Friday, February 3, 2012

eCoupons or eSpam???


Something that's been weighing on my mind lately is the amount of discount offer emails I seem to have in my inboxes when I wake up in the morning. You know what I'm talking about. There's Groupon, there's LivingSocial, there's Google Offers, to name some of the biggies.

Now to be fair, you generally have to sign up before you're getting email from them. However, it seems like other entities that you have subscribed to over the past few years are now getting into the game, and they're not being so nice as to offer you one email and then tell you that you have to subscribe to keep going; and you have to pro-actively unsubscribe from them to quit getting offers you never signed up for to begin with.

Beyond that, some of the offers they seem to think "I can't refuse" are things that I can't use myself. I mean, how many offers for nail salons and spa treatments do they have to send me before they check my profile and see I'm a single male and the chances are slim to none I will be taking them up on the offer, yet alone actually open the email up when I see what the subject is? One of the companies recently said they'd start marketing there eCoupons based on your demographics so that men would get manly things, and women would get items geared to their tastes. A good move which, I hope, spreads to them all.

Companies have found that if sales are little slow, they can perk things up quickly with an offer. Too quickly, in some circumstances. I purchased one from a local cheese shop about a year ago, and then about three days later I got a message that the offer had been canceled, and the money had been refunded to my card. Perplexed, I called the company to find out what the problem was. The company said the vendor reconsidered the campaign. The vendor said the company was not abiding by their terms of service. Personally, I'm betting on the merchant being overwhelmed by the popularity and realized the amount of money they'd be losing as most eCoupons start out at 30-50%, and many are up in the 70%+ range these days (mostly from doctors or dentists it seems).

Unfortunately, just as legit companies have discovered this new form of advertising, so have people interested in prying open your wallet or PayPal accounts. Now I seem to be getting offers from companies I have never heard of.

To date I have bought maybe a half dozen eCoupons; a couple eating establishments, a couple museums, a retail store and the latest one was a Macworld pass.

For the most part they're easy to use. The three I mentioned above even have an app that allows you to display a barcode on your phone, which the vendor scans to redeem so there's no need to print anything. Unfortunately, the Macworld one wasn't so. They had a whole bank of computers (Airs, iPads and MacBook Pros, of course!) that you would go to and register for the convention. You had to manually enter your Groupon code in and then hit submit. Once submitted you went over to another line which would print out your badge, and someone would give it to you, along with a couple of other knickknacks. They should have allowed people to register online since they had the Groupon code the moment they got their Groupon email. Now, in fairness, perhaps this was a shakedown cruise for a big event and much time wasn't spent on thinking it through. However, we ARE talking about two organizations that have been around the block a time, or two, by now. Hopefully, they'll figure it out by next year.

That is, IF there is a next year for the Macworld groupon. Reason I say that, is one of the complaints you hear is that people buy the eCoupon, use it, and then never visit the place ever again. I'll admit I sort of fall into that category. One of the places I bought a groupon to was Amba, a Middle Eastern restaurant up in the Montclair District of Oakland. Absolutely great food. However, it's not exactly a five minute drive, nor is parking easy once you get there, so I haven't been back. Another was Phat Philly, my choice for THE BEST cheesesteak in the Bay Area. It's located in the Mission District, so it's not a place I haunt unless I'm going to San Francisco, and parking is even worse than at Amba.

So, in closing, I recommend people start spending more than a second looking at your eCoupons you get in the (e)mail. There's some great offers to get, but there are some others that you have to shake your head at because they're either too good to be true, or something you can't use no matter how good it is.

See you tomorrow!

Logos are trademark of Living Social, Groupon and Google, and used for illustration purposes only under Fair use provisions.

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