We talked for a while and she explained it all to me. I recognize that she is essentially a salesperson and her job is to make it sound like a good deal. She succeeded. You can read all about it on Groupon’s site for selling their service to businesses, Groupon Works.
Despite the sales pitch, I was skeptical. I started talking to a bunch of people about their experiences and thoughts about it and eventually decided not to do it.
Why I said No
Let me be a bit conceptual here for a moment.
Like most small business owners, I consider what I do a craft. Each cupcake order I make is custom made in a small batch, usually by me with the occasional help of an assistant. What I charge for my work is that (sometime elusive) sweet spot between what it actually costs me to produce the order and what people think it’s OK to pay for cupcakes (aka “what the market will bear”). There’s not really a lot of wiggle room there.
Capitalism is really good at instilling in us the desire to pay as little for things as possible, despite what the things cost to produce. This doesn’t make sense. When we look at the “slow food” and artisan food movements, where things like organic vegetables and fancy cheese and nice bread cost a lot, the producers say it’s because that’s what it actually costs to make the food. While I’m sure we can all think of fancy food and artisan things that are over-priced, for the most part, while we live in a system where we pay for food (which is kind of absurd, but that’s another story), I think that charging what it actually costs to make something is right.
Offering a coupon (Groupon says it needs to be at least 50% off) encourages that kind of behavior – of thinking not of what something is worth, but a more self-focused “what kind of deal can I get this for” attitude that I don’t want to encourage. At all. It’s not the way to value things that are produced ethically, by people who care about what they are making and their customers.
Not offering a coupon feels like I’m saying “this is what my product is worth.” Good. Let’s go with that.
Isn’t it worth it for the marketing / getting my name out there?
As someone who works on publicity and marketing, I think about how to get the word out about projects all the time. Unlike other people, I think spending money on marketing and promo efforts is important and can be effective when done right.
When people say “I lost a lot of money using Groupon,” Part of me thinks of that dollar figure not as lost money but as the cost of a marketing effort. Then the discussion is, is that dollar amount something I am willing to pay as an investment in marketing? and did I gain customers as a result? For most people, the answer is no.
For example, when I look at my Groupon/coupon buying behavior and that of my friends, which I can guess is not that different from most of the Groupon-buying public, I pretty much only buy coupons for places I already go or have no intention of going to again after I’ve spent the coupon.
Most people who buy online coupons are coupon shoppers. If they want more cupcakes, they’re not going to buy from me, they’re going to wait for the coupon for the next cupcake place (because we all know that cupcake places are everywhere right now).
Now that I’ve had the opportunity to think about this in an in-depth way, I’m not doing that any more. It basically financially penalizes the small businesses and restaurants that I am patronizing and want to support. They’re not gaining me as a customer since I already go there (or don’t intend to go again), they’re just losing money on the transaction. If I don’t want people to do that to me, why am I going to do that to others?
One of the caveats I can imagine is that if I were offering, say, a yoga class where my costs stayed the same even if the number of participants increased, then it might make sense. But, obviously, cupcakes are different than yoga. And if I offered a class, I would probably just offer an introductory package (like half off your first month or something), bypass Groupon, and spend my time and money on social media.
Although I often joke and say that I have 10 jobs, really my main job is to help awesome authors & filmmakers promote their work through events and other outreach. I work with a few other really cool folks, and we have a group called Aid & Abet. I know, this is not news. I’m just trying to get everyone on the same page here.
Well, I am absolutely thrilled to announce that today we relaunched the Aid & Abet website – it’s at www.aidandabet.org and I absolutely love it. The designer is Derek Hogue and I will highly recommend him to anyone who wants a new site or a redesign. Not only does it look great, but the user interface is amazing and easy to use.
Second, along with the new site, today we are announcing the release of a new booklet – Get Noticed! How to Publicize Your Book or Film – designed for all of our friends (including many of you) who have your own projects and don’t want to or can’t afford to hire a PR firm to do publicity for you. There is tons of info in it and it’ll be helpful for anyone who has a book, project, or film to promote. It’s available as a PDF download or as a printed booklet, and you can find out more about it at: http://aidandabet.org/resources/get-noticed/.
The Allied Media Conference call for proposals is now being circulated (see below) for the July 2009 conference. I’m not sure yet if I’ll be there, it depends on how my finances shake out over the next couple months.
In a box under my bed is a copy of every zine I ever produced, including copies of Fucktooth going back to 1991 and one of every Zine Yearbook going back to 1996.
In 1995, I was writing and reading loads of zines from all over the U.S. and the world. It was a really great time, and there was so much amazing material being produced. I had started distributing other zines, ones that I hadn’t written, so I could, in a small way, help them reach a wider audience.
I began to think that there had to be a better way to get the word out about awesome zines besides just reviewing and distributing them. So, one day, in my bedroom in Columbus, Ohio, I had this idea of making a zine compilation, where I could not just tell people how good these zines were, I could show them.
So that was where the Zine Yearbook came from. I collected tons of entries/nominations from zines, and then Dan Sinker (of Punk Planet at the time) and Mark Murrman (Icki of Sty Zine) and I sat around one afternoon in Chicago and chose everything that went in it. That began many years of collecting hundreds of nominations, getting a committee of people together to read them all and vote on them, and then doing the actual work of making the book. After I started working on Clamor, the project kinda got enveloped into the Clamor conglomocorp along with the Allied Media Conference and other projects. One year, Tree of Knowledge distro from Arkansas helped us with the book, another, Soft Skull press.
So, even though this zine came out a while ago, I just got it in the mail yesterday — and I love it! One of my favorite photographers, Chrissy Piper, made a zine where she asks punks of all stripes to list three records that have changed or inspired their lives. So each page features a photo of the person, and then their three records, and sometimes a description – short or long – about the record.
Why is this so awesome? First, like many of these people, punk music and community was instrumental in shaping who I am today. So it’s great to see that honored.
Second, I LOVE ZINES. As if you couldn’t tell already. But, I love that this is a real zine, not a blog or a webzine, that it is a paper copy that I can have and hold and look at when I want. I have been floating this theory lately that zines are going to make a comeback in a big way. Partially it’s because of the political magazine landscape right now – when I think about where to print the articles I am writing, there aren’t a lot of options. So, I’m considering self-publishing – it’s either that or the web. I’m excited about this idea, and hope others are too, so seeing a great zine like this makes me happy. And, I’m planning a split of my old zine, Fucktooth, with my friend Mike of Antipathy zine sometime this spring/summer. Yes, really. And yes, I know it’s been 10 years. I was busy, OK?
You know, everyone’s doing it these days. First it was Al Gore who said, “I can’t understand why there aren’t rings of young people blocking bulldozers and preventing them from constructing coal-fired power plants.” And now it’s Wendell Berry and Bill McKibben–you can read their statement in this HuffPo post by Mike Brune.
See, all the cool kids think that coal is not the way of the future. So, a bunch of people are getting together to give a kind of show of strength on March 2–to do a mass nonviolent action at the Capital Coal Plant in Washington DC. Why should you be there? Because climate change is something you can’t ignore.
This is an opportunity, especially for people who don’t have experience in protest or direct actions, or who wonder about what they can do besides watch TV and worry – thousands of young people will be there because this action coincides with PowerShift – an amazing and powerful gathering of young people from around the U.S. who know that together, we have the ability to make change.
In honor of my dad‘s birthday today, two poems that he loved.
Crossing the Bar • Alfred Lord Tennyson
Sunset and evening star
And one clear call for me!
And may there be no moaning of the bar,
When I put out to sea,
But such a tide as moving seems asleep,
Too full for sound and foam,
When that which drew from out the boundless deep
Turns again home.
Twilight and evening bell,
And after that the dark!
And may there be no sadness of farewell,
When I embark;
For though from out our bourne of Time and Place
The flood may bear me far,
I hope to see my Pilot face to face
When I have crossed the bar.
High Flight • John Gillespie Magee, Jr
Oh! I have slipped the surly bonds of Earth
And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings;
Sunward I’ve climbed, and joined the tumbling mirth
Of sun-split clouds, — and done a hundred things
You have not dreamed of — wheeled and soared and swung
High in the sunlit silence. Hov’ring there,
I’ve chased the shouting wind along, and flung
My eager craft through footless halls of air. . . .
Up, up the long, delirious burning blue
I’ve topped the wind-swept heights with easy grace
Where never lark, or ever eagle flew —
And, while with silent, lifting mind I’ve trod
The high untrespassed sanctity of space,
Put out my hand, and touched the face of God.
Love to you, Dad, wherever you are.