back to article Groupon grotty grotto rage forces Santa's chief elf to quit

Santa Claus won't have to look too hard to fill out his naughty list this year: seriously irate parents have been yelling abuse at his staff in a Christmas grotto in York over a dodgy Groupon deal. The small city centre grotto didn't exactly live up to the description in the Groupon offer, and the decorated present bunker's …


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  1. John Styles

    Is there any business left in the UK that thinks selling via GroupOn is a good idea?

    Seems like a poisoned chalice to be but surely there must be someone somewhere who thinks they have gained by using it?

  2. Trevor 7

    No signed contract?!

    If groupon indeed published/sold an incorrect description without a signed contract then they should probably talk with a lawyer quickly to figure out how much to settle for. There are probably lawyers calling the grotto to offer their services for a "reasonable" fee, of course.

  3. Ian Stephenson

    Not surprised

    Once again small business doesn't work out how much the promotion will actually cost.

    Not really surprised they got fscked.

    Though if they haven't signed a contract with Groupon the voucher should never have been run in the first place.

    1. Goat Jam


      "Once again small business doesn't work out how much the promotion will actually cost."

      Did you not read the article?

      "Though if they haven't signed a contract with Groupon the voucher should never have been run in the first place."

      Hmmm, apparently you did.

      So, a business that does not sign up to groupon after noticing that the promotion is offering more than they can deliver are nonetheless at fault in your world?

      1. Ian Stephenson

        Possibly this bit?

        "The other problem was that the toys we give the children, we have to buy all those toys and we're not getting a lot of money from the Groupon vouchers, just a couple of pounds,"

        Maybe you did not read the article either?

    2. Marvin the Martian

      @Ian Stephenson

      So Groupon on their own invents a train ride and it's then the business' operator idiot who's at fault? I like the mechanics of your world.

      And for the rest: Newsflash! Magic does not exist! Ergo, no magical train rides for you.

    3. James Micallef Silver badge

      Not sure how groupon presents these offers, but in the swiss version (probably not affiliated), the seller has the option to limit the number of vouchers sold on an offer. Clearly any business going for this sort of promotion needs to work out how much each voucher is going to cost them, and whether they can handle the volume.

      In this case though I would assign the giant FAIL to groupon since they apparently got the train info wrong, and seemed to have gone ahead without a contract signed?? the supplier still should have kept an eye on groupon's page, they could have nipped it in the bud

  4. Mr Young

    That's your problem you see

    Attracting the public - best not to do that I'd say

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Never signed a contract?

    Take Groupon to court and get them to reimburse for all the toys etc.

  6. Turtle

    : )

    "'We had to go out and buy thousands of toys that we'll never see the money back for, it's just basically we're doing it for free.'"

    And that's the way Groupon likes it!

    Looks like it's shaping up to be a very Merry Christmas. . . for Groupon, who have a very special message for you: "Thanks for the money!"

    : )

    1. Goat Jam

      Good Lord

      The functional illiterates are out in force today.

      Please explain exactly how you think that Groupon will get paid considering there was no contract involved?

      Do you think the York Mall people will volunteer to pay them anyway?

      Groupon clearly fucked up here, but there is no way they are going to get paid for it.

      1. Christopher Key

        Er, have you used GroupOn? People buy the vouchers from GroupOn, so they already have the money. it's the retailers that are at risk of not getting any money.

      2. Trevor Marron

        Do you actually know how Groupon works?

        The punter buys the voucher from GROUPON, not the supplier of the goods or service. Groupon then pay a share (I believe as little as half) of the money to the supplier.

      3. Riccardo Spagni


        You, sir, are a fool. Groupon have already been paid by the consumers that purchased vouchers. They only pay the Grotto their measly 50% (less credit cards fees etc.) of the face value on redeemed vouchers (the voucher has a check code on it that Groupon use to verify that the actual voucher has been presented). Groupon keep the money for breakages (ie. where a voucher expired without being redeemed). Thus, our "functionally illiterate" friend is correct - Groupon are laughing all the way to the bank. The only way for this to be righted would be for Groupon to be held accountable in court.

  7. Andrew Moore


    If they never signed off on a contract with Groupon then they were not liable. All this would have taken is to have the staff briefed so they can pass this info onto the customers and then the customers could trash Groupon instead.

    1. kain preacher

      But when you have that many pissed off customers things can go bad very quickly. They were only expecting 200 people but thousands showed up. Even if they did have a contract with group on, make such huge mistake in misrepresenting the event is still ground to sue.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The Son Of Maddoff

    It would make him proud....

  9. JimmyPage

    Seems to me ..

    Groupon is in the same league as eBay and Paypal ... businesses that are more than happy to take other peoples money, and then disappear when anything goes wrong ....

    Seems world+dog has it in for them atm ... with news the OFT have started digging too ....

  10. LarsG

    AND SO IT BEGINS.......

    The downfall of the not so mighty.

    When will businesses realise the fatal implications of 'going Groupon'.

    1. Marvin the Martian

      It's more "grouping at straws"

      The last option before you go under.

      Well, afterwards you go under when it backfires, it seems --- however you were doing beforehand.

  11. miknik
    Thumb Up

    We had to go out and buy thousands of toys that we'll never see the money back for

    Isn't that what Santa does? How very authentic this grotto sounds.

  12. Keep Refrigerated

    Groupon's new strategy - destroy your competitors!

    Is it just me, or is it starting to seem like Groupon's sales, vetting and admin procedures are particularly lax? Surely it can't be long before they're gamed by some professional husslers or opportunists.

    Sick of seeing your competitor across the street get more business than you? Just sign up using their details at Groupon, arrange a Groupon offer and watch their business crumble and their reputation get dragged through the mud!

    On the other hand, perhaps this could have been defeated by the chief elf calmly point out to each customer that they never actually offered Groupon vouchers, customer has been scammed and therefore must take it up with Groupon. Would any normal person accept a large delivery from Amazon for an item that they put in their basket but then changed their mind and didn't checkout? It's practically the same thing that's happened here.

  13. oddie

    I use groupon as a customer, and although i have seen a few stories about how some promotions have gone wrong i wouldnt exactly assume that this is what happens every time a merchant sets up a deal with them. For comparison, a threshers off license (liquour store to you merkins) burned down close to where i used to work a few years ago, but im pretty sure not all of them catch fire all the time (although i am also pretty sure its not the only store selling alchohol that has ever burned down).

    Having said that, i wish there was more deals on that werent hair extensions, nails or spas :(

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I guess 'technical erro'r is a euphemism for greed driven incompetence at Groupon HQ.

  15. Mage Silver badge


    Wasn't this in 2010? papers missed Christmas and filed it for this year?

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Anyone remember Jasper Carrot

    in the 80s, or was it spitting image ... anyway, they did a sketch with an appaling local-cinema ad (remember them, advertising the local curry house, or dance school ?) with the tag line ... "put your competition out of business - advertise them here"

    "Put your competition out of business - advertise them on Groupon"

  17. Mark York 3 Silver badge
    Paris Hilton

    It Was Indeed Spitting Image

    PH because of the Hot Dong.

    An hour from now you'll wish you hadn't had one.

  18. tony trolle

    "local curry house"

    A friend who owns a restaurant ran a Groupon offer. Dinner for two cost $20 worth $47.

    He "booked it" but was not told when it would run. He got a surprise email on the day it ran.

    Only about 64 took the offer (was checking on Groupons website); funny thing is less than 20 have turned up after two months maybe they are waiting for Xmas. His return for the deal from Groupon $35. yes $35 for close too $1000 worth of food so far.

    1. Riccardo Spagni


      If, indeed, 20 vouchers have been handed in and redeemed he will be able to get his $10 per voucher (less his portion of credit card fees and any local tax). I would imagine he's received at least $170, in that event. Despite the equivalent sales price being $940 on those 20 vouchers, that is before credit card processing fees. Also, many restaurants are notorious at having a 300%-500% markup on the food cost (and their overheads are not high enough to justify the disparity). If your friend didn't claim for the redeemed vouchers correctly, then I have no sympathy, but otherwise your story makes little sense.

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Groupon - as investigated by the Office of Fair Trading

    Same company, same newspaper, slightly different story: Groupon has succeeded in provoking a rare investigation from the Office of Fair Trading.

    "The Office of Fair Trading (OFT) has launched an investigation into Groupon after the controversial online coupon business was found to have broken advertising regulations nearly 50 times this year.

    Groupon could be taken to court as a result of the probe, and potentially face both criminal and civil charges.

    The Advertising Standards Authority revealed today that it has referred Groupon to the OFT, after “repeated breaches” by the online business sparked “serious concerns” about its approach to UK advertising regulation. The OFT has secretly been undertaking its own investigation into Groupon, which it started in June but only admitted to today.

    It is only the second time that the ASA has referred a company to the OFT – the last being Ryanair in 2008. <continues>"

    The article's comments are quite interesting too. Certainly makes you wonder who paid the $8billion.

    1. TeeCee Gold badge
      Thumb Down

      "It is only the second time....... – the last being Ryanair in 2008."

      So joint first for outright bullshit, tied with Ryanair?

      Just to put that into perspective, less likely to be telling the truth than: A telco. An ISP. A firm of professional ambulance-chasers. An insurance company. A shady "quick loans" organisation. A bank.........etc ad nauseum.

  20. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

    @Good Lord

    Groupon take the money direct from the customer remember.

    You generally buy the discount coupon on groupon's site - and they pass on a cut to the retailer.

    So unless the York grotto felt like turning away all the groupon tickets and refunding the money to groupon - and causing a riot - they are a bit stuck.

    1. Mark 65 Silver badge

      So they should instead make losses honouring a contract they didn't sign?

  21. Tim Bell

    Anything to do with Groupon turns out badly for small business in the end...

    This took place on the USA side of the pond, but still a very powerful story:

    Read it here:

    'Groupon Was "The Single Worst Decision I Have Ever Made As A Business Owner"'

    Posies Cafe ... stop in, check it out, (and pay cash) whenever you are in Portland, Oregon - we do!

  22. VulcanV5

    Perhaps if you'd read both the report and this thread, there'd be no need to remind you to read post #6 here.

  23. Gadget Rage is BAD

    @Keep Refigerated

    no.. its not just you..

    OFT launches investigation into Groupon advertisements

  24. david 63

    Not a technical error...

    ...more like a factual inexactitude by the sounds of it.

    Having had some dealings with these folks I see our small company had a fortunate escape when we rejected their proposal, which was definitely what was agreed with the salesperson.

  25. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "we apologise that the picture and wording used in this promotion may have indicated that a train ride was available at York Winter Wonderland when this wasn’t the case"

    Yeah! Tell that to the face of a crying, trusting, innocent, sweet little kiddie that has set their heart upon a wee train ride and a meeting with Father Crimble! For shame!

    Ha ha ha ha!

  26. Mike Richards Silver badge

    Groupon seem to be better at killing off businesses than any number of economic recessions. From their catastrophic flotation through to cup cake companies baking round the clock, it's been a long time since there's been a Groupon story that can't be filed under 'Uh oh'.

  27. Martin Gregorie Silver badge

    So, let me understand this...

    "Ward said that the grotto did want to sell tickets through Groupon, but claimed that there were issues with the voucher and they had never signed the contract."

    So, why in hell is the grotto out of pocket buying toys for Goupon punter's kids? No contract = no requirement to accept the Groupon voucher.

    The unasked and unanswered question is "What are Groupon doing to sort the problem out?" Saying 'sorry' really doesn't begin to match the situation, but free entry to a grotto with a train for punters and paying for the grotto's losses and damage costs might.

  28. Grease Monkey Silver badge

    "Owing to a technical error, we apologise that the picture and wording used in this promotion may have indicated that a train ride was available at York Winter Wonderland when this wasn’t the case,"

    I love the idea that it was a technical error that the picture AND wording offered something that was not available. One or the other might, just possibly, have been a technical error, but both? Oh come on!

    And Groupon didn't even bother to comment on the fact that they had issued these vouchers even though no contract had been signed.

    Groupon are shysters plain and simple. The OFT and the ASA are already investigating their activities. I wouldn't be at all surprised if inspector knacker is on the case before long.

  29. Kungfugerbil


    "....claimed that there were issues with the voucher and they had never signed the contract"

    Hmm. Before grabbing a pitchfork and burning torch and heading for Castle Groupon, I would be interested to see if that was the case...

    As for small businesses underestimating the demand, that's naivete on their part - you can set a max number of vouchers with Groupon, limiting your total exposure.

    What Groupon does reportedly seem to be guilty of is high-pressure sales and misleading statements about building repeat business and selling on extras, but it's no different to the double glazing man 'phoning his boss to see if he can get a better discount'. Groupon folk are so savvy that they will turn up for the offer and only the offer - I've done it myself a number of times. If you have a meal in a restaurant for a Groupon-tastic ten quid, are you going to go back the next week and have the same for 40 quid?

    In this instance though they were guilty of mixing up the details with a similar grotto in Hull that did indeed offer a train ride. Certainly the grotto should take it up with Groupon...

    - 'Windows user' icon as to my CRT-addled brain he looks a bit Father Christmas-y. From a distance. With one eye shut. And the other one squinting. In the dark.

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