Saturday, August 25, 2012

Groupon Wants My Feedback

Like thousands of other Americans, I have taken advantage of some of the discounts offered by Groupon. After my most recent deal, Groupon e-mailed me a “survey” about my experience—a private trail ride on horseback.

I wonder if the survey tactic is new for Groupon. They certainly didn’t ask me how I felt about the piece-of-crap keyboard I bought through them last spring. Anyway, I was happy to oblige.

The trouble was the structure of the survey. It allowed me to choose only one of two options, with no provision for comments or explanation: 1) I enjoyed ________ Stables and would recommend it to others, or 2) I did not enjoy ________ Stables and would not recommend it to others. Though this would seem to be the easiest kind of decision to make—as it would have been had I been asked about that useless keyboard—in this particular case, it was not.

The trail ride (actually, there was no trail; we just meandered through fields of wildflowers and butterflies) was fine. We were treated well and received what we were promised. For animal lovers, the place was a dream: 70 horses (including yearlings and seniors), a pony, a donkey, a variety of dogs from pug puppies to an ancient mastiff, cats, a rabbit, and a free-range pig.

However, for animal lovers, the place was also a nightmare: One dog was tethered to a tree, the cats were bony with opossum-like tails, tumors covered the large dogs, the pig’s stomach dragged the ground, and the rabbit—after surviving life at a research facility—seemed desperate to escape its small, filthy cage.

This father-daughter operation includes riding lessons, horse breeding, dog breeding, competitions—and no help. We learned that half of this business duo was out of commission, struck by cancer. The daughter, while performing caregiving duties for her father, managed the farm by herself. Times were tough and getting tougher.

So, did the daughter partner with Groupon in hopes of garnering repeat business? Or was she simply going for an influx of cash? Her farm sorely needs both scenarios, which is why I didn’t want to choose “No” on the Groupon survey.

On the other hand, how can I recommend a business where animals are not given proper vet care, many animals have to forage for their own food and water, and breeding principles are hardly recognized? Sadly, these issues probably aren’t the result of the father-daughter’s recent misfortunes. More likely they’re the result of a faulty philosophy about animal welfare. Worse, I suspect this farm isn’t an anomaly; there are hundreds, maybe thousands more like it across the country.

Had Groupon devised an e-mail survey with more options—for instance, a series of value statements that rated my experience—I might have been able to give the desired feedback. As it was, though, I chose the only other option left: I deleted it.

[Painting of horse by Gustave Caillebotte; painting of pig by Stephen Filarsky.]

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