Groupola £99 iPhone shenanigans continue

July 2nd, 2010 32 Comments By Paul Nikkel

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 300x225 Groupola £99 iPhone shenanigans continue

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

Comments (32) Jump to most recent comment
  1. Posted by DarrylJohn July 2, 2010 at 2:08 pm

    I am gobsmacked! Never seen this coming at all.

  2. Posted by ButterMan July 2, 2010 at 2:15 pm

    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.

  3. Posted by Paul Nikkel July 2, 2010 at 2:17 pm

    I’d excuse it if it said hits as media stupidity but the official statement explicitly says “5 million people”.

  4. Posted by Scott C July 2, 2010 at 2:18 pm

    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.

  5. Posted by Paul Nikkel July 2, 2010 at 2:20 pm

    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”.

  6. Posted by Paul Nikkel July 2, 2010 at 2:24 pm

    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.

  7. Posted by Ballu July 2, 2010 at 2:27 pm

    no big deal about the data…
    most web servers are outside EEA… USA usually- California

  8. Posted by Paul Nikkel July 2, 2010 at 2:28 pm

    Outside of the EEA the UK Data Protection Act doesn’t apply.

  9. Posted by Scott C July 2, 2010 at 2:54 pm

    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.

  10. Posted by Paul Nikkel July 2, 2010 at 3:01 pm

    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!

  11. Posted by Wireless July 2, 2010 at 5:18 pm

    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!

  12. 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

  13. Posted by sac July 2, 2010 at 7:55 pm

    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!

  14. Posted by Not Mark Pearson July 2, 2010 at 10:54 pm

    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.

  15. Posted by buyer beware July 3, 2010 at 2:06 pm

    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?

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  17. Posted by kev July 5, 2010 at 9:37 am

    buyer beware, I concur abot the Groupola-HUKD mod alliance, some obvious backhanders to post thier deals on a daily basis

  18. Posted by Codify July 5, 2010 at 10:46 am

    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.

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  20. Posted by Junkyard July 6, 2010 at 5:00 pm

    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.

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