I was really disappointed to learn this week that Groupon San Francisco has twice offered tours to Kink, a porn studio, as one of it’s discounted experience promotions. A friend shared an email with me from the organization, The War on Illegal Pornography, with the details.
Here’s what their email said:
For the second time, Groupon has sent out thousands of emails to individuals advertising a tour where people can view a live filming of sadomasochistic, torture porn at Kink’s studios. Groupon even advertises that groups may get to see a live filming in progress. When confronted about their choice to feature this company, Groupon defended it saying they thoroughly vet the businesses we feature…Fortunately, this business has proven to be a responsible member of their community.”
This “responsible member of the community” specializes in the live filming of “young sexy teens who are overwhelmed and outnumbered…who need to learn a lesson by multiple men;” of women being “bound, whipped, objectified and humiliated. They are immobilized, caged and humiliated as objects;” of women “suspended and tied in rope bondage…tormented beyond all reason;” and of women “naked, tied up, bound, punished, exposed in public…who are taken to public bars for public sex and public humiliation…” (The material in quotations are descriptions written by the porn site Groupon is advertising for.) Is this really corporate responsibility? Shouldn’t we demand that Groupon refrain from selling torture porn tours that exploit and degrade women?
You can see the link that was sent to me with widgets for sample letters to executives and executive emails here.
As you should when you get any kind of forwarded information, you should check it out for yourself before taking action in case the info is outdated or incorrect in some way. So I searched for the tour on their website but found nothing. I was encouraged thinking that maybe they’d removed it due to public pressure. So, I did a web search and found numerous articles of papers, websites and blogs covering the story and backing up the facts behind The War on Illegal Pornography’s claims. Again, so disappointed. I have loved Groupon from the beginning.
The next thing I did was to write in to Groupon’s customer service myself to see if I would get a different response to the claim, or maybe that they’d taken this offer off of their list both now and in the future.
Here’s what I received:
Thanks for your feedback. We certainly didn’t intend to offend anyone.
We strive to offer interesting and exciting deals that will appeal to our diverse customer base. We’ve run deals with this specific business before, and while we realize it may not appeal to everyone, we’ve received positive customer feedback on past offers.
We thoroughly vet the businesses we feature, which is why we take these concerns seriously. We’ve found that the tour offered in this deal is historical and informational in nature and provides a unique look inside the landmark San Francisco Armory and its past.
Your feedback is extremely important to use and makes an impact in how we choose which businesses to work with in the future. Thanks again for taking the time to share your concerns with us, and please know that we value your opinion as a customer.
Groupon Customer Service
It is identical to the response posted on the aforementioned website. Gotta say, I was really bummed. They stood by their offer and it sounded like they have no intention of removing it as a future offer. I also checked out the public version of the facility’s tour description here.
So, I was left with only one alternative. I cancelled my Groupon subscription. I have been a big fan of Groupon since their launch, made multiple purposes and even forwarded deals to friends. But I can not in good conscious support a company that takes that stance. And I truly hope you will join me.
As consumers, the power of our money is the strongest vote we have. Speak now.
UPDATE ON JUNE 13, 2012 FROM MY FRIEND AMY:
“Given all the feedback from partners like you, we reassessed not only consumer interest but also merchant opinion on these types of deals. It’s never our intention to offend customers or our business partners. Your feedback has been invaluable to us and executives are regularly informed of merchant response, both positive and negative. As a result of the feedback from the Armory deal, we have stopped running adult deals across the country.
The Playboy Mansion deal ran after the “non-adult” rule was enacted in the U.S. due to a process glitch. As soon as we became aware of it, the deal was immediately taken down.”
P.S. Special thanks to the many of you who took action, as well as to our boycott partners: Citizens for Community Values, Girls Against Porn & Human Trafficking, American Family Association of Kansas and Missouri, Louisiana Family Forum Action, Illinois Family Institute, Women for Decency and Arizona Family Council.