The term Roach Motel ("where roaches check in, but they don't check out!") was coined by Black Flag pesticides in 1976. Judging from my experience yesterday, Groupon membership is quite similar.

Groupon (GRPN) went public recently after some kerfuffles with the SEC. (The SEC demanded that their stated revenue be reduced massively.) In the IPO filing, GRPN stated that they had over 50 million subscribers as of December 2010 (page F-37 of Form 424B4), and by September 2011, that number had grown to 143 million (page 1)! Notably, in 2009, they had only 152,000 subscribers (of which 43,000 made purchases) whereas in 2011 "only" 29.5 million purchases were made on the 143 million. That means purchase activity among Grouponers declined from 28.3% to 20.6%. (If one considers the fact that 16 million customers made multiple purchases, the activity percentage is declining much faster.)

That GRPN has never been profitable is beyond the scope of this post.I don't like crowds, and I didn't like being one of the 143 million Grouponers. Also, as a bald man, I had grown especially weary of the daily 20%-off Groupons for hair removal services. (There were never any discounts for hair retrieval services.)

Hence I tried to "cancel" my Groupon membership yesterday. Alas, there is NO ability to do that on their website, and NO instructions on how to cancel membership. So I sent an email to the GRPN "customer support line," with the question: "How do I cancel (and close) my Groupon Account?

The response: "You will no longer receive any promotional emails from Groupon. Please note that in the future you may receive transactional emails regarding past or future purchases made though your account and important business announcements that could affect your rights as a customer. You may receive an email if we update our privacy statement or our terms of service."

One can interpret this to mean that they may still count me as a "subscriber" for the purposes of the 143 million, but they won't count me as a subscriber to their daily emails. Gone, but not forgotten….

Misquoting Shakespeare, "I come neither to bury Groupon, nor to praise him. But the email address that Groupon captures lives after them."

[Disclosure: I have no Groupon position. I note that Blag Flag Roach killer comes in both "fragrance free" and "fresh pine scent." Here, I smell a rat.]


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