UPDATE: Groupon’s complaints have increased dramatically over 2012. Numerous websites have published articles on this:
Groupon’s page on HelloPeter
VentureBurn / MemeBurn:
Court action in the UK:
Groupon in court in SA:
Groupon apologises on ITWeb:
A parody reply from UbuntuDeal ran as well:
When online websites have customers, especially paying consumers, a division or department to handle any complaints is essential. Since group buying involves numerous purchases daily on every deal, it is very important to make sure that customer service works just as well as the daily deal website does.
Complaints in the group buying industry in South Africa are currently rife (August 2011) and continue (July 2012) SEE UPDATE LINKS ABOVE, mainly due to the most visited site: Groupon. One would imagine this is purely due to their sheer amount of buyers, but the other websites have very few public complaints. A quick look at the group buying complaints on HelloPeter and Twitter reveal the situation. (Please note that this is still only a survey.)
Since complaints are generally difficult to voice online, and HelloPeter is the main source or such actions, the statistics shown (dated October 2011) are taken as a strongly correct representation of the customer service of Groupon. What is more, many blog posts online carry comments from actual companies who have done deals with Groupon.
It must be added, however, that if a business makes a mistake, can one really hold the group buying company liable for that error? Some people say yes, that the restaurant, for example, should be vetted before running a deal for them. But even good businesses sometimes give bad service, and it is difficult to see how this is the group buying site’s fault. So some of these complaints above may not actually be for Groupon.
Further complaints on Twitter from numerous unhappy customers give more evidence to Groupon’s poor service (see left).
Twitter is often used to complain, since companies have accounts that are publicly viewed and followed and a complaint will not go unnoticed. The person in charge of that account on behalf of the company (often not employed by the company itself), will quickly be able to respond to the complaint. This works wonders and also (not always) keeps people’s complaints tempered, since they are in the public domain.
With South Africa’s now large and growing presence on Twitter, have a look at any group buying website’s account and do a search on their profile name. This will bring up all kinds of information and help you to assess their ability to handle complaints, and educate you in terms of whether to use their services or subscribe to them.
Groupon’s complaint streak continued when a Mr JB Botha took Groupon (then MyCityDeal) to court and won in 2011. The complaint revolved around Groupon’s false “refer a friend” advertisement on its website. Similar court cases have been reported online in other countries, including a UK ASA Adjudication on MyCityDeal Ltd.
Groupon has also fallen prey to many complaints regarding their “valuation” of deals. Often a deal is placed on their site at 50% off, for example a reduction from R3,000 to R1,500 (see image), whereas the value of the deal is actually only R2,000. In doing so, Groupon tricks customers into buying something which is seemingly a bargain. In the image to the right, a customer complains that the deal was a trick and that he in fact called the merchant to discover a lower price for a teeth whitening deal. This complaint received no reply.
Other websites to feature with complaints online are Eishcoupon, Wicount (also a few on HelloPeter, mostly handled), Dealify and Dealio (although Dealio has many compliments as well). Group buying websites listed on spam lists are mentioned on the group buying spam page.
In October 2011, Dealio closed down, leaving a slew of unhappy and unrefunded consumer and business clients in its wake.
Although Groupon is mostly mentioned in complaints, they are not alone. In general, subscribers to group buying websites have been inundated with emails, since they usually sign up to many daily deal sites and therefore would get at least one email a day from each. Some of the group buying companies in South Africa are on spam lists already, but even those who legitimately send emails are irritating users when they send too many mails out.
The industry of daily deals in South Africa needs to work harder at its levels of service. Many websites do not have a hotline number (example: CityMob) and do not answer feedback fast enough. The complaints that are listed above and online need to be searched for and addressed by each daily deal site in question. Generally, a good online business will have alerts set up and find out about complaints very speedily. Finally, as a rule to people wanting to use social buying as customers or as a business, it is important to do a search for the word complaint followed by the name of the site in question.
All in all, the group buying industry is a young one, and complaints will always occur in any online business. It is how they are kept to a minimum, and the way in which they are handled, which is important.
If you have had a bad experience, please comment below on what happened and help us improve the group buying industry in South Africa.