We loved your article ["Cheat Local," WW, Aug. 17, 2011]. Journalism such as this pins the testicles back on the media; great job.
We too were casualties of the Groupon locust invasion. My restaurant, Wayne's Chicago Red Hots, sold about 1,200 Groupons near the same time period as Ethan and Tobias [of EaT: An Oyster Bar] (Ethan is actually a customer of Wayne's; we're just a few blocks apart), and we have the same horror story to tell.
Many of our "customers" arrived with dozens of Groupons and would flutter through a handful of them (some arrived with neatly organized manila folders containing countless Groupons) asking us, "So...what's the name of this restaurant?" pull out the one pertaining to us, spend not a penny more than the face value, ask for a water cup, the bathroom key, want the TV channels changed from our beloved Chicago Cubs game to HGTV or something lame, complain about the appearance of the neighborhood, ask us if they're safe, complain about the lack of parking, and then leave, never to return.
Frankly, most of our real customers are working kids that live in the same Northeast neighborhood where we're located, along with contractors, UPS drivers, cops from the precinct down the street, the outside sales guys having a working lunch with their laptops, the old guys that hobble in for a Polish and a beer, the grade-school boy who shows up every other day to buy a basket of fries ("make sure they're hot and crispy") for his grandma, etc. The Groupon invasion certainly ruined the atmosphere for them. I had no idea I would be putting these wonderful, valued, everyday customers on the line for this mass gaggle of Beaverton-Lake O, Lexus-driving, "retired at 40 and have an assload of money but love to get a deal ex-money managers" and soccer moms.
Ironically, today as my business partner was initially reading your column from the stack of WWs sitting outside our door before opening up, I was on a call from Aaron of Groupon. He was working me hard, wanting us to give them another shot with this "new and vastly improved" program. Apparently, it allows us to dictate the exact number of customers we want to have purchase the Groupons and the exact time we want them to redeem them. Once I hung up the phone, Jimmy (my biz partner) threw me a copy with your lead story and laughed, "Read this cover story, right now!"
You have motivated us beyond belief. You are right, Groupon's complete business plan is based simply on an email list. Well, we have that! Even though it's paltry, we still harbor over 1,300 of our very own customers who have signed on to our Constant Contact email list, and they receive weekly notices of our specials. But thanks to your article, we've decided to do exactly what they do, minus them. Yup, from now on, every Monday at Wayne's Chicago Red Hots, it's "Poop on Groupon Coupon Day." Ciao!
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