Staff pose as punters to praise the Groupola debacle

July 5th, 2010 74 Comments By Paul Smith

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:

Picture 51 Staff pose as punters to praise the Groupola debacle And here he is again:

Picture 41 Staff pose as punters to praise the Groupola debacle

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?

Picture 6 Staff pose as punters to praise the Groupola debacle

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:

Picture 8 Staff pose as punters to praise the Groupola debacle 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:

Picture 7 Staff pose as punters to praise the Groupola debacle

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:

Picture 61 Staff pose as punters to praise the Groupola debacle

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:

Picture 21 Staff pose as punters to praise the Groupola debacle And after:

Picture 22 Staff pose as punters to praise the Groupola debacle

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:

Picture 9 Staff pose as punters to praise the Groupola debacle

And a quick check of LinkedIn reveals XeeShan Ch also works for Markco Tech, a branch of Markco Media :

Picture 11 Staff pose as punters to praise the Groupola debacle

Comments (74) Jump to most recent comment
  1. Posted by adam bradley July 6, 2010 at 12:05 pm

    Roger, I believe you, I am focussed on applying the headline to bad practice.

    Thank you for your work identifying the actions of staff allegedly working for Groupola.

  2. Posted by -] July 6, 2010 at 4:40 pm

    I agree with adam, some of the same shady ‘business practice’ employed by groupola is just as prevalent on places like hukd and mse.

    The internet is a shambles these days – bring back the mid 90s before venture capitalists got their claws into it.

  3. Posted by james dewitt July 6, 2010 at 4:54 pm

    I dont really see a problem with companies posting their own deals on HDUK, the only issue is when they are pretending they do not work for the company. If they have a personal gain in posting the deal they should disclose it.

    However I dont think a front-line employee needs to declare they work for blockbusters if they see an Xbox game going for cheap as they have nothing to gain by doing so.

  4. Posted by Terri July 6, 2010 at 9:42 pm

    Well done bitterwallet !! More pics on FB showing 207 were sold too at one stage.

    ALL my comments were deleted and I am blocked from their page. The only place where I can voice my opinion is their review page !!

    There’s another guy called Sam Clark who kept bullying people on Friday but all his comments reminds in the FB site. You may wish to investigate who he is.

    Many thanks . It’s brilliant !

  5. Posted by Mark p July 6, 2010 at 11:59 pm

    Groupola should be punished for this fake deal. I even heard that they have only 8 iphones not 200 as annouced in their article.

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  7. Posted by oscar murray July 7, 2010 at 9:55 am

    miss kathrine stokes works there as well. what a shame, kathrine

  8. Posted by Mike July 7, 2010 at 2:31 pm

    Hi Paul – great article! You might want to look into this: at 9.40am, Mark Pearson (owner of Groupola) himself, posing as a buyer, left a message in the Groupola FB wall saying: “i just got one iphone! it’s not a scam!”. Until 9.50am, no other users claimed be able to buy the iphone, so when other users questioned the veracity of Mark Pearson’s message and his identity, his profile and message was immediately deleted from the Groupola fan’s page at Facebook.
    My posts were deleted and blocked from Groupola webpage at FB.
    I already made a formal complaint to ASA.
    Hope you can investigate this further.

  9. Pearson was on there?!? The mystery deepens! Can any o you geeks get a cached webpage from that time?

  10. Posted by IfYouCopyMyNameYouAreGayIsGay July 7, 2010 at 4:55 pm

    Screw ASA,

    CLAIM COMPENSATION!

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  14. Posted by Karen July 13, 2010 at 12:29 pm

    Bit late, meant to postt his ages ago but:
    http://twitter.com/rikho555

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  16. Nothing on the internet is temporary – a little late to the party but

    http://webcache.googleusercontent.com/search?q=cache:Q8NHjFitpUoJ:uk.linkedin.com/in/saqibazhar+saquib+azhar&cd=1&hl=en&ct=clnk&gl=uk

    Thank you Google Cache :)

  17. Posted by Kathrine Stokes August 1, 2010 at 3:45 pm

    # Posted by oscar murray | July 7th, 2010 at 9:55 am

    miss kathrine stokes works there as well. what a shame, kathrine

    *****************************************************

    Firstly, it’s Mrs, and secondly, I certainly do not work for Groupola.
    I was merely a would be customer stating a non hysterical opinion.

  18. Posted by Terri August 9, 2010 at 2:18 pm

    I know it has been sometime now but i have JUST received an outlook “unread receipt” from Saqib Azhar [Saqib.Azhar@markcomedia.co.uk] re an email I sent to Groupola on the day of the iphone “advert”…. what more can i say?!

  19. Posted by Richie October 4, 2010 at 12:50 pm

    this company is a JOKE. Just watch this space, something BIG is happening very soon.

  20. Posted by Ralph October 10, 2010 at 6:08 pm

    Agree with the above sentiments: Mark Pearson (owner of Markco Media) hires low paid jokers to maximise his profits, and, being newbies, they are farcical in how they do stuff. Complete bunch of amateurs.

    Mark Pearson has been outed time and time again for his dubious and illegal business practices.

  21. Posted by Dave October 22, 2010 at 11:23 am

    One of the articles said how happpy Aaron Harpin was with his Groupola Deal and said he was 20 and a student from Surrey. Aaron Harpin is actually Mark Pearsons Boyfriend. They should at least make names up if they want to con people. They are Guilty, Guilty, Guilty.

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  23. Posted by Suckib Lamarr June 14, 2011 at 5:27 pm

    @Ralph I personally know Saqib Azhar and can vouch for the fact that he is not a joker! After graduating clown college he joined a travelling circus fronted by Mark Pearson and did a stint as the bearded lady.

    The outfit quickly fell into disrepute when one of the work experience girls was gang-raped by a troupe of dancing bears. Saqib and Mark went into hiding and were found by UN peacekeepers years later, hiding in an underground bunker in Bratislava.

    They were both tried at the European High Court, but the charges were later dropped when it was discovered that they were unable to stand trial on account of their severe learning difficulties.

  24. Posted by amna February 20, 2014 at 12:34 am

    Is saqib azhar fraud

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