Groupon CEO posts YouTube apology to customers for New Year offer mess-up
The CEO of promotional offers website company Groupon has posted a video apology to its Japanese customers on YouTube after a New Year’s promotion went disastrously wrong.
The three-minute video featured Groupon boss Andrew Mason apologising for the disastrous performance by one of its deal providers that offered a discount on “osechi-ryōri”, a difficult-to-make meal of broiled fish paste, herring egg, black soybeans and grilled prawns that is traditionally prepared during the New Year’s celebration in Japan.
Tokyo-based food delivery company Bird Café started offering the deal on November 25 for 10,500 yen (US$127), a 50% discount. The offer was meant to be delivered only on New Year’s Eve day, and there was a 500-person cap on total customers.
Despite assurances that were accepted by Groupon, Bird Cafe had greatly exaggerated its ability to deliver on tome to all the people taking up the offer and many customers received their meals late and in “terrible” condition.
Angry customers posted photographs of the less than tasty delivery on internet message boards, setting off a wave of criticism and bad publicity for the US-based company.
“We created Groupon to help enrich people’s lives by bringing new exciting experiences to them, so when we do the opposite, as we have in this case, it really hurts,” Mason said in the video which can be seen at the link below.
Groupon has refunded affected customers and given them vouchers worth 5,000 yen.
Mason added that Groupon took full responsibility for the shortcomings of this mismanaged deal. Trying to take a positive view of the mess-up he added: “Basically because the popularity of Groupon Japan has grown so quickly it took us off guard. We weren’t expecting to run into this problem so quickly.
Mason said the company would beef up its checking processes in future across all of its international properties.
The company set up its website in Japan less than six months ago and is targeting expansion in Asia (which might explain the need for the YouTube apology).
It said earlier this month that it plans to launch a Chinese version of its website via a joint venture with the country’s biggest Internet portal Tencent Holdings.
Rapidly growing online coupon provider Groupon, launched in Chicago in 2008, offers discounts to its more than 12 million international members on retail goods and services, offering one localized deal a day.
The company combines social media with the clout of collective buying to offer deals on products, services and cultural events in local markets. Promotions are activated only after a certain number of people in a specific city sign up for them.