I have a problem buying Groupons. Actually, I don't have a problem buying Groupons. Every day, the group-couponing site offers me a steep discount for a local store, service, or restaurant. I love trying new bars and new restaurants (which is the kind of Groupons I tend to buy). I love discounts. I love spending money via the Internet. So theoretically, Groupon was meant for me.
My problem is redeeming Groupons. Handing a waiter at a high-end restaurant a Groupon is tragically like handing a waiter at a high-end restaurant… a coupon. Awkward!
I know this is mostly in my head. If an establishment created a Groupon, they, by definition, want people to use it. It's called marketing.
But I’ve read articles like this one, where small business owners lament that running a Groupon special almost put them out of business. They say they've created a massive discount for people who come once to get the discount and never come back. I know the people they are talking about. I am those people.
So, when I walk in to an establishment, I dread the Groupon reveal. I’m effectively saying, “I’m really cheap. Can I have a seat?" I’m afraid I'll get that look. That second-class citizen look.
Have I ever gotten that look? No, of course not. I'm the one with the issue. I want the discount, but I don't want to look like I want the discount.
If you’re asking, “Rich, who cares if getting a discount might potentially be embarrassing?” – then you don’t really know me. I care. A lot.
One of the main reason’s I’m always trying out new tech is to help me avoid confrontation and embarrassment. Isn’t that why many technologies have become so successful? The Internet originally gained popularity because people could get answers to questions without having to ask someone else for help. Email blew up because we could communicate while avoiding awkward conversations face-to-face. Don’t many of us place a phone call and while it’s ringing think, “Come on, voicemail!”? Social media and commenting technology has given a strong voice to a-holes who would never be so bold and insulting in the real world (Harry Zink excepted). Isn’t Amazon.com successful because it allows us to not deal with salespeople who might figure out how illiterate we really are? Right, people? This can’t just be me.
The only way new technology truly succeeds today is if it addresses both of Americans’ two prime directives: Laziness and Fear of Embarrassment. I use Groupon now, sporadically, because it addresses the first.
I propose the next step in Groupon’s evolution: Stealth Groupon. I would be charged full price by the establishment, and then have Groupon rebate me after the fact. That way, the establishment has no idea I’m the one who purchased the discount. Invisible discounts. All of the savings, none of the shame. Win/win. If i could get steep savings without the fear of being judged, I’d be Grouponing all over the San Fernando Valley, trying new places and doing new things. It may sound silly now, but Stealth Groupon is the next online revolution. And I have a tagline for them.
Stealth Groupon: Save Money. Save Face.
Now that’s a deal everyone would buy!