Staff pose as punters to praise the Groupola debacle
Last week, we reported how Groupola dreamed up some supercharged linkbait - selling the iPhone 4 for £99 - and how the Guardian ran an advertorial a story about it. The article explained how readers could take advantage of the "deal" - they had to subscribe to Groupola's mailing list if they wanted to purchase one of "a limited number of handsets".
Groupola 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 hour period - with a brief understanding of typical web traffic figures, we'd suggest such a nice, round number probably wouldn't have hurt when it was plucked from somebody's arse.
But hey, maybe we've got it all wrong. Maybe Groupola are just trying to do us all a favour by giving us fabulous deals! Perhaps all the criticism is downright unfair. After all, there are plenty of people supporting Groupola - just take a look at Groupola's Facebook group. Here's a shining endorsement of Groupola from one punter:
And here he is again:
As you can see, this guy Saqib is very clear about the fact he doesn't work for Groupola, which is operated by Markco Media Ltd, so you know he's got a valid and entirely objective point of view. An- oh, wait a moment. Who's that on LinkedIn?
Oh. According to his profile, Saqib does work at the company that owns Groupola after all. Perhaps he forgot. Well at least Groupola have confirmed they did sell 200 phones to lucky punters, by way of an official press release:
It's not as if there was any confusion concerning the number available, or that Grouplola's own site might have somehow sold more phones than they claimed to have in stock, or tha- oh. It appears Groupola sold 202 phones at one point, and judging by the graphics, still had 800 or so left to sell:
Perhaps there was a slip of the fingers and somebody mistakenly entered 1,000 instead of 200 for the number of handsets. Maybe the computer couldn't count.
Groupola's PR company are whoring successful buyers to the media for interview, but that's not really the issue. The question is how many handsets were on offer - because Groupola's own website didn't seem to know - and why are staff members posing as punters on Facebook?
Update #1 How very odd. Within two hours of this post appearing, Saqib Azhar's profile has been removed from LinkedIn. However, eagle-eyed reader blagga spotted on Azhar's Facebook profile that he's a member of Markco Tech, a private group on Facebook for staff only:
Azhar has now deleted that detail from his profile too, and he's not the only one worrying the delete key this afternoon; the Groupola administrators have been deleting comments left by Bitterwallet readers that link to this article, and at one point blocked all new comments from being posted. Before:
Update #2 Thanks to avid Bitterwallet reader az for pointing out that a second member of staff has been posing as a Groupola customer on their Facebook page. The comment was deleted within minutes of our reader reporting it, but thanks to Google the unedited Groupola comments are still available: