Groupola £99 iPhone shenanigans continue

2 July 2010

We called shenanigans on the Groupola £99 iPhone offer yesterday and as avid Bitterwallet reader Dane told us by email, "Right again BW".

To refresh your memory, the Guardian ran an advertorial tech story about the £99 offer - which offered Groupola newsletter subscribers the possibility to get a £99 iPhone 4 this morning starting at 9am. There was of course no mention of how many units would be available for these lucky subscribers.

noiphone for you

This morning at 9am the Groupola site promptly went into meltdown making it nigh on impossible to get through checkout never mind load the page. Groupola claims 200 iPhones were available but the masses seem to disagree. The Groupola blog and Facebook page are in revolt with members claiming critical comments are disappearing as fast as they are posted.

Meanwhile the PR continues with the media eating up the spin. Techcrunch EU ran the official Groupola statement which claimed the site failed as "more than 5 million people have attempted to log on to the site" between 9am and 9.30am.

Put your thinking cap on for a minute folks. Despite the Apple hype there are not even 5 million iPhone owners in the UK (worldwide iPhone sales in all of 2009 were only 20m) never mind 5 million interested in one iPhone 4 model who knew about the Groupola offer and were able to login between 9am and 9.30am. As Penn & Teller say - Bullshit.

So where does that leave the consumer sucked in by the Guardian's poor reporting and Groupola's clever tactics? As WillOfThePeople notes in the Guardian comments about Groupola's privacy policy: "The data we collect from you may be transferred to, and stored at, a destination located out side of the European Economic Area ("EEA"). By providing information to this Site you expressly consent to such information being transferred or stored outside of the EEA."

Disclosure: I am a founder of HUKD which could be considered a competitor to Groupola's owner Markco Media

TOPICS:   Advertising

32 comments

  • DarrylJohn
    I am gobsmacked! Never seen this coming at all.
  • ButterMan
    5 million "hits", I guess. I love web numbers, you can just invent any old shit and both the top brass and the man of the street will eat it up.
  • Paul N.
    I'd excuse it if it said hits as media stupidity but the official statement explicitly says "5 million people".
  • Scott C.
    Sorry, sounds like a whole load of sour grapes to me. Perhaps they meant 5 million logon attempts - not unfeasible, as people will have sat on their F5 key during the offer. Sounds like the London hotel offer they do once or twice a year, or indeed any other offer (Travelodge sales anyone?). Of course, if the phones didnt materialise at all, then dubious. But nothing as of yet suggests that, and as Groupola are a legit company, albeit a relative newbie, I think this is just a mountain out of a molehill.
  • Paul N.
    If they meant 5 million logon attempts their official statement would have said: "more than 5 million attempted logins to the site”. It doesn't. It says: "more than 5 million people have attempted to log on to the site”.
  • Paul N.
    Another way of getting a grasp of how many 5m people in 1/2 hour is - MSE had 8.3m visitors in the whole of last month. They are ranked 55th largest site in the UK by Alexa (which admittedly isn't perfectly accurate). We're not saying Groupola aren't legit. We're saying the media coverage and promotion are a gong show.
  • Ballu
    no big deal about the data... most web servers are outside EEA... USA usually- California
  • Paul N.
    Outside of the EEA the UK Data Protection Act doesn't apply.
  • Scott C.
    I'm sure that the press release is erroneous. It probably should have said 5 million hits. To be fair, the press release doesnt say 5 million UNIQUE people tried to logon.
  • Paul N.
    We're pretty sure it's erroneous too... that's kind of the point of arguing it's not feasible :) Whether intentional or not is your call dear reader. Also to be fair, we're all unique people - you too!
  • Wireless
    Surely if they had nothing to hide then why delete messages from their discussion boards on their site and facebook? I tried logging in since 9am and it wasn't working I don't believe any were sold and if they were they went to employees!
  • jamie
    They have deleted my negative comments from their page, they have flagged my account and facebook have banned me at are yet to reinstate me, I have been in touch over the phone for the past week with the web architect (as he call's himself) Farhan and I have several emails over the past week from him, and he said today they received somewhere in the region of 35,000 unique visitors. That was at 12.50 today in a conversation lasting half an hour. This whole escapade has been pure bullshit from the off and I sincerely hope some suitable punishment from the authorities is forthcoming. The only person who's comments are left undeleted on their own comment wall on facebook are by a stooge acting as a member of the public who is clearly seen holding an iPhone in one of their PR shots in the run up to what he laughingly calls a lottery. If this were a lottery the police would be all over it. Fake profiles, a dodgey link, a mass PR campaign including a write up on the Guardian website (back hander anyone) leading to a site that crashed "unexpectedly" and a "first come first served" policy in tatters, the systematic deletion, banning and libelous comments made to those with grievances on their message board and all to generate and sell off an email address list to spammers. I might just take them up on their kind offer of an internship to learn more from these guys. Capitalism at it's very finest, I applaud you. P.s Farhan said they might well run another campaign since it was sooooo successful, LMAO
  • sac
    So they claim on there facebook site to have one of the persons who got through and got there iphone 4 photographed holding there beloved new phone! Amazing, considering the site went down at 9am this morning so no one could log in and even more amazing the person paid and got the phone and had a photo took within 2 hours of the so called phones being sold out even though the site went down and no one could log in. Strange how it was a next day delivery and this person had there phone in 2 hours dont you think? What did they do? hire a helicopter and took it to him personally??????? If anything it hasnt proven buying power as they claim, more the power of the free press in wich we can all turn our backs on this scam site!
  • Not P.
    Not to mention the fact that people claiming that they got it actually are fake profiles for staff there. Google their names and ull see tons of link building with their name to my voucher codes.
  • buyer b.
    Who cares? No matter how many times it happens some people will carry on believing when something is too good to be true. It's what a lot of businesses rely on to make money. You mention moneyavingexpert. Do you think its email to 4 or 5 million offering for example watches at 80% off or hotel rooms at 90% off is legit when the deal lasts for a few minutes and there's no update sent out so dummies click on affiliate links all week and drop cookies that make owner Martin Lewis' hidden wealth even greater? At least Mark Pearson publishes accounts in the UK. Where are your accounts published? An offshore tax haven? HUKD does not even provide a geographical address. Since you are here, I don't get HUKD. It is honest tips from members of the public you say. BS. Of the 28 deals posted from Groupola, 25 are mods and none has triple digits of heat. Mods post 30, 40, 50 tips a day. Is that really the public posting for everyeone else's benefit? If you are sceptical about Mark Pearson's practices, why do mods post voucher codes and always leave off the expiry date. Is that because they are paid to increase click throughs?
  • Ten B.
    [...] Groupola £99 iPhone shenanigans continue [...]
  • kev
    buyer beware, I concur abot the Groupola-HUKD mod alliance, some obvious backhanders to post thier deals on a daily basis
  • Codify
    Who would have thunk it? Thanks to the gullible masses, Groupola now have a hefty collection of personal details to spam away mercilessly. People can be such idiots.
  • Staff B.
    [...] ramped up the PR bandwagon even further when their website failed as customers tried to buy the iPhone, claiming that “more than 5 million people attempted to log on to the site” in a half [...]
  • Junkyard
    There are not even 5 million Ferrari owners in the UK (worldwide Ferrari sales in all of 2008 were only 6,500) so if a website offered a Ferrari for a grand, they'd probably get hardly any hits at all.
  • Can B.
    [...] It’s fair to say that Groupola aren’t the biggest fans of Bitterwallet right now. Last week we exposed staff members at Markco Media, owners of Groupola, posing as customers on Facebook, to deflect criticism of Groupola’s recent £99 iPhone 4 deal. [...]
  • Groupola’s P.
    [...] Needless to say, the whole debacle has been a major PR fiasco for Groupola. Unlike other companies before them, Groupola did have the right channels (Twitter and a Facebook page) for crisis management to respond to customers, but the manner in which they responded could undoubtedly have been better. For example, replying to every single message over and over again (not dissimilar to Vodafone before them) using a copy-and-paste approach did little to convince customers that the company was being sincere. Other blog commenters on Bitter Wallet claimed that Groupola had deleted their Facebook comments.  [...]
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  • Want B.
    [...] July, group-buying outfit Groupola garnered plenty of bad press for their sale of iPhone 4s for £99. It was activity solely intended to raise the company’s profile, but it descended into [...]
  • Now B.
    [...] July, we called out Groupola for their infamous iPhone 4 promotion. Not only did the site crash when customers attempted to buy one of 200 iPhones for £99, but only [...]
  • Why B.
    [...] – you’ll be familiar with UK clone Groupola after our extensive coverage of their flaky iPhone4 deal and fake Facebook [...]
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  • Love
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