When I decided to treat myself using services purchased on Groupon, I had no idea I would experience such a customer service rollercoaster.
Starting a business is stressful. When I started mine, I also said goodbye to the small luxuries I’d become accustomed to. Frugality became a way of life. Minimalism, a virtue.
Since starting my business, I’ve gone too long in between haircuts and been proud of it. It’s been over a year (maybe two?) since my last manicure or pedicure. These things may seem superficial, but they are sacrifices I choose to make as I pour all that I have into growing my business.
The past couple of months, I’ve worked harder than ever before. For October, I also went on a ketogenic diet in addition to all of my business-related work.
As a reward for all the hard work and meeting my goals, I went to Groupon to purchase a massage, laser-hair removal, and a discount at a local butcher (the ketogenic diet is big on healthy fats and protein).
But sometimes you get what you pay for. This is my account of the past 24 hours with Groupon.
Groupon Experience #1: The 1 Hour Massage
First impressions: Indigo lighting…it’s like a loungey flight on Virgin!
I booked this massage as treat for sticking with my ketogenic diet and making it through several days of intense deliverables at work. I was surprised when I realized it was inside a mall, but when I walked up to the storefront, the indigo lighting and font of the sign made me feel like I was on my way to a good experience. It reminded me of the cool lighting on Virgin airlines, but minus the trip-hop, downbeat music. I smiled and approached the counter. That’s when things started to go downhill.
What happened next: They say perception is everything.
The woman behind the desk laughed when I pulled out my printed out Groupon.
“Oh, you actually printed it out!” she laughed.
“I didn’t know anybody still did that.”
I laughed back and felt like I need to explain my antiquated approach.
“Yeah, I really hate it when my phone crashes exactly when I need to show something on it.”
She walked me back to take me to my room and I noticed that not only were the rooms partitioned off with curtains being held together with binder clips, but there were what looked like cheap house number decals marking each “room” with a 1, 2, 3, … not exactly the Zen-like experience I was expecting.
I suddenly had an image flash into my head of the pseudo-massage parlors I’d read about in the news and magazines that were actually fronts for human trafficking. Even with the indigo lighting, I got a little nervous. One thing you don’t want to think about when getting a massage meant to relax you: human trafficking.
My host pointed me into the room and told me to keep my undergarments on and get under the sheet and then she quickly turned and clipped the curtain behind her. I began to undress and noticed the handwritten sign on the room wall instructing me (again) to keep on my undergarments in “respect” to myself as the client. This made me wonder if they’d had problems with that in the past, and if so, what those issues were.
I got on the table, pulled up the sheet, and waited. Soon, a flash at the curtain and a voice from the darkness barked, “turn over on your stomach!”
I apologized and quickly hustled to turn over. “Sorry, no one gave me instructions!”
There was no answer.
My expectations were now very low as I felt the masseuse’s hands dig into my extremely tense shoulders. Thankfully, the technical aspects of the massage were all there and soon I didn’t really care that his bedside manner was horrible.
As soon as the hour was up, the masseuse declared, “okay, it’s done!” and (“fled” is the word that comes to mind here) hurriedly left the room.
I changed and went back to the front to check out and leave a tip for the masseuse. I won’t lie. It was a small tip.
Verdict: Was this the normal experience?
When I told my husband about the experience, he said, “Well, they know they aren’t making a lot off of you, so maybe they just wanted to get you out of there.”
The whole point of Groupon is to get new business in the doors and hopefully provide such a good experience that those leads return and become regular customers. What sense does it make, then, to give an experience that almost ensures the client will never return? In that case, the business never makes up the difference of the steep discount from return visits. The whole thing seemed bizarre.
Groupon Experience #2: Laser Hair Removal
First impressions: Am I in the right place?
When I drove up to the storefront, I was confused. The sign didn’t match the name of the Groupon provider. Then I walked up to the door, walked in, and discovered it was one of those places that has a collection of different rooms inside for different beauty services.
I walked around the corner and spotted the sign. Aha! I’d made it!
Then I noticed something else that was less exciting. The door was locked, light inside off, and no sign of anyone nearby offering a reason why.
I sat on one of the chairs in the hall and waited for 10 minutes, looking at the text I’d received telling me to arrive at 9 am on Saturday.
I was where I was supposed to be. What was going on? I called the number on the door, got the voicemail, and left a message.
Then I received a call back. I was supposed to be there on Sunday, the voice told me. (Not true.)
I tried to keep my anger in check and responded that the text I was looking at on my phone said Saturday, but I could show up the next day at 9 am, if that would work better.
The voice on the phone said it would work better and sorry for the miscommunication.
I considered the fact that I purchased a series of no fewer than six visits with this vendor and I didn’t want to worry about a repeat of this situation or starting off on the wrong foot with someone who would be using a laser on my skin.
Verdict: Buyer’s remorse.
Things could change. I’ll find out tomorrow morning at 9 am. Right now, I’m not feeling super excited about this less than perfect exchange.
Groupon Experience #3: Butcher Shop
First impressions: Yay! Meat!
I’m not a vegetarian. In fact, on this ketogenic diet, I am constantly on the hunt for fresh, grass-fed meat. This Groupon for the local butcher shop seemed like the perfect way to indulge myself while also taking care of my health.
The experience: Building a relationship.
This place is wonderful and the staff is what makes it so. As soon as I walked through the door, I was welcomed and asked if I needed anything.
“Nope. Just looking,” I said.
I went through making my selections, asking questions, and joking with the employees. When I asked if they ever carried any other kinds of liver besides calf and chicken, they told me they could always place a special order for me. When I left, I was smiling. I received a great deal and felt good about this place. I will be back.
Verdict: This is the ideal Groupon experience.
This is, to me, the ideal result one hopes for as a consumer (and as a business) using Groupon. I tried the business because of Groupon. The business provided me with excellent service. I will return to the business again, with or without a discount.
So, what is my overall thought on my 24 hours with Groupon?
I think you have to keep your expectations in check. In the period of 24 hours, I worried about human trafficking at a massage parlor, sat outside a locked door for laser hair removal that never happened, and discussed access to organ meats with a butcher. That’s a pretty incredible 24 hours in all sorts of ways.
Next time, though, when I’m trying to indulge myself, I think I’ll just pool my funds and invest in a premium experience with or without indigo lighting.