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Groupon CEO apologizes to Japan customers for 'osechi' mess-up

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Hahaha. Mc Donalds had this problem with mega Mac. And groupon expects to teach Japanese about planning. Hahahahaha. Japanese have no planning skills unless they can have thousands of meetings and that years to do anything. Should of hired more westerners to run your company here.

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The lesson here is to take J-promises with a grain a salt. Whether it be Bird Cafe or your contract with your employer, J-negotiators will say anything and everything to get what they want, then renege later. And it's always you who "misunderstood."

You'll know a J-business is BSing when they balk at signing something that will strictly hold them legally accountable. That"s the lesson for Groupon when negotiating these deals. Make Bird Cafe pay big.

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The Bird Cafe in Yokohama has reportedly closed because of the terrible publicity after its inability to supply the product it said it would. Google the advertised pictures vs the actual product. The president has reportedly resigned.

Good for Groupon for giving full refunds and a free voucher.

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Groupon works with thousands of businesses in Japan, and in this case picked the wrong one to feature with a discount offer. The Bird Cafe chain was started and run by a guy who knows nothing of, and cares nothing for, customer service, and who has no business being in the food service industry. In the end, Groupon may have done Japanese consumers a favor.

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In the video he says that Groupon has been going for two years in the United States. They recently turned down a six billion dollar offer for the company. Not bad for a 26-year-old!

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Seeing those Groupon adds everywhere starts to be really annoying...

Tokyoapple: And it's always you who "misunderstood."

I've seen this many times in personal experiences. Being a foreigner make this matter even worse.

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"They recently turned down a six billion dollar offer for the company."

The offer was from Google. Many business analysts thought they were crazy not to accept what was thought to be a premium price. Although they are currently the industry leader, there is plenty of local competition popping up worldwide(maybe Japan also). Time will tell whether they made the right decision.

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While working in business in Japan, my employer told me "Always tell the customer YES WE CAN, and then work out the details later." If you say no from the start, he said, then you lose the contract. But if you say yes, you have a chance to do your best. If you can't keep your end of the bargain at that time, you can say, "Well, sorry, we tried."

It sounds to me like Bird Cafe has the same philosophy. This SEEMS to work in Japan, but when dealing with overseas companies who don't accept "fuzzy logic", it turns into a nightmare. I guess Bird Cafe and Groupon learned a lesson about cultural and business differences between their two countries.

I first read about Groupon in a business news site, and then started seeing Groupon coupons and ads showing up everywhere on all my J-sites as well. So I agree, I'm tired of everything being Groupon this, groupon that.

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paulinusa -- agree. And there is plenty of competition in Japan. Recruit and Piku to name just two of the bigger ones. In fact, I heard that none of them are doing that well here, as they cannot get enough members to subscribe to all the offers. And if the offer is not subcribed, they make no money.

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I don't know how FOREIGN the groupon branch in Japan was, but there is one thing Japan can't tolerate and that's rituals gone bad. If this was catering for a wedding reception or some ordinary dinner deal this wouldn't have caused so much damage. At least it would be an isolated case.

But it's OSECHI we're talking about here. For those who enjoy this, it's the most important and expensive meal of the year. Some mother's or daugher-in-law's reputation depends on it being perfect. Or close enough so that people can laugh about it.

I don't know how "capacity planning" can save their reputation, but good luck to them.

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I have to say that if that 500 osechi set order is accurate than someone really did screw up, because it doesn't seem to me like an overwhelming number. If it had been thousands that would be a different story.

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Why is Groupon apologizing for Bird Cafe trying to rip off its customers?

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PenelopePitstop at 12:15 PM JST - 18th January Why is Groupon apologizing for Bird Cafe trying to rip off its customers?

Are you serious ? So what you 're saying is Groupon should pass all the blame to Bird Cafe and not give our free vouchers and stuff to the upset customers ? Good luck doing business in Japan.

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Sounds just like the Schindler Elevator fiasco all over again.

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Groupon did the right thing. Admitting the error along with a full refund and an apology usually placates most Japanese. It's when companies refuse to apologize or admit a mistake that they really invoke the consumers' ire.

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I've purchased several Groupon deals here in northern California in the past year and have been very pleased with the end results. In fact, tomorrow I plan to use the $10 Groupon coupon (for which I paid $5) at the San Francisco Soup Company. A couple of months ago I realized that I wasn't going to be able to use it by the expiration date, so I emailed the company for an extension. The co-owner, Steve Sarver, promptly emailed me back saying "No problem. Bring this printed email with you and if the staff give you a hard time, show that Steve (owner) said it is OK to accept the Groupon late." How's THAT for customer service!

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I think Groupon is going to come out of this here in Japan just fine. As cstaylor says, refer to Schindler. In both cases, Groupon and Schindler were technically not the ones at fault. BUT, unlike Schindler, Groupon apologized, refunded, and gave out vouchers to settle their public image. Should be fine. BTW, I had a friend who recently applied for positions at BOTH Groupon and Rakuten for work. Funnily enough, the online application for both was eerily identical. Does anyone know if Rakuten is affiliated with Groupon in any way?

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I thought his apology was good. It was sincere as he explained clearly what happened and what his company is doing to solve the issue.

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I, too, feel that Groupon CEO Andrew Mason's apology was most admirable and sincere. You can judge for yourself via the video clip posted on japanrealtime/2011/01/18/from-new-year-meals-to-drag-shows-groupon-learns-japan-ropes/#

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sctaber56: are you working at Groupon?

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It seems to bethe same situation in Germany. You get flooded by the Groupon ads when surfing German web sites, but the forums are full of complaints about the quality of the food. They also say that groupons have not been accepted by restaurants.

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Groupon Japan was created through Groupon's acquisition of Q:pod, a Japanese group discount buying site started only in June of 2010. No direct relation to Rakuten, but Groupon has a back-end service deal with Rakuten to enable Rakuten users to log in and make purchases on Groupon using their Rakuten IDs, and there rumors at one time that Rakuten might try to acquire Groupon's Japan operation--though that seems unlikely now, given Groupon's recent astronomical valuation.

And no, I have no relationship with either company except as a user.

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@TumbleDry: No, but that's an idea! I've purchased a few of their deals, that's all. Their marketing model and hyper growth intrigues me. Mason evidently graduated from Northwestern U with a degree in music. Maybe his story will be next year's hit movie!

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Groupon needs to pull out of Japan now.

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Groupon needs to pull out of Japan now.

Why? Care to elaborate or just stick and move? Seems they did a very wise business move by their apology, and knowing nothing of business you just post a tag and go bye bye.

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Back to the six billion-dollar offer rejection. If they really feel the company is worth more than that, then 500 unhappy osechi customers will have almost no impact at all. He did the right thing and apologised, although he probably should have done a bit more bowing. Basically, Japanese consumers love coupons and stamp cards. I'd say Groupon is pretty safe in Japan if they can really offer substantial discounts as they seem to do without any more stuff-ups.

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It may be off-topic, but I just have to say that osechi is the worst holiday food ever.

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As I said in a previous post 500 doesn't sound like an overwhelming number. And I know they've had an occcasional hiccup in the US with offers being swamped with too many responses. It's possible they'll have to vet their partners better or tweak their capacity planning formula specifically for Japan.

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Groupon has lost face. It betrayed Japanese cutomers. It will cost high. If it does same thing again, I will never use it forever.

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Osechi cuisine is a once-a-year Japanese treat, and a true delicacy when well done. i suppose that is why the demand was so overwhelming, apparently in response to a very good deal... too bad.

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If we, the Japanese, have kept our traditions properly, we would never have a situation where you "order" OSECHI, let alone through the internet. We might as well celebrate our new year with our usual set meals from a fast-food chain. What the story has revealed in one sense is 'the absense of positives' VS 'the presense of negatives' discussion. I would question, with all my faith for the nation, what is it that we need to get done now for Japan?

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morotoy; go back to basics and provide decent services without gimmicks.Traditions are good and when watered down and people are reliant on something mass produced then be prepared for trouble. Like expecting a decnt X Mas meal from a massive catering company.

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If we, the Japanese, have kept our traditions properly, we would never have a situation where you "order" OSECHI, let alone through the internet.

A valid opinion, but traditions don't exist in a vacuum. If you want osechi made at home the old-fashioned way you need to have the right, traditional environment - the yome in the kitchen cooking non-stop for a week beforehand producing overseasoned food that isn't going to go off in three days without benefit of refrigeration. The spirit of the tradition is surely to celebrate the New Year - if people on a tight schedule, most likely working until lunchtime on Omisoka, want to do that by paying someone else to cook the food, (food that is tasty rather than merely non-perishable and with 'propitious' names, that's fine.

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@clea: It's the same sad loss of traditional cooking happening at the holidays in the US. For Thanksgiving and Christmas dinner, more and more folks are either going out to eat or buying completely prepared "feasts" at their local supermarket. Very few leftovers to enjoy the next day. It's either lack of time or lack of cooking/baking skills, I guess.

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cleo san; I appreciate your opinion. "Time is money" as they say. However, precisely because "time is money", these age old traditions are so precious and should be something that is worthy of retaining. As a Japanese we need to hand down to our children what it means to be a Japanese, much rather like the Welsh have kept their love-spoon tradition or the Lao(tians) have kept their katip. If we allow the industry to take over our critical ethno-cultural identities for the sake of Globalization, our diversity shall end with the demise of commercialism.

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As a Japanese we need to hand down to our children what it means to be a Japanese

I suspect there's more to being a Japanese than spending hours in the kitchen preparing stuff that people don't really want to eat. When we first got married I knocked myself out doing the whole We-gotta-have-a proper-traditional-Oshogatsu thing. My husband told me he didn't want it, he'd rather celebrate the New Year with food he liked, rather than food he was supposed to eat because it was traditional. Now we have o-zoni on Gantan, because we like it; otherwise we eat what we like, and enjoy the holiday.

Like any tradition, the bits worth saving continue because people want them; if people don't value a particular tradition, what's the point in carrying on with it?

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Osechi preparation involved the entire family and would have given the whole family to interact in a different way. Must have been fun when many hands made loads of stuff, shared the time making the stuff. Younger ones and new additions to the family learned stuff from the older members. But in today's fast-paced world, it is a task to meet your siblings even if you live not far from each other. Wish there was another way to pass on the tradition. Groupon failed here as they did not assess thge situation well.

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Osechi preparation involved the entire family

When tradition decreed that men and boys never entered the kitchen?

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Men helped in shopping, bringing the ingredients, cutting wood, fetching water for the cooking? The women i he old days owned the kitchens. The Jmen I know, in their 20s - 70s cook their food. My dad started cooking when he retired from work. Traditions similar to osechi exist in other countries too.

Moderator: Back on topic please.

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