Groupon Manchester Scam?

Register with an email address! Receive free updates! Find offers on experiences! Services! Products and even holidays! …And if enough people buy them, the ‘group coupon’ activates and each consumer receives a knock-down offer on what would’ve otherwise been quite pricey.

This is how Groupon, a social media phenomenon established in 1998, works. It has also a rather savvy business to boot wherein a definable, simple profit model shaped around social media has actually proven…well…profitable. 

However, it seems not everyone is benefitting. This weekend marked Raindance’s first ever film school in Manchester. Groupon’s offer of a 69% discount on a day’s Film School offered over the weekend, with a choice of either the 10th or the 11th to choose from at the Dancehouse theatre.

It wasn’t until the 11th and an A4 sign on the Dancehouse door indicating a venue change to the Freemasons’ hall on Bridge Street, that things seemed to get slightly dodgy. A group of people waiting outside the venue started to get concerned when after half an hour, the doors weren’t opened and there were clearly no signs promoting a Sunday film school.

That’s because it didn’t exist – it had been cancelled, without prior warning to the waiting group and certainly not from Groupon – who had placed clearly on the print voucher – that the said group coupon was valid only on the 11th of September. Arguably, this is more than an inference of there being an event on the 11th to pay for. This means that even if there had been a tangible pre-warning – the voucher was not transferrable onto the Saturday option. Note:

“Valid 10 or 11 September 2011 only.
Groupon valid for one person, may buy multiple as gifts. Bookings viamanchester@raindance.co.ukValid at The Dancehouse Theatre, 10 Oxford Road, M1 5QA only. Valid on option purchased only. Lunch not provided. Courses run 10am-5pm on both dates. “

And hey – I was one of those waiting on the Sunday. Had I known, I would have changed my plans to attend Saturday’s school, which, in hindsight, would definitely have worked out better for me.

As a follower and festival regular, I receive newsletters from Raindance. I certainly heard about the Saturday school – but no-one seemed to challenge there being a Sunday school too.

“This is very disappointing,” said one attendee who, so keen to attend on time, travelled in a taxi. “And no-one told us about them cancelling.”

Interestingly enough, this prominent Manchester food and drink business owner – more than aware of the prestige of Raindance – was hoping to use Groupon to promote his city outlets in a similar fashion.

After forty minutes of waiting on a Sunday morning, with the business leader offering lifts back to South Manchester and towards Macclesfield; me offering to find a secret Masonic entrance to the building and starting up our own film group, and finally, one lady mentioning the need for a good coffee – the group decided to disperse. One gentleman collected everyone’s email addresses to form an email group in order to, at least, build a collective case. Whether Groupon would accepet a lack of liability and consumer responsibility is surely another.

I sent an email to manchester@raindance.co.uk to find out what is going on – but due to their influx of messages, I cannot expect a reply from them for another “2 days”.

Thousands sign up every week to the site thanks to a heavy presence on popular social networking sites, partner affiliates which target your brower’s location (it identifies your closest city) and your last searches for related products or services (spa breaks, haircuts, go-karting, picture frames et al.).

Groupon owns several ‘deal of the day’ style-sites across the world too, running operations in conjunction with businesses to guarantee a concrete number of customers and more importantly, a lump sum. And with a US revenue of $760 million [as of September 2011] – it doesn’t seem likely that the company would be unable to offer a refund.

Though, apparently one of the world’s fastest growing social media specialists in localised ‘deals’ which offer the consumer saving of up to 90 per cent, is not without its drawbacks.

BBC Watchdog carried out an investigation where Groupon vouchers had actually overwhelmed one spa company – and caused a backlog of customers. From: http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/watchdog/2011/04/groupon_deals.html

“Groupon’s popularity is growing – and it’s easy to see why. It’s glossy website offers huge bargains at the click of a button. But with a clock counting down, you have to make a quick decision on whether to buy the voucher, and that doesn’t give you much time to check out the company involved.

But Ben Schiffer from London wishes he’d done just that. Last October he booked a cut price colonic irrigation session using vouchers – at just £39, he thought it sounded like a bargain. But despite repeated calls to the clinic, he couldn’t get through. And there was a good reason:

“One day I was just by chance on Harley Street where the clinic is meant to be, and it wasn’t there. So I emailed Groupon, and they said we can’t give you a refund but we can offer you credit for more Groupon vouchers.”

Ben tried using Groupon again. He booked a professional deep clean for his house – but after booking on the cleaning company’s website and leaving his details, he’s heard nothing back.”

They’ve been in trouble with the Advertising Standards Agency too.

Whether there’ll be a refund for Raindance School attendees in Manchester is another matter. There are several different ways in which the error could have occurred:

1. Groupon placed the wrong dates down on their vouchers, offering two options when there was only one.

2. Raindance didn’t tell Groupon the correct dates.

3. The vouchers were released by Groupon with the wrong dates, regardless of being pre-warned by Raindance…

…And I await the responses.

Urgh, I hate moaning. But I *really* hate getting ripped off. Let’s see what happens.


  1. Jane, I’m really sorry that you’ve had such a bad experience with this Raindance Course. No contact details are passed on to us by our partners when we run these kinds of deals, and so unless voucher holders get in touch with us directly we are reliant on them for all communication. The course for Sunday 11th was canceled, and every effort was made to contact voucher holders from our end.

    Groupon are offering a full refund for holders of vouchers for Sunday 11th. Also if you, or anyone else who had the same issue, contact us with your groupon voucher code (the code with / in it) we will send you a DVD copy of the Saturday Film School. The e-mail address to contact us is manchester@raindance.co.uk or call us on 0207 287 3833.

    I can only apologise for your experience on this occasion, and I hope that this does not affect your long term view of Raindance.

    Raindance replied to my email of concern – and Groupon have not even let me getthroughon the phone to them. Ergo: Groupon are definitely the bad guys here.


    Dear Jane,

    I want to begin by apologising for what happened and assuring you that you will be able to get a full refund from Groupon and, if you send me your postal address, a copy of our DVD of the Raindance Film School. Furthermore we can also book you onto our London Saturday Film School on the 17th Sept if you wish to travel down for the course. If you chose this, it would not affect your ability to seek a refund from Groupon.

    We had to cancel the Sunday date due to low numbers the day after the offer ran on the Groupon site. Groupon were immediately made aware of this, but on last Wednesday it became apparent that voucher holders had not been notified. I got in touch with Groupon after discovering this, and on Thursday they assured me that they had e-mailed all of the voucher holders who had bought for Manchester. Groupon don’t pass any personal contact information onto us for voucher holders, so we were not able to contact people directly unless they got in touch with us to confirm their place.

    I am so sorry that you have had such a negative experience on this occasion, and I hope that this will not affect your longterm view of Raindance.

    POST SCRIPT, 25th Septmeber 2011

    >. Since writing this blogpost and complaint letters, GROUPON have since offered a full refund, which I am to receive in 5 working days. Power of the written word.

  3. It sounds like you were very unlucky. I’ve used Groupon loads of times without any problems but it isn’t hard to see how things could go wrong now and then.

    Did you know that Groupon take half of whatever you pay them? I was shocked to hear their percentage was so high. E.g. I recently used a voucher for 2 people to eat 2 courses at a restaurant in Manchester for £15 instead of £42 – which was great for us – but in reality the restaurant only got £3.25 per head. I know there’s a huge mark up on food but that’s ridiculous.

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