Monday, July 4, 2011

The Ethics of Groupon-type Websites

Group discount websites such as Groupon, LivingSocial, and DealTicker has been the biggest online phenomena of the past year. Marketers, businesspeople, the investing community, the media, anthropologists, and everybody are wondering if the business is sustainable, if this is a new model of shopping, if the stocks are overvalued and more.

Most importantly, the Average Joe, Jane (or Nyla) are developing new tastes from these group-buying-deals. Consumers are trying things like wine-making, water-skiing or micro-dermabrasion treatments for the first time.

The three reasons behind shaping new consumer habits:
  • Consumers receive a friendly email about the deal for something they hadn't yet perceived a need for, full of clever copywriting and right into their inbox
  • The coupon expires in a few hours, increasing the potential for impulse shopping
  • The prices are often amazing which makes previously unaffordable products and services within everyone's reach
But this is where the problem begins. Group discount websites are making new experience more attainable for the consumer, but isn't being socially responsible whatsoever.

These two deals are from my favorite group-buying site, DealTicker in the last  week:

$9 for a month of unlimited tanning!
To sell this tanning service, DealTicker writes "Do you have the pale pallor of a creature who has just clawed her way out of a crypt? Have those cold Canadian parka entombed winters left you with a deathly glow brighter then Casper’s? Did you abandon your Goth gear years ago yet somehow your skin never got the memo? It’s time to radiant a healthy glow by taking advantage of today's DealTicker of $9 For 30 Days of Unlimited Tanning Courtesy Of Radiance Tanning ($70 Value). There’s nothing wrong with wanting a healthy tone to your flesh."

Nothing except skin cancer. At a really great price. Tanning has been dubbed the new "smoking" due to its detrimental health effects and risk of skin cancer. Not to mention, making it "unlimited for a month" may tempt many to milk the deal by going way too many times in a single month.

And if the tanning one wasn't all that bad, here's one for $110 worth of smoking accessories:

$29 for $110 of "smoking accessories"

This one isn't even ethically questionable. Smoking is the original "smoking" and we are all extremely familiar with the strict smoking regulation that exists in Canada (and with good reason).

On this gem, DealTicker writes "From pipes and bongs, to vaporizers and rollies, they really do have absolutely everything you could ever imagine when it comes to smoking. So instead of wasting time trying to find a smoke shop that is relatively close by, you could just simply have your items shipped straight to your door. The best part is that when your order arrives, it will be packaged in a discreet plain carton box, so that your right to privacy is respected."

So you can smoke your pot without having your mom, roommates or wife find out. Just when you thought cigarettes were no longer sexy, DealTicker brings lung cancer back at an affordable price.  It says you have to be of legal age to smoke to purchase this deal, but how do they even monitor this? The final sentence to the article reads, "if you really want to discover a new smoking experience, then take a puff from today’s cross country DealTicker, and you’ll quickly be able to get your fix."

What do you think of these types of online discounts?