Agony of a Groupon India deal-trapped customer

A few days back, I requested one of my colleague to plan a small informal get together of all the intl. quality heads. We are always very prudent in our expenses and we bought a deal from groupon for unlimited drinks + dinner at ‘Park Plaza Shahdara‘. In the past we had taken similar deals for ‘Park Plaza, Noida’ and we had reasons to believe that it would be a similar experience. To ensure that things work well, my colleague also called up ‘Park Plaza’ a couple of times before going ahead with the purchase. It was not a big purchase (about INR 7K odd) but that is the usual process-drill. 4 of them were Beer coupons and 2 were IMFL coupons. We love our hard earned drinks and as per protocol we hired a big cab and it was all set.

Finally last evening after a long day, our group of 6 reached Park Plaza. When we shared our deal receipt with them, we were offered following

For unlimited beer+food offer, they would serve King Fisher Strong (and that’s it, no other brands)
For the IMFL, they had ‘Rowson Whisky’.

The great Rowson Whiskey
The great Rowson Whiskey

None of us drink strong beer and I would not have let my colleagues take some Rowson Whisky, credentials of which are still investigated. We tried to be polite and requested them to check again. On requesting an access to a floor manager or GM, I was introduced to a colleague (a trick I knew very well). And so on. I took their business cards incase I ever run into a ‘Sarovar’ guy on how their junior staff is acting like GMs. In the end, they brought their Manager-IT as GM. Funny. Anyway, I am not their customer here so lets move on.

In the end, we were offered a couple of other brands (as a good gesture (Bud), and another whisky (BP), more good gesture) after we called foul. Interestingly, we were told that ‘Groupon’ knows very well and we should talk to Groupon since we have paid them.

Why would ‘Groupon’ promote these deals where Strong beer and Rowson Whiskey are the only two things on offer ?

We called up group-on and were told (it was at/around 8 PM, by #s4n4u) that we are calling too late. The sun has set, everyone has left office so sorry, please handle yourself. It was embarrassing for my colleague who arranged the whole program. We tried to make up for a lost opportunity but we came back more learned about ParkPlaza and Groupon. I stand cheated, Groupon.

Not too long back Andrew said that, “If there’s one piece of wisdom that this simple pilgrim would like to impart upon you: have the courage to start with the customer.” I am sorry for this long story, early in the day but thought that you deserve a chance to know and possibly fix.

———————-

Above is what I wrote to Groupon the very next day (its been few days since) hoping for some real action. I must appreciate that Ankur (CEO of Groupon India) was super responsive to my first query. Unfortunately the first resolution was on expected lines. Take Groupon credits which we can utilise for another offer (and possibly get cheated again !!) which we summarily refused. I didn’t hear much after that.

So, if you buy an offer from Groupon, first check with the hotel and find out the fine-print because the best you can expect from Groupon Customer Support is their inability to do anything and from their CEO would want to get a buy-out resolution.

Hope we get better as a larger society and begin to treat our customers as our patrons, and not leave them in cold. Good luck Groupon.

What should you advise to friends ?

A close friend after many rounds of spirited conversation asked for an advice. I am now old enough to realize that I, for that matter a lot of us, do not deserve to be asked for an advice. But turning down a request, that too from a close friend is a very impolite behavior. Add to it the series of dark sweet rum that had further mellowed me down so I tabled my offer that I would be very thoughtful and would try to do as best as I can, after I dutifully and patiently listen to his case.
Not that he needed me to do all this, to really put his case but it often helps.

As I began to listen to his calm rendition of the problem statement, I could see myself talking through him, for a moment it seemed as if the Satan is asking me this question through him and I need to solve it (or resolve it) myself. I pinched myself to check whether I had more Rum than necessary. May be, I am going with some kind of visualization disorder but it was not as bad. After surveying, discreetly, I fell back on my drama skills to ensure that I am signed-in. I didn’t need to read and listen this question too well because it was as much true to my situation as him. It could have been a reverse case as well where the narrator becomes the protagonist. He carried on, ensuring that he gives me enough context, which I never needed, ensuring that he doesn’t hurry up, which I never needed, ensuring that he throws enough pauses so that I can assimilate, which I never needed. My mind started to work out the response and I completely tuned out.

By the time he finished, I had meticulously thought of a brilliant response, almost akin to a standing ovation piece. With growing confidence, I was in no hurry to let my secret beans out, I knew before hand that I have got something in my arsenal which can not be challenged. So with a great display of serene and insightful state, I quietly continued to finish more Rum while my over active mind was iteratively going through the response and was refining it with each round. I had done almost 5 rehearsals before I got a chance to put my performance and boy what a performance it was.

With great articulation, in a single stroke of mastery, I spit out words of wisdom one after the another. After winning him by a brilliant demonstration of philosophical garbage, I paraphrased the fundamental value of life and how one needs to get out of situation like these by focusing on basic things around relationships and so on. In no time, I concluded my great gyan and we were out of the mess.

The truth is that whatever I said is what I believe ideally one can do (including myself) but those were not at all practical day-to-day suggestions that could really make a real difference (w/ or w/o the dark sweet drink). If it was so easy, I would have solved it (or resolved it) myself.

I still think that my response makes a lot of sense but I have not been able to live them myself. Instead, Should you just tell your friends that , dude I am in the same boat.

Cheers !!

Prakriti School, Noida – A quick visit

We got this invite for a ‘Story Telling Session’ at Prakriti School, Noida. It was on a saturday, we were in town, a FREE session, close to where I live, enough reasons to warrant a visit. I was impressed with what the place has to offer so thought that I would share some pics and my experience.

Where

View Larger Map

Infrastructure

It was a short visit and I did’t get to do a thorough recci but here are some pics and information.

As you get in, you see a small amphi-theatre kind of setup, pretty interesting. I do not remember seeing something like this in an pre/junior school. As you get in, you hit into reception which resembles more like a hotel reception than a school reception.


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‘HT Destinations’ – Travel Fair : Not much to miss

Visting travel fairs should be in my syllabus so today morning, we dashed to ‘HT Destinations’, touted as a travel fair. This was not the first such fair under ‘HT Destinations’ and I remember seeing quarter page advts in the home-publication ‘Hindustan Times’. The last one happened as soon as March,11 so it is not something once-a-year event. I am guessing that HT is hoping to grow it and scale it up to a large level with possibly a lot of financial-transactions happening.

Coming back to this one.

Venue – The Park, Cannaught Place
Dates – Sep 17, 18, 2011

‘The Park’ is very centrally located so that is good. More importantly, you get a valet service and that is a big big plus since you do not have to get into any parking hassle. Here is the location map.


View Hotel in Delhi, The Park New Delhi in a larger map
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Ghumakkar Interview – Meet Hindi Ratna, Manish Kumar

Manish started blogging almost 5 years back and in this short time, he has contributed significantly to Hindi Blogging on internet and is counted among the top Hindi bloggers. I reached out to Manish about 3 years back and he started writing his travel tales at Ghumakkar exactly two years back, i.e. July 4, 2009 with a brilliant piece on Kolkata. It was in hindi and here is the link of the story – http://www.ghumakkar.com/2009/04/07/कोलकाता-तोमार-कौतो-रुप/ . Please read it once you are done reading the interview.

Our editor, Vibha caught up with him over email and then I had a hearty chat with him on a long distance phone. I could sense that Manish loves good conversations. I was reluctant to not eat his entire night but we did end up spending enough time talking about traveling, how our views about travel is changing as a larger society, how what you write makes a difference to the bigger issue of self well-being and so on.

The below interview may not do complete justice to what we discussed but this is my best attempt at capturing our conversation in words.

Interview

Ghumakkar: Tell us about yourself. Who is Manish?
Manish : As a netizen I am a blogger who wants to express his passion for music & travel through blogging. In professional life I am a technocrat doing consultancy for Steel Authority of India Ltd in the area of thermal & energy engineering. I am based out of Ranchi, the beautiful capital city of Jharkhand.
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