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Group coupons good idea but with risks

Update: November, 30/2012 - 09:55

Next week:

In a recent study titled Minorities Catch up with Majority: Discourse, Policies and Implications, a researcher from the Ha Noi-based Institute for Studies of Society, Economy and Environment noted that prejudice towards ethnic people in Viet Nam was still common. Some are labelled as backward, poor and less educated with backward customs.

According to the studies, some ethnic residents do not want to maintain their cultural and ethnic identities, such as wearing traditional costumes and joining in cultural events. They fear if they do, they will lose their chance to participate in Government development programmes, believing they need to catch up with the majority Kinh people on modern lifestyle.

Viet Nam has made many efforts to preserve its 54 ethnic groups and encourage the participation of minority ethnic people in the State apparatus, but apparently more must be done.

Do you find the cultures of Viet Nam's ethnic groups interesting? Which customs amaze you the most? According to your opinions, what can we do to preserve and promote the customs and cultural identities of the ethnic groups? What role can the media play?

Please reply by email to: opinion@vnsmail.com, or by fax to (84-4) 3 933 2311. Letters can be sent to The Editor, Viet Nam News, 11 Tran Hung Dao Street, Ha Noi. Replies to next week's questions must be received by Thursday morning, December 6

Last week, Viet Nam News asked readers for what they think about group coupon sites, or Groupons, a special online business model that offers special deals for customers providing a certain number of people sign up for the offer. We wanted to know what benefits this method has brought to them so far and what they think about the development of groupons in Viet Nam. Here are some of the replies we collected.

Satoh Kumiko, Japanese, Ha Noi

Group coupon sites are a good concept, by which I mean they can provide a win-win-win model for all sides involved.

From my observation, these sites have mushroomed in Viet Nam in the last two years, when the country started to see the impact of the world financial crisis. As a result, customers rushed to find products and services at cheap prices. Peer pressure is also a factor. Vietnamese people tend to trust and buy products which are already popular.

Colleagues at my office in Ha Noi, who are mostly office women with access to the internet all day, are quite interested in this kind of group purchasing. I myself have been invited to join them sometimes and have found some interesting deals for restaurants in Ha Noi. However, my colleagues have encountered problems with some groupon websites already. There are some risks with online deals.

First of all, since online payment is not yet popular in Viet Nam, transactions, including reimbursements, have been slow and inconvenient. The other problem is that the quality and price of some products and services are not the same as what are offered.

As a result, I think customers in Viet Nam should be careful before clicking to confirm a purchase, as in the end, they are the ones who can lose the most.

Andrew Burden, Canadian, Ha Noi

I have yet to buy anything over the internet. When I do, it will be from a reputable site like Amazon where I know the quality, service and history is assured. Places like Groupon where the little consumer can buy a discount coupon are for the little fish, the greedy and the foolish.

The internet is the new Wild Wild West. It is largely unregulated. There are few options for guarantees and little recourse for legal enforcement. If you must buy, use your credit card. Check your bank's policy. Some banks protect your purchase via insurance.

Do some research. eBay is an auction website, but is established with a verifiable reputation. Groupon on the other hand is clearly new, poorly managed and not reputable. Viet Nam's government, like many countries in the world, is grappling with the incredible speed of the internet's development.

There will always be great new offers. The dangers of the internet are well known in Canada. Companies track your website searches and even sell your personal information. Identity theft is a real concern. Police are slow to respond and are often out of reach in jurisdiction or have limited resources or interest to catch criminals in this new sphere.

Long before the arrival of electricity, "caveat emptor" was the known Latin phrase for ‘let the buyer beware.' You get what you pay for. It is bad enough buying from a shop in Viet Nam where you don't get a paper receipt and you cannot trace the origins of the product or ingredients. There is little consumer protection.

Don't compound your problems by buying over the internet. Stick to established companies for major purchases and support local shops. Does anyone really need a discount coupon for a cheap lunch or shirt or service? Don't chase ‘fool's gold' in this new Wild West.

You have nothing and no one to blame but your own greed.

Phuong Nguyen, Vietnamese graduate of APU University, Japan

Basically, the groupon model is a good idea which can create income for society.

It helps increase purchasing power in the retail market due to cheap prices and, at the same time, an increase in available supply as it can sell a big amount.

There are three parties in the groupon model, namely the suppliers, the groupon websites as the brokers and the customers.

Both the brokers and the customers bear a risk of dealing with intangible products since they cannot control the products' quality. The reason is that groupon deals are mainly offering services, and it is difficult for the websites themselves to know exactly what they are offering, since they are not the producers. Meanwhile, the customers also do not know if the offers they sign up for will match with their expectations.

Last year, Groupon Japan had a bitter experience when its New Year's food deal went horribly wrong. The deal offered was 500 coupons for a New Year meal at a cheap price, but the quality of the food was nowhere near the expectations of Groupon's Japanese customers, who are well-known to be very demanding. The company then had to compensate all customers and the CEO had to apologise directly.

These risks will increase if and when groupon companies, due to the pursuit of more money, ignore the quality of what they are offering.

Susan Milder, American, Ha Noi

I have been in Viet Nam for three years working for a global firm in Ha Noi. Thanks to the multicultural environment in my work, I have lots of Vietnamese colleagues, and last year I noticed some of them spending lots of time shopping for the best deals on groupon websites including, as I remember, Muachung and Nhommua. I was curious, as the Vietnamese ladies convinced me that it was just as beneficial for customers to buy food services and stuffs through these websites as to buy them on the street. I looked at some deals and even with my little Vietnamese, I could see a big difference between the prices offered on the web and the more expensive prices that I usually paid. The pictures advertising products (mostly of food and garments) were very appealing and showed high-quality stuff, encouraging me to click for a pyjama coupon and again for steak servings in some local restaurants.

The turnout, however, disappointed me with both of the deals!

For the garment deal, I wasn't aware that the coupon's value of VND300,000 (for which I had to pay only VND150,000) was not enough for me to buy half of an average set of pyjamas at the store until I shopped there. I had to spend much more to buy one set, which I would not have bought at all if it wasn't for the coupon, due to the bad quality and high price.

For the food deal, the service was even lower than expectation. The beef was actually frozen not fresh. I found it to be lower than low quality.

Such experiences make me promise to myself not to shop on groupon anymore. — VNS

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