Groupon Trouble: Local Business No Longer Honoring Deals

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — For Sherree Goldstein’s Square Cafe, signing onto Groupon was a no-brainer.

“They had 30,000 people signed up, so we went with it,” said Goldstein. “We sold a couple thousand Groupons, and it was amazing. We had no idea.”

Groupon sets the dates and oversees the fine print. Customers buy half-price certificates online, and businesses collect half of that after Groupon takes about a 50 percent commission.

“The reason to do Groupon was the remodel… I’ve been here 10 years, and give a jump start with the newly-created Market Square,” said Tommy Balestreire, of Fat Tommy’s.

So, Balestreire signed on his newly-remodeled Fat Tommy’s Pizzeria.

However, from day one, he claims “they ran the ad and didn’t ask how many I wanted to sell, how I wanted to use it. They got away with a generic template with what people in the pizzeria business normally do.”

He claims Groupon told him the day before the ad ran it had to change the offer to eliminate alcohol sales – that’s because the Liquor Control Board ruled that beer and liquor could not be sold at a discount.

But the straw that broke the camel’s back had nothing to do with Groupon itself.

“Individuals, as Groupon says ‘your future patrons,’ were coming in and would photocopy the Groupon, so I stopped after five of them,” said Balestreire. “They were taking advantage of it.”

Groupon does give businesses a smartphone app to scan those, but Balestreire says it took too long at times. KDKA’s Jim Lokay tried to get a response from Groupon to no avail.

Balestreire says there’s still about 100 Groupons left unclaimed before they expire in October. So, his response to anyone who bought a Groupon is to go back to the source.

“Contact Groupon. You bought it through them,” he said. “You shouldn’t have any problem getting your money back.”

While the site does offer a money back guarantee and honors refunds – at the Square Cafe, you won’t have to worry there – Groupon is a keeper.

“That’s the drive, new business,” Goldstein says. “But we have such a loyal customer base that I think it’s great to offer them a little bit of a discount once in a while.”

Fat Tommy’s Pizzeria
Square Cafe
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  • James Rome

    It sounds like the owner of this local business didn’t have a full understanding of how Groupon works and is trying to shift the blame to them, when in fact, he needs to honor the agreement with Groupon.

  • CheapLunchPgh

    Exactly James. Fat Tommy clearly doesn’t understand how Groupon operates and what its loyal and growing customer base expects. I’ve recently used Groupons at both Fat Tommys and Square Cafe and the dining experiences couldn’t be more different. My young children and I dined at a sidewalk table at Square Cafe two weekends ago and were treated exceptionally while using a Groupon. While at Fat Tommys in June and August myself and other downtown coworkers were treated like second class citizens for attempting to use a Groupon. I won’t get into the details but the experience and service was unappreciated. In this artilcle, Fat Tommy accused patrons of copying a template. Rather, the Groupon offer allowed a person to buy one and 2 additional as gifts. I bought 3 as permitted but after being treated poorly again during the second visit at Fat Tommys, I contacted Groupon and requested my money back for the third. Me and my coworkers will not be back. Two weeks after our last visit I received an email from Groupon informing me that they were no longer doing business with Fat Tommys. I appreciate KDKA giving both sides to this story because myself and other loyal Groupon users and merchants like Square Cafe understand the value in this growing enterprise.

    • Jim

      If the coupon was indeed copied, then the store has a legitimate complaint.

  • Connie Dattilo

    Your news story regarding Groupon was misleading and unfair.. In his lead-ins throughout the entire program Ken Rice’s implication was that Groupon’s business practices were less than honest,and information on how to get refunds would be forthcoming. When, in fact the pizza shop owner’s issues were with his customers, not Groupon. Very little time was given to the Square Cafe owner who was happy with Groupon and the new business she has gained since joining as a merchant.
    Groupon has been very beneficial in acquiring business for small local merchants, not to mention giving families affordable dining and entertainment. Some sort of an honest explanation is due. Your attempt to sensationalize a non-story has the potential to hurt local business.

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