False Advertising: Groupon Under Scrutiny

Those hoping to snag an affordable floral bouquet delivery in time for Valentine’s Day were about to have their hopes dashed after trying to purchase a coupon from Groupon.com. Groupon is an enormously popular website (and mobile app)  that allows visitors to buy very steep coupons for their favorite products and services, ranging from pet groomers to salons, from restaurant gift certificates to concert tickets.

The original V-Day deal was that customers could buy a coupon that gave them $40 worth of FTD flowers for only $20—an excellent steal at half-off. However, first buyers were told as early as Feb. 10 that they couldn’t get their flowers until Feb. 15—after Valentine’s Day. Those that forged ahead would discover that when they visited the designated website where they were supposed to shop, they noticed that the prices were higher on their options than on the actual FTD site. For example, a dozen roses through Groupon might have been $40, while the same bouquet was only $20 elsewhere on the site. That means the customers saved…nothing. They were simply directed to marked-up wares in return to buying coupons through a third-party site.

Furthermore, the Groupon deal description stated that on-sale flowers were not purchasable with the coupon; what actually happened was that when customers clicked on some low-priced bouquet, the website then tried to charge them $5-$10 more than the price as shown, claiming that the displayed cost was “on sale” and they needed to pay “full price”—meaning that the same floral bouquet could be bought cheaper on FTD, and they were being charged surplus for being Groupon customers—some deal!

Originally, Groupon was claiming that the numbers on the site were an accident, but the deal was soon taken down—after selling $20 vouchers to more than 3,000 money-savvy romantics (that’s over $60,000 for those keeping count). Now, Groupon is embroiled in controversy and struggling to make amends with those who purchased coupons for FTD.

Who’s at fault here? Is it FTD, Groupon or both? Of course, it’s now probably up to the courts to decide, but let us know what you think! And feel free to share any of your own horror stories about false advertising.

Naturally, Mad 4 Marketing is strongly against any deceptive marketing practices, and we will help you steer clear of any possible message entanglement to provide your clients and customers with informative, attractive, appealing and honest advertising.

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