Like over 110 million other Americans, I was watching the Super Bowl last night. Besides the game, the thing that draws people into watching is the commercials. While I enjoyed a few commercials, and had to change the channel on a few others*, there was one that reminded me of my missionary days in China: Groupon.

*The joys of watching television with young boys. I had to explain the bad choices the people made in the Pepsi Max commercials, change the channel on the GoDaddy and Fast & Furious commercials, and hope the boys didn’t catch it when the Teleflora commercial had the line “nice rack”. These products, as well as others, didn’t endear themselves to me.

Groupon is a service that provides daily deals in major markets across America and the world. I’d heard about it for awhile, but only recently signed up after a post about it on Silicon Prairie News. The deals seemed good, but I hadn’t used it yet.

One of the reasons I hadn’t used any of the deals yet was because of my minimalist philosophy. The daily deals were nice, but they still were deals for products and services I wasn’t going to buy to begin with. Some of the restaurant deals are nice, but to drive across town to the establishment doesn’t make much of a difference in the savings with the deals.

Nothing had come up yet, with Groupon, where I purchased a daily deal.

Then, this Groupon commercial played during the Super Bowl.

The first time I went to China, back in January of 2000, one of the first things I was told when arriving there was never to converse about Taiwan or Tibet. It’s a no-win situation. When I’ve been in China, and Chinese ask my thoughts about either Taiwan or Tibet, I ask them what they think. I usually receive a charged reply.

When the commercial first started, and the words and tone seemed to reference Tibet’s plight, the first thought I had was, “I can’t believe the NFL signed off on this commercial airing.” I was envisioning the political firestorm that was coming. And then, there is the twist  at the 0:13 second mark. It’s not a commercial about Tibet’s plight, but rather a commercial for Groupon. Not only that, but Groupon seemed to be exploiting and making light of Tibet’s struggles for their own profit. Capitalism at its best/worst. Before the commercial had ended, my new thought was, “I can’t believe Groupon did this commercial.” I knew a backlash was coming, especially in light of the infamous Kenneth Cole tweet from last week.

I didn’t like the ad, but I’m sure Groupon thinks it achieved its goal because it got people talking. They produced a few other similar ads where they use a sensitive political issue as a launching point for their service. Some may find the ads funny, I find them boorish.

What to do, though? Do I drop Groupon because of the ad? Do I drop Groupon because of the apparent exploitation? Or, do I keep Groupon and just move on?

I thought to myself if I dropped Groupon, there would have to be a number of other products and services I would have to drop. I remembered that Apple has had its workers in China work under extremely harsh conditions, yet I’m longing for my new Verizon iPhone.

It’s near impossible to use products and services where one of them doesn’t exploit people for monetary gain.* I guess it depends on what you can tolerate, and what you know. It can be a case by case situation. It’s worth our time to think about these things.

*I’ll mention here this is one reason I don’t use Craigslist. They have a history of tolerating sex trafficking and prostitution on their site.

I decided to unsubscribe from Groupon’s daily email. While their Super Bowl ad was the impetus, the main reasoning was minimalism. I’m cutting back on spending. Why subscribe to a service that at its core wants me to shop and spend money? Why buy a product/service I don’t really have need of just because it costs less? Why use a coupon on a product/service when I spend the savings on gas money driving across town to get to the place?

I didn’t like the Groupon Super Bowl ad, but it was minimalism that caused me to drop Groupon.

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