Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Groupon - Confusion for sale cheap

Wendy subscribes to Groupon and regularly gets offers for all kinds of random stuff.  Sometimes these offers work out really well and sometimes... not so much.  The biggest problem with Groupon is that they present a coupon offer with the fine print acknowledging that you still have to pay taxes, tips, and other costs on your own.  However, the legalities of precisely how much you have to pay vary all over the place and coupon holders end up in annoying situations.

For example, I got a carpet cleaning for $40.  The guy showed up and called me asking how he would go about getting down into the building's visitor parking area; unfortunately my condo building doesn't have one of those.  I advised him about pay parking nearby and he got angry and upset because I was suggesting he pay for parking though eventually we managed to find him a spot in the back of the building to park for free for a short time.  When he came up he asked for the taxes to the tune of $10.

I was like, pardon?

Last time I checked when you apply a 13% tax rate to $40 you get $5.20, not $10.  He got offended when I asked why he was charging a 25% tax rate and gave me a long sob story about how Groupon only gives him half of the fee and then charges him $2.50 on top of that.  This sounds terrible for him and all, because spending a couple hours driving across the city to make $17.50 seems absolutely wretched, but how exactly is it my problem that he agreed to perform this service for $17.50?  If you can't make a profit at the price you are charging, perhaps you should charge a different price, no?

The legalities surrounding taxes on Groupon purchases are completely nuts, upon further research.  Some places force you to pay tax on the full amount, which was listed at a unbelievable $160.  Sorry folks, I am not paying tax on the 'regular price' which is used only as a red herring.  Some places only ask for the tax on the amount paid for the service, which would line up with how taxes work on every other purchase in the world!  When I go to The Bay and get a shirt at 50% off I don't pay tax on the 'regular price'...

The real problem with this in the end is that the Groupon is supposed to, in theory, get the vendor more clients by bringing in new customers for a bargain.  Instead we ended up irritated and bitter, not to mention confused, and have no intention of ever contacting this company again.  Even though the carpet cleaner relented and only charged me $5 in tax I found the whole experience distasteful.  I don't mind paying the taxes on things but it really bothers me to have a contract I can't get out of where the terms aren't clear.  If I can negotiate ahead of time I am fine with it but negotiating the price after having already committed to buy is a poor situation indeed.

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