Today: Groupon versus The Kansas City Star, Old Ways Die Hard

Think of it as the difference between the Flintsones and the Jetsons

The Kansas City Star’s trusty-but–rusty "Star Card" pitted against Groupon’s cutting edge deals-of-the-day email blasts. Once upon a time – like 40 years ago – buy-one get-one free coupon books for restaurant dining were cutting edge.

I remember getting one for Christmas from one of my sisters, heading down to a presigious Plaza restaurant and sheepishly handing the coupon to the server when the check came. It was downhill from the get-go – an excercise in awkwardness that put an immediate end to my usage of the coupons.

And while mercifully, with The Star Card, those coupon-tearing days are gone, the awkwardness remains.

Not so when diners, airbrush tan-wanters – even panty-of-the-month club types – get a half-off deal from Groupon.

Longtime Star Card participant Jardine‘s jazz club on the Plaza can attest to the differences…

"Let me tell you, Groupon has a solid clentele, they are up to 350,000 people locally now," says Jardine’s owner Beena Brandsgard. "And these people are no Star Card people – these are people who will spend money and I’ve seen it. They’re younger, hipper, they know how to tip and they make reservations. I have nothing but positive things to say about Groupon."

On the flip side of that coin with Star Card carriers

"They’re older, they don’t tip – with the Star Card the people automatically don’t put tips on there.. Groupon has brought me a completely different audience. These people are looking for cool, new things to do. The Star people are old. I mean, they’re rich people and they’re looking for that buy one get one free and they pretend they don’t know they’re supposed to tip on the total amount. And the Passport people are even worse. The thing I like the most about Groupon is it’s brought me completely new people."

Brandsgard’s bottom line: "The days of those dining cards are over," she says. "You know, if you come in with one of those, people are going to look at you like, ‘Are you in the Stone Age?’ You know, they had their time, but it’s 2011, right?"
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12 Responses to Today: Groupon versus The Kansas City Star, Old Ways Die Hard

  1. bschloz says:

    Deal Of The Day
    Lets say Gates does a Groupon $10 for $20 good deal…GYEAH! Ok Ollie we sold 2,000 of these for you to local KC hipsters and it cost you nothing… we rasied $20,000 in cash pretty good huh here is your cut $10,000 cut…uhh one small detail is you have to give away $40,000 in short ends and strawberry pops.
    I wonder how a Gates coupon in The Star would work–$10 Off any $20 purchase or more? HaHa Ya think it would cost em 10ger to redeem 2,000. I’ll take that bet.
    I remember when Alta Vista and Excite were hip too….I’m not bashing Groupon just trying to understand it….and waiting for an offer to come across that an old fart like me will redeem.
    I have carried a Passport Card for the last 10 years …Cippriano does a pretty good job with that.

  2. Hearne says:

    Here’s my take after looking into it…
    For one, it’s a form of advertising. Well over a quarter million locals get an email blast describing and touting your biz. People who have voluntarily signed up and want to get it. They’re going to look you over pretty close. Most of them, like me, will be too busy to do it in time. Or won’t be sure when they’ll be in that part of town or whatever.

    But a strong impression has been made.

    Since they are both younger and arguably hipper/more clued in to being online etc, they’re not John Knox Villagers taking the Star and being arguably a bit clued out. Like Beena says, they’re fresh faces – unlike the Star Card and Passport people – and that’s who a business wants to attract.

    They’ll spend more than the Groupon if it’s priced right. If you do a good job and they have a good time, you’ll make new customers out of them like Blanc Burger has testified.

    And since the offers are dated, a bunch of them will be lost or temporarily forgotten and that’s money in the bank. Plus it’s cash up front. Plus they aren’t stick in -he-muds trying to get the second (more expensive) entree for free. Or tipping only on that paid entree.

  3. smartman says:

    Ollie Ollie in Free
    Ollie ain’t stupid. If Gates does a Groupon offer I’m heading to my bomb shelter. I’m with BSchloz. I don’t understand it. Does not compute from a marketing or finance perspective. All it tells me is that if you can afford to offer Groupon deals your damn prices are TOO HIGH. Groupon is already under fire from many new sources of online competition. That whole business model is being commoditized. I know a lot of people that have and continue to buy every Blanc offer. They never go there without the DEAL. It would not be hard for the Star to compete head to head with Groupon, they’re just too damn stupid to do it. Talk about an easy way to fluff up the bottom line.

  4. TIAD says:

    Oh, Jr., You Can Be Such A Tool….
    So tell me, Jr.: WTF is the actual difference in giving the server a Groupon paper certificate (or maybe a barcode image of it on your “smartphone,” who knows) or a Star Dining Card, or an Entertainment Card, or, God forbid (according to you), an actual coupon snipped from a, God forbid, actual newspaper?

    I mean, WTF is the actual difference?

  5. Hearne says:

    There are many differences, some of which Beena noted
    For starters Groupon reaches a far younger, trendier demo and like double the circulation of the Star. The Star would love to have that demo but it doesn’t. Not in any great numbers, anyway. And that’s huge.

    Now go back and read what Beena said and try to remember before you scroll down to make another comment.

    Next, the buy one get one deal is altogether different than a Groupon. Groupon is essentially a gift card in a specific dollar amount. It’s lean and it’s clean. The restaurants also have to pony up thousands of dollars a year to be in the Orginials to qualify for the Star card.

    Trust me, the servers and restaurant owners know the difference and can tell. That’s why they’re all jumping on the Groupon bandwagon. As for people who only do Groupon deals, well, I’m sure there are people like that. But generally the deals are limited and as I understand it Groupon only allows two a year.

    Plus, the checks are generally higher than the amount of the Groupon. They design them that way for a reason. And limit generally the number one may purchase.

    Lots of the smartest, most successful restaurateurs in down are crunching these numbers and weighing these various propositions. That on the outside looking in some people don’t get it is understandable.

    As for some of the Groupon wannabes, especially the local ones, they’re preying on businesses that don’t fully understand the entire process. It’s not just about selling a few hundred or a couple thousand, it’s how many people you can reach.

  6. Scott says:

    Lucky Monkey
    You mention the Groupon wannabes. I actually like Lucky Monkey because it’s targeted to where I live (JoCo) so I will always look hard at that offer since I know it will be for something close to me. Groupon seems to be hit and miss on whether or not I can actually use it. But I subscribe to both.

  7. bschloz says:

    Who Are All Of These Restaurants?
    I have been on KC Groupon for over 2 months and have recieved 1 Fazloi’s offer?
    Passport = HHouse Yai Yai RC’s Garrozzo Blanc Bentons etc. etc. etc. Daily
    I’ve been to Jardines on Passport many times. Just a #’s game.

  8. TIAD says:

    Well, Let’s See….
    You slam the Star Card (from your former employer, BTW) and you say it was “cutting edge, like 40 years ago.” Well, first of all, I’ll bet there wasn’t a Star Card 40 years ago.

    Then you quote just one person, Beena Bransgard of Jardine’s, and that is supposed to convince us that Groupon is greatest thing since sex – or at least since Steak and BJ day?

    Get real, Jr.

  9. Hearne Christopher says:

    The buy one get ones have been around a long time. And there has been a lot more written here and reported about Groupon. Gotta keep up, dude.

  10. jjskck says:

    The question above was about how the experience of the consumer is any different for a Groupon vs. a card or other coupon, not the perceived youth and hipness quotient of the average Groupon user.

    To me, redeeming a Groupon is no less awkward than redeeming any other sort of dining coupon. I still feel kinda cheap.

    And to everyone: you do understand that Groupon pays for ads on this site, right? (Look right; hit refresh if necessary.) And that, not coincidentally, every word written about Groupon is exceedingly positive for all parties involved?

  11. Hearne says:

    Easy jjskck, let’s stick with the facts…
    KCC hosts Google Ads, which we have no control over. Nobody at Groupon is sending any checks our way. What happens is Google keys on what’s written about and diverts the appropriate advertisers to the site. I remember when I wrote about the Fiat 500 coming to Kansas City and some Fiat 500 ads showed up.

    Moving on, Groupons are like gift certificates, like actual dollars. No vague promises for half off., they’re bought and paid for. Walk into Jardine’s and lay a Groupon down or a gift certificate the bar sells and the server takes the exact dollar amount off of the bill. It’s treated as cash.

    With buy-one-get-one cards and coupons, there’s that messy, awkward uncertainty of which entree is the free one. Plus in the case of the Star Card and Passport diners seem to be more advanced in age and out more for cheap eats than cheap thrills.

    Face it, the readership of the Star has far more seniors and far fewer 20 to 30 somethings – or even 40 somethings than Groupon. And it’s very important to many, if not most businesses to attract that younger clientele newspapers don’t reach.

  12. jjskck says:

    Fair enough
    Thanks for clarifying the Google ad vs. Groupon discrepancy. My bad there.

    I have used a Groupon before. I don’t hate them. Even though they’re for a fixed $ amount, they still feel as awkward as a 1/2 off coupon for me. Maybe even a little worse, because the Groupon is typically a folded-up 8.5″x11″ printout that doesn’t easily slip into the leather sleeve they use to deliver the check. That’s for me personally, as a consumer. (For some, neither is awkward, and that’s just fine.)

    I fully agree on the demographics of Groupon users vs. Star card users. I also agree that Groupon users tend to understand how to tip on a discounted check better.

    I just don’t agree that it’s a good long-term strategy. Most Groupon-ers, young or no, typically exhibit the same behavior as other coupon chasers before them: visit a place for the discount, then move onto the next deal. If getting someone in the door in the hopes of knocking their socks off is the only goal, that’s fine. It just doesn’t happen often.

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