Monday, February 07, 2011

HALF OFF! EVERY DAY! had a controversial commercial during yesterday’s Super Bowl, a riff on a public service announcement about Tibet.

I’ll leave it up to you as to whether Groupon was edgy or went over the line.

Now I want to talk about JoS. A. Bank.  Until I started to write this post, I didn’t know if JAB was local, regional or national.  A quick search shows it to be a national clothing chain.

That means some of you will have heard its continual radio and TV commercials about the “HUGE [fill in the blank] SALE:  ANY THREE SUITS FOR THE PRICE OF ONE!!!!”

Is it any secret that the “price” isn’t the “price?”  Would anyone in their right mind go to JAB and buy a suit on a day there wasn’t a HUGE SALE?  Not that I think there ever is such a day.  It isn't half off if it's the price every day.

JAB is a cheap clothing discounter.  I’ve never been in one of its stores; but, I’m betting that everything it sells is last year’s line, seconds and/or inferior quality lines.  It’s the loud version of Wal-Mart.  Buy huge quantities of cheap stuff and sell it at a low margin to a lot of people.  There’s a market for this.

Groupon and Scoutmob and their cousins have come of age in a recession.  Retailers, restaurants, gyms and so on are desperate to draw in customers.  I get an Email from Half Off Depot each day, offering really good prices on what seem to be pretty marginal businesses.

Should I assume that these offers represent the true value of the products and services and make sure I never pay the “normal price?”  Should I assume that a point in time, Groupon, et al. will run out of desperate businesses and fade away?  Are Groupon type companies creating an unsustainable model of consumer choice – go from coupon offer to coupon offer, never returning to a business that reverts to regular prices?

Any of these scenarios aren’t good for online coupon companies or their clients.  Then too, Groupon turned down a $6 billion offer from Google and is being valued at $15 billion for a planned IPO; so, what do I know?


Thomas said...

When I worked at Sears many many years ago, our paint was on sale 26 weeks out of the year. I was told that was the maximum amount of time they could legally call it a Sale Price.

When it wasn't on sale, we moved it back to the stockroom and moved the paint that was on sale out on the sale's floor. Nobody every bought paint at full price, unless they got caught needing a few more gallons than they'd anticipated- and in that case, we'd write a "retroactive raincheck."

Thomas said...

I went to YouTube and saw the commercial you were talking about. Here's the link, for anyone that's curious: LINK/.

I wouldn't say I was "offended," but I thought it was mean and callous. When an individual is unconcerned with the suffering of others, they are called a sociopath; I think you could apply that to this company.

Posol'stvo the Medved said...

I admit, I laughed out loud at the Groupon commercial. Perhaps its a result of feeling maniuplated one too many times by the Sally Struthers Won't-You-Please-Help type commercials. I thought it was a clever twist.

Mind, if Tibet were my homeland, I'd be mightily pissed.

Dave said...

Tom and Pos, read Neal Steinberg's column today in the Chicago Sun-Times for another take.