Justin Rubner

Do Scoutmob and Groupon Users Come Back?

In advertising, social media on 06/01/2011 at 11:07 am

If you could have hundreds of new customers checking out your business and the only thing you had to do was honor a discount, wouldn’t that be a good thing?

You’d get a creative, well-penned write-up sent to tens of thousands of geo-targeted shoppers who already indicated they liked businesses like yours. And, you only had to pay the company doing this a fee based on how many coupon users actually paid you.

Or, if you could receive market research without spending a dime, wouldn’t that be a good thing, too?

You’d get free publicity from people who liked you and free unfiltered advice from people who didn’t, along with an online listing and directions to your locale.


It's not for every business, but a service such as Scoutmob can bring in thousands of new customers

You’ve likely noticed I’m talking about sites such as Scoutmob and Yelp.

What you’ve probably not noticed is that some, maybe many, restaurateurs answer “no” to both of these questions.

The other day, I saw a Scoutmob 50-percent-off coupon for a nearby sports bar and decided to give it another try after being disappointed the first time. Despite the reviews on Yelp–more than half were negative–I went anyway. After the meal, which was OK if you’re wondering–not great, but decent–the owner said she didn’t accept Scoutmobs after 2. It was about 2:45.

That stipulation was no where on the coupon.

After complaining about how us “Scoutmobbers” never came back after the deal (how would she know if this was the first day?) and that she was losing money on my lunch because of the discount, she reluctantly agreed to honor what it said. She also brushed off Yelp reviewers, saying anyone with a keyboard could do such a thing.

I’ve had similar experiences with other restaurants, whether I was using Scoutmob, or its more established cousins, LivingSocial and Groupon.

At a Chinese restaurant recently, I felt instant contempt from the owner as soon as I said we had a Scoutmob. In fact, the owner had a sign saying “All Scoutmob users must pay in cash.” What’s next–segregated seats for coupon holders? Like the other owner, she had a last-minute stipulation that wasn’t on the coupon. Unlike the sports bar, I didn’t argue.

Another time, I ate at a pizzeria that was completely unprepared for the onslaught of new customers. The order took nearly an hour, and then the owner told me he was unsure whether it was even worth it because he didn’t know if anyone would be back.

In the pizzeria’s case, I won’t be back. But that’s not because I’m a Scoutmobber. It’s because the pizza was mediocre and wouldn’t be worth the 10-mile drive. (I drive about that distance to my favorite pizzeria in Atlanta, Antico Pizza Napoletana. It’s so good, I’d drive 20.)

In the Chinese restaurant’s case, I will most definitely be back–the Mongolian Beef was that good–even though the owner was a bit rude. And the sports bar? Probably not, because the owner was even more rude and her food wouldn’t be worth it without a coupon because it’s way overpriced.

I’ve been using Scoutmob and Groupon for more than a year now and I must say how often I hear “we” never come back. How ridiculous. Do some not come back, even if the food, price and service are good? Yes. The dissatisfaction of some businesses losing money on these deals is also well documented.

But if you deliver an above-average product at a respectable price, it’s misguided to think you won’t benefit. In fact, what you’re really saying is, customers who use coupons are lower-caliber customers.

Think Proctor & Gamble, which spent $4.18 billion on media in 2009, complains that no one buys their products at full price after using clip-out coupons from the Sunday newspaper?

P&G coupons

P&G coupons

Then there are user-review sites such as Yelp, CitySearch, Google Places and Kudzu. After having clients with negative reviews on these sites, I know it’s a challenge. No one wants to see themselves, or their clients, get slammed on a website.

But here’s the deal. If you’re great, most people won’t say bad things. Sure, some will. Some might have gone to your business on a bad day. Or, maybe some might just be yahoos with no taste. But all of my favorite restaurants, Antico Pizza included, have mostly glowing reviews on Yelp.

If you’re not great, what an opportunity to improve. You can take the common complains on Yelp, CitySearch and other social media, and analyze what you can do to improve.

The sports bar, for example? Nearly half complained about one of the same things I did–high prices and being nickel and dimed on extras.

I do hope the sports bar heeds some of these reviews. If they did, I’d give them a third, and final, chance…

Despite being a Scoutmobber and all.

- Justin Rubner

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