The Art of the Deal isn’t Words, It’s Numbers

Groupon received the 60 Minutes treatment last night. The report was a primer on what Groupon is and an explanation on what it does, meant for a national television audience who may not know anything about the Internet except that it runs on computers. It mentions the biggest issues that Groupon is facing, such as the caustic relationship it has cultivated with retailers, its troubled IPO, its even more troubled balance sheet, and the challenge of emerging competitors.

As someone who has bought several of these “daily deals,” and more than a few offered by Groupon, I can say that I have been reluctant to buy a Groupon deal simply because their deals are not very good. When I first used the service in 2010, Groupon regularly offered deals that were 50% off at places that I would like to go. In a one-month period, for example, no fewer than four restaurants in my nook of Long Island City offered excellent 50%-off deals. But in the last year or so, the deals have been less impressive. The deals are at places that I wouldn’t want to go, in neighborhoods I never travel to, and the discounts aren’t very good. The problem seems even worse when for their Groupon Now deals.

In the morning, when the deluge of “daily deal” emails arrive, I don’t pay much attention to the Groupon offers. It’s not because I have anything against them per se, but it’s really the deal that is going to make me take action. The same goes for Gilt City, Travelzoo, Living Social, and Thrillist.

However, Groupon has insisted that one of the things that sets it apart from its competitors is the “Groupon Voice,” the punchy blurb included with each deal. I’ve considered these little else than poor attempts at humor, filled with a lot of impenetrable references. Take for example today’s featured New York deal at the Village Pourhouse:

Microbrews are lauded for their craftsmanship and distinguished by the tiny medals draped from their every molecule. Sample the finest of particles with today’s Groupon to Village Pourhouse

Where’s the humor?

The joke is supposed to link beer with chemistry. I get it, but I don’t see how it’s funny. Is it because medals are bigger than molecules? Is it, because since it would presumably take a lot of molecules to make a glass of beer, that there would be medals everywhere? These blurbs would be better if they explained how a friend and I can taste good beer, not just yellow, American-style corn swill, for cheap. And that they wash down all kinds of savory snacks.

60 Minutes devoted a ninety-second web extra clip to the “Groupon Voice,” without posing any skepticism. Instead, we just let Editor-in-Chief Aaron With insist that the “distinct, unusual, unique” voice is a competitive advantage for the company. This was the same subject in a May 2010 New York Times article about how Groupon’s “funny” words set it apart from its competitors. When I read this article, it was the first time I had thought about those blurbs because I deliberately ignore them. No one I know ever mentions those blurbs, and I doubt that any in my peer groups reads them or looks forward to reading them in the daily email.

Nope! We just all want a good deal.

Leave a Comment