back to article £99 iPhone stunt backfires

A publicity stunt that offered a new iPhone 4 for £99 has backfired spectacularly on a new UK shopping site, and risks increasing cynicism over a controversial corner of internet marketing. Groupola is a UK clone of the US group-buying site Groupon, founded by MyVoucherCodes founder Mark Pearson. The idea is to drum up demand …


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  1. Gary Riches

    The title is required, and must contain letters and/or digits.

    You give the phone 2 different names, neither of them correct. It's the iPhone 4, not the iPhone 4GS or the iPhone 4G.

    Seriously, it's not like The Reg hasn't been running iPhone 4 after iPhone 4 article recently.

    1. Rob 30

      you care that much about capitalisation?

      who gives a crap, everyone knows they were talking about the iphonE4.

      1. Geoff Campbell

        It's not about capitalisation.

        HTC sell the EVO 4G, so called because it uses 4G protocols for fast internet access. Apple sell the iPhone 3G, also so called because it uses 3G, for somewhat slower but still acceptable internet access.

        The iPhone 4 uses 3G, not 4G, and is *not* called the iPhone 4G, for this reason. The number of people mistakenly referring to it as 4G has been really, really pissing me off.


    2. GeorgeTuk

      You cannot be serious?

      Can you?

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  3. Tim #3


    It is a happy coincidence that organisations are as inept at astroturfing as they are at their chosen vocation. Is there a name for these idiots who have been caught red handed at this increasingly common practice? "Shill bloggers"? "Turfonoughts"? Or just "Twats"?

    Only yesterday I read a post from a mod on another forum ... "I don't normally do this, but I feel it's justified in this case....Just to let everyone know - 'derby MXer' registered on the forum using a '' email address. That basically tells you all you need to know. I've seen some pretty shabby attempts at deception over the years, but this one is right up there with them. Absolute classic.... " (full thread )

    1. RichyS

      How about...


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  5. Anonymous Coward

    200 iPhones? Apple say "no chance"

    On the telephone today to Apple UK today (the rep wanted to remain anonymous) I was told that it would be impossible for any individual or business to purchase 200 iPhone 4s. The maximum number available to purchase would be 56, that's 2 from each offline store and 2 from the website.

  6. Anonymous Coward

    How has this backfired?

    Groupola knew it would make a loss on this, but they've drummed up lots of new users, and generated flattering press.

    I'll take advertorial in the guardian over bitter wallets anyday. "Risks increasing cynicism"? Seriously? Must fish harder, there must be something there.

    1. sT0rNG b4R3 duRiD


      They would have done a little bit better but for the nubz they had speaking for them alleging no vested interests...

      Facebooktards... deserve what they get...

    2. Dan P

      Re: How has this backfired?

      I wouldn't call gaining a reputation for offering things that you can never deliver "flaggering press".

  7. Bryan Anderson


    Has anyone actually got one of these then? I admit that I tried the link on Friday but was met with a dead page and an email later apologising for the site going down. Thought it seemed like a bargain too good to be true but assumed it would be a "buy it for only £99......terms and conditions apply....terms = enter into a two year contract at £45 per month".

  8. Ian Ferguson
    Thumb Up


    The irony is, if they purchased 200 iPhone 4s and gave them away for free in a competition, they wouldn't get this kind of publicity.

  9. npupp 1


    Where's the 320K from? ... "While Groupola may reckon £320,000 is money well spent"

  10. Anonymous Coward

    The 4gs is rubbish anyway.

    Even for £99 its' over priced

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      boo ....

      negged for slaying a non-existent phone.

      O the igmon ... Ingom .... Shame of it all

  11. Mystic Megabyte

    200 what?

    Phones or quid? It don't make sense to me.

  12. Robert Carnegie Silver badge

    Wait, explain again please

    200 customers could buy an iPhone for £99... but... are you saying that a lot of these were "bought" by the company employees posing as customers? That fewer than 200 phones are going to real customers? That it isn't possible for a bulk order of 200 phones to exist - and strictly, none of them do, they will have to go out and buy some now - at full price? Except for the ones for their own people, of course.

    Well knock me down with a heard it before.

    Or perhaps I've got it all wrong.

  13. Anonymous Coward

    Con to gain publicity

    Since there is no way they ever had 200 iPhones shouldn't they be investigated by Trading Standards and why does The Guardian give them such publicity - it's a con, simple as. They really need to be pulled up on this, maybe Apple could take the matter up to show they are looking after their consumers. I'm not surprised at CNet, but The Guardian really? Shame on you.

  14. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

    @How has this backfired

    The company is now known throughout t'internet as a scam - Isn't this the ultimate doing a Ratner?

  15. applefangirl

    Stock control

    It would have been very difficult to exactly report numbers on this deal. I queued outside O2 in Oxford for my contract iPhone 4. The manager had staff constantly counting the queue, asking if you were buying the 16 or 32 version, then checking against stock he had left. Very difficult to exactly control the point at which you have no more stock.

    I didn't try to buy from this site but it's like a lottery ticket, you buy one with very little chance of wining but nobody is aying we should not sell lottery tickets. No-one can tell me anyone trying to buy an iPhone at £99 would not have known it would me a massive gamble.

    If you went to Trading Standards and reported you tried to buy an iPhone for £99 and failed they would laugh you out the door.

    1. comoagua

      A Lottery Ticket?

      But, you see, when you buy a lottery ticket, then the prize exists, however much the odds are stacked against you. It's laughable to suggest that groupola could lay their hands on 200 iPhone 4s. They couldn't then, they couldn't now and I guess it'll be 3 or 4 months hence before anyone could buy more than the permitted 2 handsets.

      Trading standards would be more inclined to listen to you if you told them that there were no handsets, or, that there was a reported 200 handsets, which, anyone with half a brain would see is not possible.

    2. Sooty


      i'm pretty certain there are laws in the UK againts offering non-existant deals to get somebody in the door.

      A number of big retailers fell foul of this a few years ago, where they'd offer a really high spec item for a bargain price, with no intention of ever selling it for that, and then using "sorry we've sold out, but... " as a sales platform to sell you something similar but slightly more expensive, on the basis of "well you were happy to pay x amount for that, this is only a little more..."

      1. Chris J

        ...there is a law against this!

        It is an unfair commercial practice according to the nattily titled "Directive 2005/29/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council concerning unfair business-to-consumer commercial practices in the internal market" (also known as the ‘Unfair Commercial Practices Directive’). This is implemented into UK law by The Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008.

        In particular, Schedule 1 para 5 provides that "Making an invitation to purchase products at a specified price without disclosing the existence of any reasonable grounds the trader may have for believing that he will not be able to offer for supply, or to procure another trader to supply, those products or equivalent products at that price for a period that is, and in quantities that are, reasonable having regard to the product, the scale of advertising of the product and the price offered (bait advertising)" is considered automatically unfair.

        It's late, I can't sleep, but I don't feel the need to set out the consequences of unfair trading. Knock yourselves out...

    3. A J Stiles

      Lottery ticket?

      "I didn't try to buy from this site but it's like a lottery ticket, you buy one with very little chance of wining but nobody is aying we should not sell lottery tickets."

      Not quite ..... With the lottery, there is a small but finite chance of winning; but with this site, there is *no* chance of winning. It would be fairer to compare this site to a rigged carny game, except most people stop before they've spent more than the cost of the stuffed toy they were trying to win.

      Mine's the one with the Real Hustle DVD box set in the pocket .....

  16. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

    @Stock control

    >I didn't try to buy from this site but it's like a lottery ticket

    Not quite - it's like a lottery ticket where there isn't actually a prize.

    Of course it's legal because you can't actually buy a ticket either.

  17. Anonymous Coward

    Annoyed me muchly

    I did try and buy the offer from this site, repeatedly for my sins. When I wasnt presented with a 500 error, I sometimes did get a page, but this was a deal for a spa in London, naff all to do with the iPhone, the only time it even let me see the iPhone site was, surprise surprise when they had 'just' sold out.

    A call to groupola to advise of this interesting behaivour of thier site was greeted with the news that I should just keep trying as the site was re-directing me to the closest deal??????


    Fishy Smells Somthing Think I

  18. JohnG

    Bait advertising

    Advertising prices for goods which are not available for sale is known as Bait Advertising and is expressly prohibited under the Unfair Consumer Practice Directive, which came into force last year. Crapola may need to have a chat with their lawyers.

  19. Apocalypse Later

    Nothing wrong

    This is the correct way to treat people who mindlessly covet Apple products.

  20. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    As this is a bitterwallet story

    Can I be the first to say that "I bum foxes"

  21. Anonymous Coward

    Once upon a time...

    "some are sending subscribers to Apple Stories to sign up"

    Where Uncle Steve finishes with the line, "And they all lived happily ever after."

    (Personally, I hate all these damned companies pitching offers and prizes, frequently gadgets, asking people to text here or there with some answer to some stupid question to keep the lottery regulators at bay, or to sign up to "be eligible". And there always needed to be a third envelope from Reader's Digest labelled "FUCK OFF", although sending back all their crap in an unpaid parcel also seemed to do the trick.)

  22. Alpha Tony

    FAO: Guardian Editorial Office

    Dear Guardian,

    I am the son of the esteemed Prince Mkembe of Nigeria. I am wracked with grief as my father recently has dies.

    He left me £40,000,000,000 FORTY BILLION POUNDS in his will but due to legal issues I am currently unable to get the monies out of the country.

    I am looking for helpful peoples from England or Scotshire to let me use their bank accounts to transfer the monies and am willing to offer 10% as a fee. I thought you might like to write an article on this amazing offer?

    Mjambo Mkembe


  23. Anonymous Coward

    Isn't it about time

    People stopped acting like such sheep?

    It's luicrous that Apple can command £500 for one of these handsets anyway.

    The biggest thing preventing me from purchasing any Apple device is being dragged into this crowd mentality.

    I'd rather look on from the outside thinking "you sad gits" than become one of said said gits.

    My Nokia X6 is just fine.

    1. Richard Scratcher

      You're using an X6? You sad git!

      My Nokia Mobira Cityman is just fine. And I paid only £99 for it. And I'm not tied into any "luicrous" contract, I've got it on a PayPerWeight deal.

  24. Roger Stenning

    Bridge For sale...!

    Has anyone told the paper that someone's got London Bridge for sale again?

  25. This post has been deleted by its author

  26. Anonymous Coward

    Too good to be true?

    "The biggest problem such sites have is that if an offer is "too good to be true", then it probably isn't."

    Isn't what?

    Isn't true? or Isn't too good to be true?

    Conventionally, this would be interpreted as "isn't too good to be true", which I suspect is not what you meant.

    Another fail for elReg copy-editing.

  27. Iain 4
    Thumb Down

    "able to offer such low prices because it relies on group-buying"

    As it happens, I've been told the wholesale price that telcos are paying for an iPhone 4. Suffice to say, group buying 200 isn't going to help you when group buying an entire telco's allocation doesn't do much.

  28. Rattus Rattus

    Shock headline:

    Marketers lied!

  29. Raspy32

    Re:FAO: Guardian Editorial Office

    Change that to 200 iPhones and they'd probably give you some money, or at least some free press.......

  30. Alastair 7

    "These marketing sites are all a scam anyway"

    They're really not, you know. I don't doubt that a lot of them are, but GroupOn (the US-original version of the site in question) is great- I've had lots of coupons for half-off restaurant meals all over New York.

    Doesn't stop this lot being a bunch of a shysters, though...

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