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Over the last year or so I have been asked on occasion why I don’t offer Groupon deals at my clinic.
I have to admit, when Groupon suddenly appeared on the scene a couple of years ago, I was intrigued as I watched many people suddenly doing all their shopping and even booking holidays via Groupon and other ‘daily deal’ websites like Living Social and Wowcher.
It all seemed a bit too good to be true. An afternoon tea for £9.95, instead of £35? A massage for £15, instead of £60? Even laser hair removal promotions at £99, instead of £600. Wow! What’s not to like?!
Well, for a start…..all the negative experiences and horror stories from people who have felt either cheated or who have ended up spending more money trying to fix the damage their Groupon deals have caused them.
It soon became apparent that daily deal sites like Groupon, Living Social and Wowcher are no good for businesses and customers alike – and here’s why...
Why Groupon appears to be a ‘good’ thing
Sites like Groupon make a living by convincing businesses to offer their products and services at ridiculously low prices; the theory being, that these businesses will then gain an increase in returning customers who will then pay full price for the services offered.
This seems like a great idea if you’re either a new business or an established business which is struggling. However, this model only works for businesses selling low-cost items and does not work for service-orientated providers like aesthetic medical or cosmetic clinics providing treatments like laser hair removal.
Many clinics up and down the country jumped on the Groupon bandwagon without thinking of the dire consequences that lay ahead.
One clinic in my area fell foul and eventually closed down after months of fulfilling Groupon deals.
Why Groupon is actually a bad thing
So, here is how your Groupon deal works. Groupon will email you a package deal from a local laser clinic offering discounts of up to 90% off on laser hair removal. You then purchase that package and Groupon collects all the money. Then they take between 45 – 50% of that money as a commission for themselves. The other 50% gets paid back to the clinic in question, usually in three instalments spread several months apart.
For instance, if I am offering a £100 laser hair removal deal for £10, Groupon will keep £5 of that. So that leaves me with £5 which does not even get paid back to me in full right away. Let’s say for argument’s sake, that 500 people purchase that deal from Groupon, this would generate £2,500.
Great? No, not great. That £2,500 would need to cover the cost of an hour of clinic time for 500 consultations and patch tests, plus another 500 lots of 30-minute treatment slots in order to carry out the treatment.
This would mean that your local laser clinic, (if they’re doing things properly, without cutting corners) would be putting aside 750 hours of clinic time for the £2,500. This, believe it or not, would equate to the clinic making £3.33 per hour.
There is no laser clinic on this earth that can afford to run and deliver laser hair removal treatments on £3.33 per hour. It is little surprise therefore that daily deal sites like Groupon have been the reason behind so many businesses closing up shop.
Bad for the business and the customer
Given the above scenario, when a local laser clinic offers a Groupon deal, within a couple of hours hundreds of discounted laser hair removal packages are sold. Fantastic for business, right? Wrong! Not only is the clinic only making 5% of its original price it now has to accommodate 500 new clients.
It is not uncommon to hear of laser clinics being swamped following Groupon deals and unable to keep up with client demand.
Clients are unable to get through or get the appointment times they need, (crucial for successful hair removal if it is to be a permanent solution), phones are busy, the clinic is heaving and staff are often expected to put in extra hours in order to cope with the sudden influx of clients wanting their cheap laser treatments.
It’s impossible to keep up so something has to ‘give’ and sadly that ‘something’ is the quality of the treatment and service you receive. I have heard of anything and everything, from appointment times, being delayed for months, to treatments being done a bit ‘slap-dash’ (as one of my clients put it), to lasers being ‘turned down to low settings, to people having their skin burned.
The problem with having your appointment delayed for months is that you miss the right hair growth cycle – crucial if your laser hair removal treatment is to be permanent. Careless laser hair removal treatments mean the treatment is either ineffective or worse still can give you unwanted side effects like burns and blisters and possible scarring.
Now, you could be forgiven for thinking that practitioners and established laser clinics like mine are ‘bound to say such things and that perhaps we are merely scaremongering. Not so. Only last week a client of mine, whose husband has purchased a laser hair removal package for her, had initially been concerned that a friend of hers had bought a better deal through Groupon months earlier.
It turns out that her friend is now going for regular laser hair removal at another clinic. Not only did her Groupon package not effectively get rid of her bikini line hair, but the lady in question did not trust the clinic to ‘finish the job’- and I don’t blame her. A couple of years ago when Groupon first appeared on the scene, we had a young girl arrive at our clinic with a 5cm burn across her chin and jawline, seeking advice on what to do. She had purchased a Groupon offer and had paid for more than she bargained for.
Groupon: the figures just don’t add up
The fact is, a clinic using expensive medical grade lasers and IPLs costing £60K plus, which employs highly trained and skilled staff, simply cannot operate a business on £3.33 per hour. Therefore, the clinic is either operating sub-standard equipment, (which won’t get the desired results), and/or is using unqualified or inexperienced staff to deliver those treatments.
If this is the case, would you really want to trust such a clinic to use a laser on your skin?
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