing and Grouponing, but I think there’s always room for improvement in the way I do both. I realize I am preaching to the choir here, as the vast majority of you in the FLNW community are quality couponers. I can just tell these things. However, for the sake of discussion, here are my two cents on the topic:
:: Many people equate being frugal with being cheap. I used to be one of them. One of the biggest hang-ups I had about couponing was that I did not want to be seen as stingy or miserly, haggling over $.75 on a box of cereal. I think the only way to change that kind of thinking is to save $.75 on a box of cereal so we can turn around and drop it in the Salvation Army bucket instead.
:: Cashiers and managers and waiters and stylists appreciate kind customers. Lately, I have realized that I am too busy shuffling coupons or bouncing babies or checking my receipt to really notice and appreciate these people. Think of the last time you ate at a restaurant. What was your server’s name? When you checked out of the grocery store yesterday, did you make eye contact with the teenage boy who bagged your groceries? I am trying to do better at this.
My husband is a great role model. Whether we are checking out at Fred Meyer or Home Depot, he always refers to the cashier by their first name : “Thank you, Carol.” I used to give him a hard time for doing this; it always felt a bit silly and too personal. I stopped when I realized the impact it had on the Carols out there. It always catches them off guard. They smile. They make eye contact. They are pleased to be noticed. Seriously, try it.
:: Poor behavior by one couponer impacts the transactions of everyone else. How many of you have handed a cashier a stack of coupons, only to have them respond with something like, “Oh, you’re one of those couponers…” Some cashiers have been burned by pushy couponers. If your coupon beeps, be gracious. If your transaction fails, be cool. If you are using a deal voucher, be honest. It will make life better for the next couponer.
:: Businesses should be seen as service providers, not opponents. Maybe it’s just me, but when I walk into a grocery store with my coupon envelope, I often feel this rush like I am entering a competition against the other team. If my coupon scenario fails, they win. If my transaction works, then I win.
How many times do we push the coupon envelope, trying to “beat” the company at their own game by ignoring the fine print or expiration dates or transaction limit? Saving money and being a good steward of our resources is a responsibility, not a right. Business owners don’t “owe it to us.” Their responsiblity is to run an honest, profitable, productive business. Our responsibility is to support those who are doing it right. If we can save money in the process, then that is just a sweet bonus.
Comments? Thoughts? Opinions?
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I am a waiter and have been for the last 18 years. If Everyone was as gracious and kind as the people who’s posts I’ve read on this site my life would be soo much better. Unfortunately the reality of the situation is when you pull out a groupon coupon and hand it to your server they are going to assume that they are going to at best get a horrible tip if any at all.
Even though three other Rite Aid stores are closer, I prefer to shop the one in South Salem because they actually stock what’s in the ad and the staff is always friendly, patient, and happy to accept a stack of coupons.
I happened to checkout with the store manager himself yesterday and told him, “Just so you know, I live over by Dallas, but I make a special trip to shop here because your employees are so great.” He seemed genuinely touched and agreed he has a pretty good team. I named a few of my favorites but reinforced that so far, everyone makes shopping there pleasant.
I used to manage customer complaints for a major corporation and know first-hand that most people only speak up when they’re unhappy. Since then, I’ve tried to compliment people who go out of their way to help — or just seem as if they’re having a bad day and could use a boost. It’s amazing what a little kindness can do.
Great post Emily! What a great reminder to have a good attitude about our shopping experiences. I have totally felt like I was “beating” the store when I get an awesome deal. Thanks for putting things back in perspective.
My husband works in sales and ALWAYS refers to people by name when we go shopping. People like to hear their name and it makes them feel good.
I’ve noticed that many restaurants we like that used to be on Restaurant.com are no longer participating. Others were a one time shot. I have heard from one that we frequent, coupon or not, that they lost money on the promotion. Marketing is always tough (and expensive) and the current economy makes it tougher.
We always tip on the full bill – many times it is equivalent to what the GC saved us – but we know that money is what a server lives on.
I read that article about the Groupon abuse and it made me so MAD. Blatant abuse is just wrong and I hate how the business is held to being the bad guy.
I coupon, I love a deal, but I also play by the rules.
Great points-I agree.
Kira G says
Thank you for the article! There are not so nice people out there and I try to make myself a “nice coupon lady” and also try to frequent the stores that are nice, and the cashiers that are polite. I am making it a point this year of donating more of the items that my family wont use, our elementary school is doing gift baskets and I made it VERY clear that I want to donate all my freebies that aren’t going to be used to help these families. I try my best to live my life by the golden rule and treat others the way I want to be treated, this was just a reminder to me to stay on track and appreciate the small things. Thank you again!
I appreciate your comments. As someone long committed to the frugal life it is all about choices – how we treat one another, how we spend our time and money. Being nice costs nothing and makes my day better – smiles and happy attitudes work both ways!! Thanks for the uplifting article.
This a great post! As awesome as getting a good deal feels, making someone else’s day feels even better! =)
Nicole P says
I used to be a waitress. I’m usually a great tipper. If I have a gift card and the server is AWESOME, I have no problems paying the entire meal price as a tip. People did that when I worked at restaurants and I feel they deserve it for all the work that they do. It’s hard living on minimum wage and the way they tax tips!
I’ve made friends with the people at Rite Aid. Barb, Mr. Bill, and Sue are some of my favorite people. If I don’t see them once week, I feel like I’m missing something in my life! I’ve had so many rude cashiers over the years that I’m so happy when I find a nice one, I want to thank them and appreciate them! Tempted to buy them something for Christmas!
Kira G says
My brother in law is a manager at IHOP, and he always comps our meals (my hubby hates it) so in return we always tips our waitress about what we would have paid. We made one wonderful gal cry after she chased us down to let us know our meal was compd and we left to much. My hubby turned to her and said “no that is your tip, thank you for being a good server”. I was a waitress along time ago when my hubby was a cook so we understand that their money is made on tips, her tears were more than thanks enough for a along time.
I find that I try harder to be gracious and cheerful to the employees of a store when I have a wad of coupons to hand them later. I feel like my courtesy is only fair and they often return the favor, scanning coupons “just to see if it goes through” or (like last time at Rite Aid) gracing me that extra $0.02 on my $24.98 bill so I could use my $5/$25 coupon (she just scanned it with a smile while I was looking for a pack of gum to put me over the top).
Something I want to improve on is making sure to frequent the “good coupon stores” for other items, even if there is a slight markup over places like WinCo. I still save money in the long run (oh, how Rite Aid has saved my diaper bill!), I often save myself another stop, and it keeps those stores in the black, enabling them to run more deals.
I agree-I buy my milk at Safeway because I get so many free and great deals there & bought my son’s cookies for his school birthday treat there also-for the same reason. It also makes sense to save yourself a trip and the time/gas money, but I feel the good stores deserve it also.
I work at a Rite Aid and I have to tell you that it is very nice when people call me by my name. I have one lady that always greets me with ‘Hi Anna how are you today?” and always ends with “thank you Anna”. I look forward to seeing this woman and helping her out anyway I can. On the other hand I have been referred to as “checker girl” or “you there”…not so nice and I’m not really in the mood to help them.
michelle waite says
My husband and I went out to lunch using a Restaurant.com voucher and I was telling him about that article in the Oregonian. I feel bad for those businesses that get hurt or have problems from using Groupon.
One quick question, when we use Restaurant.com we pay an 18% gratuity, this is our tip that goes to the waiter or waitress? I just want to clarify that it is not going to the restaurant.
It should be going to your server. If it’s not, the restaurant is being sneaky to you and stinky to it’s employees.