Groupon's missing macarons

Online group buying giant Groupon has entered the Australian daily deal market in a puff of smoke and mirrors.
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01.Daily deals ruse

Internet users are subject to many different forms of advertising, some more questionable than others. However, punters could surely be forgiven for clicking on the pictured ad (below), believing they were in for a cheap and tasty treat. After all, it even states the city you can expect to find the sweets in the tempting quantity of ‘all you can eat’.

Image to go with articleHowever, click as you might, you’ll find no macarons for sale on group buying website Groupon’s website and certainly not in such generous quantity. According to industry commentator, the company later came out and admitted the deal was a ruse, an example of what customers might expect to find.

It doesn’t end there - CHOICE uncovered a further fake deal in the form of eBook readers at a promised discount of 70%. After committing your personal details to the site, you will be offered a daily deal, but there are no eBook readers in sight.

Despite disappointing bargain hunters, there is a serious note for sellers (both bricks and mortar or online) who are advertising products that do not exist in the hope of gaining residual sales (often referred to as a ‘bait-and-switch’). Businesses are required by law to provide reasonable quantities of goods they have advertised.

Group buying solutions

CHOICE is concerned about the transparency of online advertising for daily deals, and urges members to take care when considering offers. One solution is to look for companies willing to offer further buyer protection, such as group buying website “We offer a ‘no questions asked, money back guarantee’ for 30 days on unused coupons. We also have a live chat service, which means you can ask questions before you purchase,” said Colin Fabig, CEO.

If you’re unhappy about something you’ve bought, contact your state or territory’s consumer affairs body, visit ASIC to find yours.

In focus

The power of group buying can deliver big discounts for consumers. It can also offer some exciting experiences that you might otherwise never consider, and its no doubt that these sites have some serious fans. However, when you’re the 700th person buying a deal from a small business, such as a hair salon, you should keep in mind that there might be some issues such as longer than expected waiting times. Here are a few interesting anecdotes we have heard:

  • Cruise that never sails: After buying a voucher on a relaxing cruise, one would-be sailor never had the chance to try her sea legs when a cruise company repeatedly cancelled cruises due to being under-booked. After several attempts, the idea of a pleasant cruise sailed away and a refund was deemed a better option.
  • Not exactly Rapunzel: One staff member was shocked when she was told her hair was too long to colour without an additional payment, and plenty of attitude to boot. No chance of repeat business here.
  • Beer membership jeers: Purchasing a deal for a discount on beer club membership, including some of the good stuff for free, one customer was surprised they had decided to charge full price to his credit card. After four weeks of phone frustration, the wrong was amicably righted but not without a serious deal-buying hangover.
  • Massage voucher minus the massage: Being the primary component of a pamper package, you would think a beauty salon offering a deal on massages would come through with the goods. However, a drawn-out facial was the best they could offer, and a refund was quickly sought after.

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