I subscribe to Groupon’s mailing list. Each morning without fail, I receive an opportunity to purchase some sort of discounted item or activity. Classes. Crafts. Exotic foods. I’ve only ever taken advantage of one of these offers, a 60% off discount at my favorite barbecue restaurant. In fact, Groupon made me sign up for the mailing list so I could purchase the BBQ discount. Otherwise I wouldn’t be subscribed at all. So because I couldn’t turn down a half-price pulled pork sandwich, I receive daily reminders of everything my life could be. Every day Groupon mocks me with the boundless potential of the world around me. And I want it to stop.
This month alone, Groupon has offered me deals on theater tickets, yoga classes, French food, and an electric toothbrush. Thanks, Groupon for reminding me of all the things I don’t have the time, money, or courage to do. I doubt that I’m going to take a night off of working to see Peter Pan. I buy discount eggs, so it’s unlikely I’d spring for duck confit at a swanky bistro. I won’t do pushups if my roommates are home, so chances are slim that I’d try yoga for the first time in a room packed with sweaty, flexible strangers. Plus, I already own an electric toothbrush. Thanks for nothing, Groupon.
Every value offered to me reminds that I am a creature of habit. It takes a lot for me to break out of my routine and seek out new experiences. As I dismiss every value, day after day, I work my way through a predetermined emotional cycle:
- Feel intrigued by the Groupon. (Ooh, Moroccan food! And 75% off!)
- Make an excuse why I wouldn’t use the Groupon. (Do I even like Moroccan food?)
- Feel guilty about the excuse. (Why am I afraid to try new things? Isn’t that what life’s about?)
Groupon, your values point deeply discounted fingers at me! They call me a shell of a man! What have I become, Groupon?
I’ve seen friends get seduced by value, lured to their PayPal accounts by the siren song of savings. A group of my acquaintances recently jumped all over a thirty-dollar paintball excursion. Now, that’s a great deal… if you play paintball. But at least one of my friends has never played before. Plus, they’ve now got the stressful scenario of planning an excursion for a dozen friends, all with their own schedules to coordinate. What if they never go, and the coupon expires? They’ll be just another horde of bargain seafarers, dashed against the rocks of a deal that was too good to be true. This is the stuff of my nightmares!
“But Josh,” you may say. “Why don’t you stop your entitled whining and unsubscribe from the Groupon mailing list?”
Great question, hypothetical reader. I keep my name on the list because as much as Groupon’s messages remind me of who I am, they give me a glimpse of the person I could be. Every morning, as I discard an offer for (let’s say) 50% off of an hour of kayaking, I have a brief moment of hope. Maybe someday I can be the guy that spends his weekend paddling gracefully through a river. Perhaps in the future I will want to spend eighty-six dollars on a basket of artisanal cheeses valued at twice that price. Who can say for sure that my life will never get to a place when I can spend what is currently one week’s earnings on a horse-drawn tour through an art museum or some other insanity?
Groupon gives me the hope that at some point I may live a life of culture and luxury, an existence where leisure would consist of something other than hoping there’s a fight at the midnight showing of Tower Heist. (And yes, I snuck in my own candy.) Groupon is my Helen Hunt from As Good As It Gets. It makes me want to be a better man. Until then, though, how about a coupon for 50% off Pringles of a 35% savings on the soft kind of toilet paper? And yes, I know that would just be a regular coupon. But come on, Groupon. Throw me a bone.