Groupon sent out and “extra” deal this week from FTD Flowers for Valentine’s Day which seems like a nice and timely deal. The problem is that FTD apparently decided to do a little price bait and switch on users coming through that handy but special link.
It doesn’t shock me that some of the old school tricks from the physical stores world are making their way into the group buying space. Retailers have to get the margins back up somehow and this is one trick that I am sure other people are doing. There are probably a dozen other dirty tricks and I should log when retailers try them all. My prediction for the next one is “running out” of the free promotional item that got you to buy a Groupon.
While I am not shocked by the poor behavior I am surprised that they would be so bold about it thinking that wouldn’t get caught. The modern world is a pretty easy place to do double checks and anybody who is savvy can do things like price checks on another site, clear their cookies or play with different coupon codes. The game of trying to trick users is a poor one in the long run because you are going to get caught and in this case Arrington found it pretty quickly. If you are one of the highest profile companies on the web and just got trashed for running bad Superbowl ads you might want to make sure you have a strong week the week after. I would hate to be the Groupon PR person this week, or if I was I would have borrowed a firefighter hat to bring to work so people wouldn’t bother me much as I tried to deal with it all.
If you start seeing “Going out business” groupons from furniture stores then we will know that things have finally run their course and I will be excited to see the next evolution for social buying. It is coming, the Groupon model can’t sustain in its current format over the long run.