The Mysterious Case of the $12,500 Groupon Discount

When is a coupon too big? Meet the jumbo Groupon.

Groupon big deal

By now you're familiar with Groupon deals. You get a wacky, manically written email each day offering you $30 of tapas for $15 or half off a full Brazilian. Dollars saved here and there; small-time stuff for the average consumer. But what if you got an offer for a $25,000 product for $12,500?



That's exactly what happened last week. Rather than a local barbershop or cafe offering a deal to neighborhood customers, an IT tech consulting firm, Ajilitee, offered $25,000 worth of consulting services for $12,500.

No amount of lively copy-writing from low-paid freelancers (how Groupon fuels its daily deals copy) could make this IT deal seem sexy. Ajilitee offers either a "BI Best Practices Audit" ("choose among Data Architecture, Process Architecture, or BI Architecture") or a "Cloud Opportunity Map" ("a five-day workshop that brings together key stakeholders to assess opportunities, potential benefits, and strategies for cloud computing adoption.") But that, in a way, is the point. This isn't a business-to-consumer offer; it's a business-to-business offer, and a bold new experiment in whether Groupon's social buying model works in the B2B world. If you understand what the offer even means, then maybe it's for you: You can save $12,500 up until March 21, when the offer closes. Most Groupons just run for a day, but a several-week period is "still a relatively short timeframe for IT purchase decisions," Ajilitee's Michelle Smyth tells Fast Company. Only 10 such Groupons are available; no buys yet, says Smyth.

Even so, she adds, "Even without a single 'buy' via Groupon, we would feel successful if one or more organizations called to vet our offerings." Though Ajilitee hasn't gotten any phone calls yet from potential buyers, the company's Diann Bilderback tells Fast Company: "We have seen an awful lot of interest from the media, which is asking the same question we are: whether these kinds of channels can be adapted to a B2B buying cycle. We've all seen how things begin in a consumer model, then migrate to a small business model, then eventually reach the enterprise level. We were just testing to see if we could accelerate that process."

Groupon didn't send out the Ajilitee offer via email. Rather, Ajilitee used Groupon Stores, a relatively new feature of the Groupon website where businesses can run deals whenever they want, online, via Groupon, without having to wait for an email to go out on their behalf (or, presumably, undergo some sort of vetting by Groupon). Groupon Stores deals only run for a week, which is why the offer is no longer available through Groupon (though is still valid directly through Ajilitee's site; Groupon simply won't get a cut if buyers still go for it). Groupon has become such a big name that simply having a deal affiliated in some way with the site is a potential way to earn attention for your brand. Whether that actually translates into money for either Groupon or businesses yet remains to be seen.

Follow Fast Company on Twitter.

Read More: Most Innovative Companies: Groupon

[Image by Matalyn]

Add New Comment


  • james foster

    I used to run a company similar to Groupon. Its business model will fail. Even though they save tons of money in advertising due to facebook (like this clicks) and other social media the concept will fail. Until they realize who their customer base is and the role of the businesses offering the coupons, they will face the fact that they will only recruit newly opened businesses.

    Soon there will be "Groupons" for $500 off a $30,000 car. Why? Because the car dealer will be getting free publicity.

  • Jerry Vandesic

    "Our goal is for Groupon to be a place for young writers ..."

    Did the CEO of Groupon just publicly state that they discriminate against older writers??? He must be a young CEO to make this kind of blunder.

  • windyspirit

    Well people, this is free enterprize. If workers want to work for this salary, then so be it!

  • Ali Wright

    If nothing else Ajilitee just got $100000 worth of free advertising for the low price of a Groupon offering. Very nice. There's no such thing as bad press. :)

  • amanda mckee

    Dear Aaron. $33-$35K a year sounds worse than what the article alluded to.

  • D. Gordon Franks

    Hello Aaron, I am a fledgling writer and need a job until my book drops.

  • Aaron With

    Aaron With here from Groupon. I wanted to provide some context on this article's statement about our writer pay rate.

    98% of of our writing is done in-house by staff writers who start at $33-$35k plus benefits. Many of our writers come to Groupon as their first or second full-time job after college, and we invest a lot of time in training them in house. Our goal is for Groupon to be a place for young writers to learn a lot about writing quickly, and to do it in an environment where they're expected to write challenging, intelligent, and weirdly funny copy. Because of our rapid growth, writers have the opportunity to earn more quickly by being promoted to editor.

    Our in-house writers do about one write-up per hour, and the freelance rate we pay ($22 per write-up) is based on this. Our small freelance group typically write for Groupon for supplemental income to other part time work. The $440 per week figure in the jobs post this article links to is based on the maximum of 20 write-ups per week that any Groupon freelancer does. That's about a half of a work week, and most of our freelancers, who typically have other part-time or freelance work and write for Groupon for supplemental income, elect to do less (10-15 per week).

    Aaron With
    Editor in Chief, Groupon