Coupons Poopons

Just felt like having a bit of a whinge. I wish I had written down every time I tried to call this restaurant to book a night to use my Scoopon just to show you what a hassle it was. I’m talking about these coupon sites that feature one or more coupons per day for basically anything. My first experience with coupons was a good one. I bought a coupon for all you can eat pizza and pasta and about 20 of us went together and the food was good.

My latest experience has not been so nice. I admit that part of the blame is on me for not using the coupon earlier. I do have some excuses which I like to use in my defence. I was busy, then it was Christmas, I went on holiday, Feb was really busy because it was my birthday, there are 4 other people I’ll be dining with and we have to coordinate the date and time, the restaurant is on the Gold Coast so it’s a bit of a hike for a meal.

But when we finally worked out when we could all go, it took several attempts at contacting the restaurant before I actually spoke to a human being to arrange a reservation. I made calls both during business hours and in the day and left messages. I was then faced with another problem. This is the last month that this coupon is valid, and the restaurant is completely booked out on weekends. They can only fit me in on a Monday or Tuesday night. So then I had to tell them I would call back after checking with the others. I wish I had just booked a date. Because then it took a good week of calls before I was able to speak to anyone again.

I don’t blame the restaurant. The idea would sound enticing. These sites have huge mailing lists, their subscribers are inviting you to give them a deal they can’t refuse and with less than a day to respond, the response is fast. But the problem might be that the response is also overwhelming. If hundreds of people buy a voucher for cheap coffee, how can you control when they stop by? Can these businesses handle serving all these customers if they turn up on the same day and most likely at bare profit or even a loss? What about their regular customers, who are full-paying customers, that they cannot service if they have 500 coupons to fulfil? Maybe they work for some businesses, but I don’t think it works for all of them. But I’ll leave the business perspective analysis to others. I’m here to talk about my experience as a consumer.

I have decided I am going to be more cautious about buying these coupons in the future. Seeing the countdown on the page and a little meter telling me how many others have already grabbed this deal fuelled this idea in my mind that I had to buy one NOW if I was remotely interested in what was on offer. But in hindsight did I really want to battle hundreds of people to book, yet alone eventually eat at a restaurant? Especially if like me, they weren’t able to use the coupon or forgot about it till the last moments before it expires.

The restaurant I am finally booked into eat at, is an award winning establishment. I consider it fine dining. I had a high expectation of what I will experience when I go there. But now I am not sure what to expect. @OMGemma_ told me that a restaurant she went to had run out of 75% of the food on the menu the day before her deal expired. I’m sure service in these situations will most likely be compromised. I’ve heard that businesses and customers have had arguments over these coupons. So how does that help a restaurant improve it’s business or a customer trying to save money but still have a nice night out? It doesn’t.

Some businesses are offering their own coupons through their site, facebook page or twitter. This is probably a more practical way to provided discounts to customers, maybe even nurture customer loyalty and have them refer their friends. I had a chat with Mel Kettle (www.melkettle.com.au) about this and she has some great insight and ideas about how businesses can use the coupon/discount concept in a much more beneficial way. She’s probably the person to talk to if you are a business in need of some marketing advice. Look out for a future blog post from her about the same subject. :)

Sadly it seems like the real winners are the coupon sites.

And one more note, with all these unfortunate disasters lately, a lot of businesses are also feeling the pinch. These businesses employ your neighbours. We are all trying to get by, so if you can, please support your local businesses and as always try to buy local produce.

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