Friday, March 25, 2011

Groupon gets “IT,” The Whitney Doesn’t

I am a huge fan of Groupon. I often use their offers and I am always excited when I get a chance to try out new places and services.

When The Whitney, an elegant fine dining restaurant in Detroit, had a Groupon offer I snapped it up. I was once a loyal customer of The Whitney but it had been some time since I dined there. I was thrilled to get a chance to go back to one of my favorite places.

Well, my schedule became insane and I found myself approaching the expiration date of the offer. About a week before, I called and asked for an extension.
I was turned down. Although I was disappointed that I wouldn’t be able to use the offer, I gave it to some good friends of mine. When they tried to use it on the final weekend, they were told that there were no reservations available. Their request for an extension was also turned down.

As a result of this, The Whitney now has two very disappointed couples. I wrote The Whitney to tell them how unhappy we all were but I got no response.

About a month later I saw that they had a new offer up on Groupon. I called the Whitney again.

This time I spoke with Matt, the manager. Matt couldn’t have cared less that I was unhappy or that my friends were unhappy. He even told me I should have contacted him sooner. When I told him that I had called, that my friends had called and that I sent an email, he was unfazed and unconcerned. He told me that it was the Whitney’s policy that they do not offer any extensions. When I asked, was it his policy, Matt said no, it was the owner’s policy. When I asked to speak to the owner, I was told that the owner does not speak to customers. WOW.

This would have been the right time to apologize profusely and offer something, however small, to win me back. But NO. Confronted with his attitude and rigidity, it was clear that being “right”, at least in his mind, was of the utmost importance. He simply didn’t care if I was his customer.

In my mind, the ENTIRE purpose of a Groupon is to create an opportunity to get new loyal customers. Businesses never make money on the Groupon, rather it’s a good-will gesture to introduce or reintroduce your product or service. Wouldn’t it make sense to do everything you could to keep your potential customers happy? Why would you solicit customers and then, not only deny them the chance to experience your food and service, but anger them in the process?

So now I have a personal grudge against The Whitney, and I will be happy to give a reverse endorsement if asked, “Go anywhere BUT The Whitney.” At this point I can only expect that the service at the restaurant would match the service I got from the manager — arrogant, cold and indifferent — not what you want from an upscale dining establishment.

Now to be fair, he did say, “If you have a problem, contact Groupon.” So I did.

I visited Groupon’s website planning to send an email with the hope that I would get a response. Boy, was I surprised. Yes, there was a place and an email address to send a message, but there was also a phone number.

I called and spoke to Cameron. I told him my tale of woe about The Whitney. He immediately gave me a refund. He was warm, friendly and concerned.

Now that was great customer service. In fact he exceeded my expectations in every way.

So, what is the “It” I mentioned in the headline? Well, “It” could translate as “giving exceptional service”. With that definition in mind, Groupon certainly gets what giving exceptional service is all about — and The Whitney certainly does not.

But more importantly, is what the “It” is to me. The “It” is my loyalty. Groupon has won my loyalty and The Whitney has lost it.

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