I love group-buy deals (those you offer through Living Social, Dealfind, Groupon, Koopon, etc.) but I don't love them as much as I did a few months ago. I've had a few experiences that have turned me off group-buying and made me dislike some of the vendors who have chosen to participate.
Here's my unsolicited advice for any vendors contemplating participating in a group buy opportunity:
Don't act resentful, frustrated or even surprised when I call to cash in on my voucher. You may be regretting your decision to participate or overwhelmed with the response but that's not my fault. And if the point of selling these things is to introduce me to your business, then making me feel like my call is unwelcome is not the way to start our relationship.
Don't complain about the low price you set for your voucher. It makes me feel like you're accusing me of pulling a fast one or trying to rip you off.
Don't sell more vouchers than you can accommodate in a timely fashion. I bought a voucher for house cleaning in early October - but the earliest they can come is January 17, 2012. I'm pissed off and our relationship has yet to begin!
Don't add on additional fees that are not mentioned in the voucher. It's not cool to make me pay a "sign up fee" or tell me that the group-buy people "forgot to account for taxes."
Don't treat voucher clients like second class citizens. Unless you've stated this clearly on the voucher, I shouldn't have to wait outside your class/restaurant/spa to make sure that all those who've paid the full freight have been served first and then get whatever is left over.
The goal of participating in the group-buy process should be to attract new customers - ones who will keep coming back. If the voucher experience isn't a positive one for everyone who buys in, then the vendor has indeed wasted time and money.
I know that the group-buy companies engage in some pretty hard sell strategies (I once sat in a cafe and listened to the owner say 'no' several times, in several ways to a group-buy salesperson) but if you've leapt, you might as well make the best of it.
I've had three group-buy experiences so far that have been delightful. Two were with restaurants (Foolish Chicken and Kinki) and one was with a local yarn store (Wabi Sabi). I was already a fan of the chicken place but this just reinforced my loyalty (and I bring lots of others with me). I'd not been to Kinki for years but the experience was so lovely that I'll go again (and again). And the owner of Wabi Sabi was so incredibly helpful and gracious that they've won me over (and I've been telling everyone else to go, too). Those vendors could give lessons to some of the rest of you.
So, vendors, think before you sign up with the group-buy people. And if you decide to participate, be gracious, organized, responsive, welcoming and fair. Don't make me regret having bought what you're selling.
a potential customer