Groupon Horror Strikes – Are we really that dumb?

102,000 cupcakes later – reckon you’re making a loss?  £12,500 to be exact.


So coupons are great, cheap stuff galore. Sometimes, even cheap stuff you ACTUALLY wanted, although that is a rarity.

PC World tells us of a woeful take of a British business owner who baked herself into oblivion and into a loss of £12,500. Surely business are thinking through the numbers before opting into coupon schemes? Apparently not. I think we’ve run away with the couponesque buzz we’ve all jumped on and all business reason has left us…. from business owners in similar predicaments as Rachel Brown, to stupid consumers buying what can only be termed ‘crap they never wanted to begin with’ (yes, I lump myself in there too by the way….)

Surely we all need a shake, and a proper sale, old school style – ie. couponless.

British baker Rachel Brown was forced to make 102,000 cupcakes for Groupon customers in a deal which she estimated cost her Need a Cake bakery around £12,500.

Ms Brown offered a “too-good-to-be-true” Groupon deal for her customers. The discount was 75% off for 12 cupcakes, which normally cost £26. At this price, customers could nab a dozen cupcakes for just £6.50 – and nearly 8,500 of them did.

She ended up hiring extra workers to her Berkshire bakery to cope with the sudden influx of bargain-seekers.

“Without doubt, it was my worst ever business decision,” she told the BBC, “We had thousands of orders pouring in that we really hadn’t expected to have. A much larger company would have difficulty coping.”

Ms Brown estimates she lost £12,500 in total when she includes the cost of hiring extra workers.

“We approach each business with a tailored, individual approach based on the prior history of similar details,” Groupon’s International Communications Director Heather Dickinson told the BBC. But there was no limit on the number of deals that could be sold, Dickinson said.

Dickinson also told the BBC that she had been in “constant contact” with Need a Cake, and that this was the first time she heard the company had any issues with the deal.

This is not the first small-business tale of woe when it comes to Groupon. In March 2010, Posies Café in the US went through a similarly devastating experience with the hot deal site. The Oregon-based coffee shop and bakery ended up losing about $8,000 from a 50% off promo that sold nearly 1,000 Groupons. Posies’ also had no limit on its deal.

While the Need a Cake bakery story is far from the first (and, likely, far from the last) Groupon horror story, it’s yet another warning to SMBs thinking of using the service: it’s really important to not get swept up in the Groupon-frenzy, especially if your business may not be able to support it.

Source: Sarah Jacobsson Purewal | PC World

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Categories: Business, Entertainment, Events, People


Digital and Comms nerd working in an INGO. PhD researcher (technology / gender / International development / fragile and conflict affected states / South Sudan). Bibliophile. Writer. Musician. Views my own.

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3 Comments on “Groupon Horror Strikes – Are we really that dumb?”

  1. December 5, 2011 at 11:47 am #

    Coupon sites clearly aren’t just perilous minefields for consumers but for naive businesses as well. Does she deserve sympathy? Probably some, but only because at least she made good on the offers. She could have just refunded people’s money and refused the goods. At the very least she should have thought about some sort of terms and conditions clause covering her own ass. Good find.

  2. Anonymous
    December 6, 2011 at 9:10 am #

    Interesting, but not world shattering.


  1. How Can Local Businesses Properly Use Daily Deals? | WebBizClass- Study Abroad UAB - December 12, 2011

    […] How Can Local Businesses Properly Use Daily Deals? December 12, 2011By MalloryLately, there have been a plethora of daily deal horror stories floating around about local businesses.  A Techcrunch article published today explores the ways in which local businesses can avoid bad group-buying situations and structure effective daily deals.  In the beginning of group buying sites, there was little faith that these sites could survive and prosper.  It has become clear, however, that if pitched strategically, these sites can be extremely profitable for local businesses.  Then again, you have terrible stories such as the recent cupcake nightmare in England: […]

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