Friday, January 13, 2012

Tru-ly gross

A a web products guy, I'm totally fascinated by the whole "daily deals" industry: Groupon, LivingSocial, PopSugar and the like. (See my earlier post on the subject.) Sadly, I think it will all inevitably implode. But at least it ought to be an interesting ride down.

I've talked to a lot of merchants and vendors who have tried these services, and most of the time, they have ended up regretting it. This is a marketing expense; the merchants lose money on the daily-deal customer. If the customer doesn't come back, then it's a failure. That seems too often to be the case.


Often, it's the type of customer these deal sites attract. These folks (and I admit to having been one of them, from time to time) are only there to take advantage of the discount, with no intention of becoming a "regular" customer. Some people take this to truly immoral extremes (by buying multiple discounts under aliases, for example), without ever trying to appreciate what the merchant has to offer.

And then, all too often, it's the merchants themselves who fail to capitalize on the moment. The whole point, from the merchant's perspective, is to get more people through the door. Once we're there, the battle's half won. Now all you have to do is make a good impression, and maybe you'll convert us into repeat customers. That's what's supposed to happen, anyway.

Well, here's the story of one place - Tru Spa in San Francisco - that failed.

I bought a LivingSocial voucher for a massage. (What? I work at a computer. I get a stiff neck.) I made my appointment and showed up on time. Here, in order, are the things that just sucked about the whole experience, and why I will never, ever go back:

#1. The exterior: I know this isn't really their fault, but is there an uglier building in SF?

#2. The interior: Straight up WHORE HOUSE vibe. Gah.

#3. Men's waiting room: Tiny and cramped. A platter of truly scary dried cheeses, table grapes and a few crackers and brownies, which had obviously been sitting out  for hours. Double gah. There was a tin bucket holding a few bottles of Anchor Steam beer. Thanks! Unfortunately, the bottles were floating around in luke-warm water, which had no doubt been ice at one time. No thanks!

As complement to the overwhelming despair of the waiting room, there was a wall-mounted TV which happened to be showing the most depressing shit-hits-fan section of the movie Good Fellas (the part where Henry Hill is getting arrested and his wife is running around flushing bags of coke down the toilet and stuffing a handgun into her panties). What the eff?

#4. The massage itself: Competent but not great; inoffensive but forgettable.The massage therapist seemed to be hustling through the whole routine, moving just a bit too fast. That seems counter to the whole point, if you ask me.

#5. The checkout process: This is where they really dropped the ball. There was a mandatory tip of $26 applied to my bill. This was not optional; it is "policy" (although not stated on the Living Social voucher) to apply a 20% gratuity to all Living Social customers. I understand required gratuity at restaurants for tables of 6 or more. But for a massage? That's just bullshit.

In summation, no go back.