A Dear John Letter to Groupon

Dear Groupon,

I had such high hopes for you when I moved to Chicago two years ago. Back then, you were a toddler, trustworthy and pure, wide-eyed to the world around you. You offered deals only to places that you and your staff stood by. Buying a Groupon was like a code word for “friend-approved.” Your site was a city guide as much as it was a discount service.

As one of your writers might say, “Since the dawn of fire, man has liked hot things. He tamed those flames to sous vide his mastodon. He breathed fire to impress Jane, who was also hot. And he discovered that the almighty chicken wing was better hot than it was cold, or even, Zeus save us, mild. Today, the word hot also applies to an up-and-coming website, and we shall call it Groupon.” Or, hell, Groupon, maybe one of your trained writers wouldn’t say that. I can’t honestly say for sure, because I cannot read your trademark writing style. It’s so intentionally obtuse and awkward, it actually makes me hostile.

But I digress. Point is, I liked you, even if I couldn’t read your write-ups. If you can have a crush on a coupon service, I had a crush on you. I wrote about you in the Las Vegas Sun (“Get Ready for Groupon”) when you entered the Las Vegas market. I wrote about you in “The Cutting-Edge Art of Coupon Travel” for the Chicago Tribune, suggesting that you do, indeed, act as a city guide and are a viable service while traveling.

In the beginning, you were so proud. You would actually turn deal seekers away if they didn’t fit the Groupon-approved code. Now, you seem to take anyone, sell anything. In the early days, we discovered a good place or two (Thank you for La Guardia Cuban restaurant. We promised we’d return, but haven’t.). But for the most part, we’ve eaten a lot of mediocre meals at discounted prices, or simply bought Groupons to places we already knew we liked.

Over the course of time, you’ve grown distant, cold. You’re going through the same old motions, but that joie de vivre is gone. With that $6 billion offer from Google that you passed up, it was clear you were too big for your britches. But still, we gave you a chance. We even gave your disciples a chance–YouSwoop, Fresh Guide, PopSugar and countless others. Until last night. Last night was the last straw.

A little before 9 p.m. we decided to try out your Groupon Now service, which publishes deals near our location that are available at the time. It was a steamy evening and we were both listless. Nothing sounded good, but we wanted to be away from our house, which, at 90+ degrees, was smelling more and more like a bubbling bouillabaisse of cat litter. So we headed towards Devon in search of Indian food, and fired up the Android Groupon app. A couple of Indian selections came up, and we opted for Viceroy—$20 for $10. When we walked in the door we told our server we were going to use a Groupon and he was perfectly pleasant about it. We didn’t think to actually purchase the Groupon right then and there.

After a lovely dinner of chana masala and vegetable jalfrezie, we were ready to pay the bill. The server brought us a piece of paper to write down the Groupon code. And at that moment, the Viceroy “Now” deal disappeared. All the other deals that had appeared earlier were still there. But the one we were planning on using? Gone. It was 9:55, and the server, who was clearly uncomfortable, wasn’t sure what happened. The deal was supposed to be live until 10 p.m.

Groupon, you left us high and dry. We paid the whole bill and left the restaurant, defeated.

It’s not the lost $10 that matters. It’s the fact that we’ve distanced ourselves from you with much success. We haven’t missed you, rarely even think about you. Disinterested bystanders, we’ve watched from a distance as your quality goes down in contrast to your value. But then, on a whim, we decided to give you another chance, only to find that, while we weren’t looking, you’d really let yourself go. Thanks for the closure, Groupon.




4 thoughts on “A Dear John Letter to Groupon

    1. Miss you too, Emily! The block party sounds fun. I bet Monty is preparing his baton-twirling routine.

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