Lately, Groupon, the rapidly growing online coupon provider, has been the media darling, doing no wrong. Analysts have been salivating with speculation on when the overnight sensation would go public as interest is at an all time high.
Well, the mistake Groupon made this week would be the equivalent of your model child getting in trouble with the law, so much so, CEO Andrew Mason has issued an apology to an entire country. The faux pas involved a deal for delivery of “osechi”, a traditional Japanese New Year’s meal. Osechi usually includes a variety of Japanese dishes meticulously prepared and elegantly presented.
Customers paid 10,500 yen ($127) for this particular Groupon deal, and most were left feeling swindled. Most of the 500 osechi sets sold, arrived either too late for the traditional meal or in “terrible condition” according to Mason. The official statement from Groupon Japan said the sets didn’t match the picture or description provided by the restaurant, Bird Cafe, who says they were overwhelmed by the volume.
The typically mild mannered Japanese took their frustration to the web, posting pictures of the mangled meals, resulting in some bad PR for the popular company. In defense of Groupon, they immediately refunded customers money and extended the olive branch with vouchers worth 5,000 yen. This was conveyed in a video message uploaded to the companies YouTube page with Mason acknowledging that the company “really messed up”, and went into details on how the company would reconcile with the Japanese.
Mason had mentioned that Groupon has developed sophisticated formulas to help businesses plan for anticipated demand in the US and other countries, but the system has not yet been introduced to the Japanese market. “Basically because the popularity of Groupon Japan has grown so quickly it took us off guard,” he said. “We weren’t expecting to run into this problem so quickly.”
This just goes to show that even companies that are seen in a positive light can have growing pains and bumps in the road. The most impressive thing about the whole debacle, is that Groupon took action quickly, apologized to its customers and made amends. Isn’t that all we ask from a company we trust with our hard earned dollars when they make a mistake?