The Groupon Backlash Is On

Among businesses, the initial reaction to the concept of Groupon was: "Give our shit away for half price? Well, it's good advertising." But now, that reaction is changing to: "Give our shit away for half price? Ehhh."

Groupon's own reaction, of course, remains: "What a great fucking scam we've got going here." But the businesses, well, they're beginning to think that maybe paying someone for the privilege of giving away their goods at a loss in order to gain no new customers may not be the sweetest deal out there. Did you know that Groupon likes to keep 50% of what you pay on a typical coupon—which is already a 50% discount? Psht.

The WSJ says that businesses are smartening up and shopping around for better percentages among all the bazillions of Groupon clones that have launched recently. Also, businesses say that coupon sites often don't translate into new customers; instead, they deliver "coupon addicts-customers who bought several deals from a variety of sites and would bounce from one practice to the next."

Coupon addicts! Grrr. You buy something or get out!

It's not just businesses that are kind of fed up with the whole Groupon setup. A while back, we asked for stories from anyone who'd worked for Groupon, after hearing complaints from some writers about Groupon's demands for employment. We didn't receive anything we'd call an absolute horror story, some of the inside perspective was interesting. It mostly seems like an existential hell for aspiring writers and journalists:

After the ["Groupon Academy"] session, I was asked to write another sample, and then another - but I remained unfazed. My masters degree from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism prepared me well for those three paragraph descriptions of bikini waxes and bowling alleys.

Another former employee called it "a sweatshop for writers," where most of the "editorial" employees make under $30K per year. And you have to act like you like it!:

It's very much "Groupon is the best thing ever," very insular kind of place. Everyone there basically drinks the company Kool-Aid and it's pretty clear when someone is not on that page. In my time there I have heard some management-types plainly say that devoting the majority of one's time to Groupon is the best way to be - not only working a lot, but striving to spend lots of non-work time with coworkers. Coworkers dating coworkers is encouraged - it will somehow increase productivity. There's a lot of talk about a work-life balance, but it seemed to me that it was more like work is life and life is work, that working for Groupon is more of a lifestyle than just a job. Most people who work there seem content with that. Plus a lot of them know each other - the whole hiring from the Chicago theater and improv scene means there are all kinds of friend groups working there.

Sounds terrible. Like 98% of all writing jobs are! Writers are always complaining. As are businesses, when they're not making money! In any case, we're still reserving judgment on Groupon. If you have any interesting stories to share, email me.

[WSJ, photos via Groupon/ Flickr]