Groupon too much of a good thing for some local businesses

Charnell Griffin expected “a couple hundred” customers when she offered a discount through Groupon.com for the services of her three-and-half year-old company, Clean Corp.

What she got was more than she bargained for and frankly, more than she could handle.

Nearly 3,800 people pounced on the $35 deal for two-hours of house cleaning. Griffin was — and still is — overwhelmed as she tries to honor the vouchers before they expire in a year. In this case, it really was too much of a good thing.

“You just take it one day at a time and try not to lose your mind,” she said.

Merchants providing services have a far more difficult time meeting the demands brought on by the influx of customers who discover them through deal sites like Groupon and LivingSocial.com than those providing products.

Tracy Olson, owner of Helping Hands Massage Studio in Marietta, has had to hire another massage therapist, create a wait list and schedule weekend appointments three- to four weeks out since July when more than 1,800 bought discounted one-hour massages.

“After two days, we were booked for three weeks solid,” Olson said.

Her customers, she said, have been understanding. Only one has asked for a refund. Clean Corp has lost customers.

“It was my first time ever using Groupon,” said Kadesha Adelakan of Austell. “I had a year to use it, so I was trying to schedule a cleaning. But I couldn’t get in touch with anyone.”

Clean Corp has beefed up its staff to 23 cleaners and has a new answering service.

“We want to maintain the quality of our service and make sure we do things properly,” Griffin said. “We’ve hired more people, but that’s a process, too. We have to train them and match them up with veteran cleaners.”

North Georgia Canopy Tours stands as one of the greatest deal site success stories. Using three companies, almost 9,000 signed up. On their busiest days, about 25 people hook onto the zip lines and enjoy all the tours offer. Kirk and Leah Watkins, managing members, said they’ve had no problems scheduling the masses.

“We have not turned one person away,” Leah Watkins said.

To help manage, they hired more people to answer phones and keep a closer eye on email.

Olson is opening a new spa soon and will use Groupon to draw business. But this time, she’ll go about it differently.

“I’m putting a cap on it,” she said.

Question: What has been your experience when using a deal site for a service? Have you had to wait long periods to schedule appointments?

Follow me on Twitter @atlbargains and on Facebook at AJC Atlanta Bargain Hunter

14 comments Add your comment

dawn

August 26th, 2010
8:10 am

the problem I have had with Groupon and other deal sites is that upon redeeming the coupon to the restaurant establishment, we have been frowned upon and treated as lower class citizens and given a hard time. Some have ‘invented’ rules ‘after the fact’….not worth time or energy, in my honest opinion. What are those to do who purchased a gift certificate from companies who will not honor them due to being overbooked….. what are they to do at that point?

Christy

August 26th, 2010
9:14 am

I’ve NEVER had an issue and have purchased coupons almost weekly since I found out about these great sites. I’ve done everything from oil changes to dinners to spa treatments and a night at the Ritz. Mostly things I’d do anyway when I had extra money, suddenly I can do more often with the discounts. Just like with everything else in life.. if you are respectful of staff and show gratitude based on the full price, not your discount, then you are well taken care of. Gotta love getting something for half off and being able to OVER tip for the great experience and still come out spending less than the original price!

Caroline

August 26th, 2010
10:03 am

We have been using groupons for about a year. I have to say we have never had a problem or been treated differently because of using a groupon. I love them and will continue to purchase them to use in the future. The living social is also great. This is how my husband and I explore new returants in the Atlanta area without spending too much money!

Ida

August 26th, 2010
6:23 pm

I think it is wonderful that these companies have order more staff.
Perhaps it is a good idea for Groupon to ask the company if they would like to cap before they extend the offer.

smh728

August 27th, 2010
6:03 am

This is classic poor planning. Any business using this method, a good one, to increase sales has to do their homework first. There is such a thing called forecasting! Yea to North Georgia Canopy Tours for doing the hard work up front. Increased business is never a bad thing. Poor planning…well you get the picture.

Marcus

August 27th, 2010
12:41 pm

Genbook.com is the leader in Online Appointment Scheduling for small services businesses in North America. We are seeing first-hand the impact Groupon is having – driving hundreds or even thousands of new customers into a small business overnight.

That’s great! But how do you schedule this flood of appointments in a timely manner and keep track of all those new customers? The answer is online appointment scheduling from Genbook. Increasingly small business are using Genbook to automate their scheduling online, capture all of the customer details into a robust contact database, and aggregate new customer Reviews that they can then post to encourage even more appointments. Their calendars fill up with new customers, and they never had to pick up the phone! Plus the customers can schedule conveniently weeks or months in advance.

ATL

August 27th, 2010
1:03 pm

I’ve used many Groupons for restaurants and never been given a hard time, just put it in with my credit card and they are always very good about it. Remember these businesses choose to participate as a way of advertising and also getting paid up front (albeit much less) to maybe help during their slow times.

Rodney

August 27th, 2010
1:15 pm

Frankly, I prefer ScoutMob over most of the other online coupon/deal sites. I don’t like the idea of purchasing a coupon (agreed, they ARE great deals) and ScoutMob deals don’t require an upfront purchase. I have a text sent to my phone and when I’m ready to pay I say “Oh, I have a ScoutMob for that” and show the clerk (or server) the code and voila, discount.

Dinners out are the best – I keep a folder of texts from SM and I scroll through the deals when deciding where to have dinner. Most are places I frequent anyway so if I can save 30 or 50 percent, why not?

OH – and for all of you who probably don’t know, you tip your server based on the ORIGINAL amount, not the discounted amount. Maybe that’s why you’ve had bad experiences when using them??

Jackie

August 27th, 2010
4:53 pm

I’ve used groupon many times, mostly without a hitch. There was one vendor that went out of business, but I got a refund from groupon on that one. I’ve also found I can sell some of my unused gropons on http://www.lifesta.com so if I buy a coupon and end up not using, I pass on the savings to someone else.

Rod

August 30th, 2010
12:22 pm

Clean Corp caused the problem themselves. There are several blogs on the Groupon site about how bad they are. They absolutely will not return messages or email to customers. The Groupon was sold based upon “aroma” type cleaning and not using bleaches, Clorox etc. However, the cleaners that showed up used those products – AND PRODUCTS THEY FOUND IN CUSTOMERS CABINETS. Horrible business.

The solution is simple. Groupon allows a business to cap the number of purchases – but most business don’t do this, which causes the problems.

Tuckergirl

August 30th, 2010
9:58 pm

I don’t have a lot of sympathy for Clean Corp. They had to have known that the response was going to be great. When a deal like that is broadcast over the Internet, in these economic times, people are going to respond. It’s unfortunate that some of those who tried to take advantage of the offer were disappointed.

Carolyn

September 1st, 2010
9:30 pm

I’m kind of feeling like I won’t be using Groupon anymore. Having to book something months out is foolish. I’ve already paid for a hair appointment and I’m being told the earliest I can get in is 3+ months out on a Wednesday (which I’ll have to take off work for) and then to top it off there is a cancellation fee? That seems a little foolish.

As a consumer it’s not my fault that a company planned poorly. I’ve already paid for a service and that’s what I want…not an excuse about how the response was overwhelming and bla bla bla.

J. Lazelle

September 2nd, 2010
2:05 pm

As a restaurant owner, we’ve been approached by Groupon and Living Social. I’m trying to determine if it’s something we should do. For those of you who use Groupon for restaurants, what is the likelihood that you’ll return to that restaurant? Because there are so many discount offers, is it more likely that you’ll just continue to use Groupon (or other similar entities) to get the best deal? From a business owner’s perspective, we’re using Groupon as a means of marketing. We lose money on all of those Groupon meals in the hope that you’ll return in the future, pay full price, and become a loyal customer. But if this isn’t happening, then it seems like a bad deal for the businesses themselves, but a good deal for Groupon. Any thoughts?

Rod

September 9th, 2010
2:34 pm

J. Lazelle – I like Groupon and we’ve learned about a couple of new restaurants through this. Yes – I have re-visited those restaurants, paying full price the next time. The key is to treat the Groupon customers as nicely as the regular customers. Some businesses look down on the Grouponites and make us wait longer. This ensures we won’t be back. Be sure to have a limit so you’re not so overrun that your attention to customers suffers.

I’m sure if you treat us all the same, you’ll get a high return rate!