Reader Kate Raynes-Goldie left this comment on my post The Butchers on Yonge Street: Group Buying Blowback?:
The deal that broke north american records is now officially a scam: the butchers have closed their doors indefinitely, for “renovations”: http://www.thebutchersorganic.com/
As you can see from Kate’s comment and my post, a lot of vocal people who bought deal vouchers for The Butchers were not happy with the service and many suspected a scam was afoot. Some of the salient excerpts from today’s message from The Butchers:
instead of spending money on advertising, we decided to pass on the savings to everyone who wanted to come in and actually try our food.
However, these online vouchers are a completely new form of marketing that we did not know how to use properly and it got us into a bit of uncharted territory. We want everyone to know that we honestly made a mistake by not running these promotions properly but we also want you to know that we are doing our absolute best to make up for this misjudgement.
When judging the number of vouchers that we could sell and handle, we went for big numbers since if you sell 1,000 vouchers that works out to about 3 new customers per day. Unfortunately, it has been hard for us to judge how much meat to bring in since it is a perishable product and we never know how many people are going to be coming in on a particular day to redeem their vouchers. Also, we thought that people would come in and use a bit of their vouchers over the course of the year versus coming in and redeeming the full amount all in one go. I’m sure it is not hard to imagine how quickly we can go through a refrigerator case full of meat when you have 30 people redeeming their entire voucher all at once.
Currently, we do not have enough refrigeration units and meat display cases to meet the supply needs of our customers.
We have considered a variety of options and have decided that we need to fix the layout of the store by increasing the number of refrigeration units to accommodate and properly supply our customers. It’s a tough decision to make to renovate the shop because we will have to close down for a few weeks in order to make the necessary changes so that everything runs much smoother in the future for our customers.
Until renovations are complete we can no longer honour vouchers. However please rest assured that once we open after renovations we will honour your vouchers.
And finally the kicker:
Finally, we want people to know that we did not make any money off of running these promotions. In fact, we lost a lot of money on each voucher that we sold but we chalked it up as a marketing expense and an initiative to get people to taste the difference between us and non-conventional meat. While we have seen many repeat customers from our promotions, we want everyone to know that we love “meating” new people every day and we are just a team of good people that made a mistake while using a new form of marketing. It was our fault that we’re in the situation that we are in but we just want all of our customers to know that we are doing absolutely everything possible to make the best of the situation.
While plenty of customers are crying “Scam!”, given the tone of this note, I am inclined to believe The Butchers’ story (but given the details on the comments below this is looking more and more like spin v. honest communication). And it sounds like a sad one for all parties involved, the group buying service included. Some thoughts:
- Do you think the group buying service that sold The Butchers the deal could have given them a little more advice on how to run your first deal? A simple checklist of questions like “Are you prepared if everyone redeems at the same time?” would have been nice.
- The Butchers could have handled this better. As soon as they realized they were in over their heads, they should have communicated to their customers in the same manner as they are doing now, with humility and transparency. It would have saved them a lot of headaches and it would have saved their reputation, which at the moment is pretty shattered.