Hey, remember that debacle in 2011 when Best Buy waited until a few days before Christmas to cancel many orders placed during the Black Friday frenzy? Groupon doesn’t. They offered a great deal on a Nexus 7 tablet through their Groupon Goods site on Black Friday, and kept promising that it would be on customers’ doorsteps by Christmas. Then they canceled the orders.
It was just last week that customers received an update that promised the tablets would be zipping out of the warehouse any minute now. Here’s an excerpt from that message:
We know you’re on the lookout for it, so we wanted to give you an update on your order’s status. Although it may be arriving slightly later than expected, rest assured that you’ll get it before December 25-we’re even strapping some jetpacks on our reindeer to make up for lost time.
Maybe it was after sending that e-mail that Groupon learned that jetpacks aren’t a real thing. Many customers probably received their tablets after that, but they aren’t the ones complaining to us and burning up Groupon’s Facebook page.
The message instilled false hope, which is why consumers were even angrier to receive their cancellation notices. The e-mail was blunt and chatty, and the company offered a $50 credit to customers stuck in this situation.
We know this is disappointing. In fact, it’s downright unacceptable, and we couldn’t be more sorry for the trouble. Failing to deliver as promised is something we take very seriously, and we’re especially sorry this happened so close to the holidays.
We don’t want to leave you without a gift at the last minute, so we’ve given you $50 to use before the end of the year on another deal that you can print or email instantly. Just sign into your account with this email address and choose any one of our 1,000s of giftable deals, and the $50 is yours.
The catch is that credit has to be used in ten days.
For customers who planned to give the Nexus 7 as a gift, an inkjet-printed voucher for a 1-hour hot stone massage doesn’t really compare to an Android tablet, does it?
“So Groupon holds onto our money for 3 weeks,” reader Christian wrote to Consumerist, “sends us a reassuring email a week ago, and then cancels the item so close to Christmas that we are all in a scramble to find a replacement item.” Yes, that’s pretty much it. It would be nice if the tablets were still coming, just slightly after Christmas. That’s not the case. No tablet is coming. The $50 is nice, but not helpful when you’re depending on that gift to arrive by a certain date.
We contacted Groupon to find out whether they had an updated statement on this situation: they don’t yet. We’ll let you know when we hear anything. Update: We heard back from Groupon, and they confirmed one of our theories about why this happened.
Groupon Goods started out as an all-drop shipping operation. Drop shipping is a way to sell things online without maintaining an inventory: when you sell something, you pass the customer’s information on to your supplier, and they handle sending the item to your customer. The company is currently doing more of its own shipping. Ironically, it wasn’t its new warehouse in Kentucky that was the issue: the company claims that one of their vendors couldn’t get it together to get the tablets out. A Groupon spokesperson told us:
We successfully fulfilled and shipped more than 95% of all Nexus orders, exhausting all inventory under our control. Unfortunately, a small percentage of orders being fulfilled through a third-party vendor were unable until to ship in time for Christmas.