LivingSocial fails

I feel like LivingSocial’s recent $20 Amazon gift card promotion backfired on them. I, at least, will not be returning to them as a customer, despite having followed their website for the few months prior. (If anything, they had me as a customer before, and don’t now.)

First off, their site just wasn’t ready. I read reports of the validation of “one per customer” being client-side only, and the iPhone app apparently didn’t have restrictions at all. That wouldn’t surprise me (given how many deals got cancelled). That’s just poor design.

Secondly, the terms of the deal changed throughout the day. They first allowed DealBucks to be used on it (effectively making it cost $5 if someone sent you a referral link), which was changed overnight. The deal apparently first allowed one per person, then was changed to one per household, then was apparently changed to one per some unspecified metric.

I say unspecified metric because I continue to see reports of people having their deals canceled despite being legitimate purchases and following the rules… at least, following the rules that were in place at the time of purchase for them. It’s not unreasonable to cancel deals for people who broke the rules (signing up multiple accounts to bypass the restriction, bypassing the restriction with Firebug, etc), but it is unreasonable to expect every person who had purchased one to continue checking the site to notice the changes and proactively cancel their own purchases. (One report, for example, is a husband and wife who purchased during the “one per person” phase and had theirs canceled due to sharing a credit card.)

And, in the end, even if most of the reports going around are false, that’s not what really matters, is it? The fact that they are out there and people are reading them is enough. I can’t imagine I’m the only person reading them and being disgusted by their handling of the situation. And if I was one of the people who had my purchase canceled, I can’t imagine I would ever want to go back.

Third, I have a huge issue with their referral system. They seem to offer two “rewards”… a $5 credit of DealBucks when someone signs up and buys a deal, and the current deal for free if three people purchase it using your link. But these are separate links. I see absolutely no reason why this should be, because it forces messages like, “Click on this first link to sign up, then click on this second link to purchase.” I didn’t know about the $5 credit (because it’s hidden in your profile) and instead sent around just the deal link, which I accept is my fault. I just think it’s poor design on their part to not have a referral link automatically do both, if they are not already a customer. (You did, after all, refer a person there and got them to sign up.)

Speaking of referral links, it would be nice if they actually worked. I know four people purchased yesterday using my referral link (because they told me they did afterward), but my deal was still not free. There is also no way to tell when someone purchases using your referral link (at least, not after a deal has ended, and I didn’t see one while it was happening, though the twitter account reports it exists). Email notifications never worked for me (in fact, email never seemed to work for me; I never got Thursday’s deal by email). Poor design again. Regardless, I would trust my friends more than I would trust a website anyway.

I suppose this might just be my expectations being unreasonable (American consumers always feel so entitled, eh? After all, I did get a $20 card for $10, which was pretty much what was advertised…), but this entire experience has still left me with a bad feeling.

So, thanks LivingSocial, for the free $10 for Amazon. But I think I’ll stick to Groupon.

And apologies to everyone I spammed on Wednesday.

3 thoughts on “LivingSocial fails

  1. I was going to sign up for that, but then I decided the aggravation of signing up for a coupon marketing website (and trusting them with my credit card!) was more than ten dollars.

  2. I have Shopsafe, which generates temporary-use credit card numbers with spending limits. I use it for all online transactions and never have to worry. :)

    But yeah, if it wasn’t for that, I wouldn’t have bought it either.

  3. Yeah, the cancelations were a really bad move on their part. I’m kinda hoping they hit enough innocent people that it backfired on their reputation.

    Referral links did work when the deal first came out though – I got mine for free, which was nice.

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