Why Groupon resembles a ‘roach motel’
November 11, 2011
The term Roach Motel (“where roaches check in, but they don’t check out!”) was coined by Black Flag pesticides in a decades-old advertisement. Judging from Rocky’s recent experience, Groupon membership is quite similar.
Groupon (GRPN) went public recently after some substantial kerfuffles with the SEC. In their IPO filing, GRPN said that they had over 50 million subscribers as of December 2010 (page F-37 of SEC Form 424B4) and by September 2011, that number had grown to 143 million!! Notably, in 2009, GRPN had only 152,000 subscribers (of which 43,000 made purchases) whereas in 2011 29.5 million purchases were made by the 143 million subscribers. This means purchase activity among Grouponers declined from 28.3% to 20.6%. (If one considers that 16 million customers made multiple purchases, the activity percentage is declining much faster.) That GRPN paid people real cash to “join,” and that they have never been profitable is beyond the scope of Rocky’s “roach motel” insight.
Rocky doesn’t like crowds, and he didn’t like being one of the 143 million Grouponers. Also, as a bald man, he loathed the daily 20%-off Groupons for hair removal services. (There were never any discounts for hair retrieval services.) Fed up, he tried to “cancel” his Groupon membership yesterday. Alas, there was NO ability to do that on their website, nor were there ANY instructions on how to cancel membership.
Rocky sent an email to GRPN “customer support” with the question: “How do I cancel (and close) my Groupon Account?”
The response: ”You will no longer receive any promotional emails from Groupon. Please note that in the future you may receive transactional emails regarding past or future purchases made though your account and important business announcements that could affect your rights as a customer. You may receive an email if we update our privacy statement or our terms of service.”
Presumably this means that GRPN still numbers Rocky as one of the 143 million, but they won’t send him any more emails for nail salons, cooking classes, and discount sushi.
Gone, but not forgotten….
The cancellation experience reminds Rocky of Antony’s speech from Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar, ”I come neither to bury Groupon, nor to praise them. But the evil email address that Groupon captures lives on after them.”
[Disclosure: Rocky never provides investment advice and currently has no Groupon stock position. He notes, however, that Black Flag Roach killer comes in both "fragrance free" and "fresh pine scent." Here, he smells a rat.]