Groupon sides with customers after iffy FTD deal

Do you use Groupon, like actually use it regularly?

If you do, you know most deals are what they purport to be- sure $15 for $30 of food at a restaurant with $150 tabs isn’t fantastic, but for the most part, you can get some good deals. (Personally, I hoard them for days I’m working late and haven’t cooked- it takes some of the sting out of poor planning.) Questionable ad humor aside, the site is known for pretty decent offers and excellent customer service- two things flower company FTD subverted with their recent Groupon participation and ensuing fiasco.

You’re probably familiar with the practice, predating e-commerce- where sites or stores offer a coupon or deal but jack prices up to make the “discount” costlier than it would have been to just buy the item at retail. Which in and of itself is annoying, but if you prepay $20 for $40, and you’re stuck with the suckier deal? Customers reported being directed to a special, Groupon-only version of the FTD site, with higher prices than the regular FTD site. Not cool.

That alone would have been bad, but the offer was presented as a Valentine’s Day deal, too- and the earliest delivery was available on February 15th, the lesser known fete, “Don’t Even Bother Day.” In addition to the higher prices and pretty much useless shipping terms, costs for delivery, according to disgruntled Groupon users, far outstripped the “value” presented by the coupon. Adding insult to injury, a spokesperson for FTD kind of sniped at the folk who rightly complained about the sucktastic bargain:

“We understand that some Groupon customers were disappointed they were unable to combine the discounts,” said FTD Group President Rob Apatoff in a prepared statement. “We apologize for any confusion this offer may have caused.”

Spokeswoman for Groupon Julie Mossler didn’t mince words in discussing the deal with CNN:

“It was way too big of a headache for our customers and that isn’t how Groupon treats people.”

Oh, snap. The customer-friendly site didn’t stop there, though, emailing customers and letting them know that they weren’t letting FTD get away with the shenanigans:

“To make this right, we’ve worked together with FTD to make sure that discounts available on will now also be available to use with your Groupon. For those of you who already purchased items that were on sale on, FTD will automatically issue you a refund on the credit card you used with the difference as additional savings.”

The whole brouhaha is a teaching moment on two levels- the first being that it’s pretty hard to dupe seasoned e-shoppers, especially in such an obvious way. (If anyone is going to vet prices, it will be people who do things like buy pre-paid coupons.) The second, of course, is the lesson on excellent customer service provided by Groupon’s handling of the situation.

Hopefully, the debacle will dissuade other merchants from gaming Groupon’s business model in such a way. Have you ever gotten a bad deal from Groupon? Did you lodge a complaint afterwards?