We all love a bargain, but with the influx of group buying sites in the last year offering up to 90% off your favourite kinds of treats, the taste is becoming a little bitter. It was all going quite well for Groupola – the MD Mark Pearson is the founder of MyVoucherCodes, giving them a quick-step into the already saturated world of discounted online deals, and they boasted over 1,000 fans on Facebook and Twitter even before their first deal debuted. That was until they decided to use  the iPhone 4 as a pretty pawn in their email harvesting game.

When I got the email announcing they were going to sell the deal of the century, unlocked and SIM-free iPhone 4s for £99, I sent it round to my colleagues, family and friends – well done Groupola, you got them to sign up for an account with their emails. An 80% saving isn’t going to repulse anyone, and their great reputation led many to believe this kind of deal would be a blast, including The Guardian who ran a story on the deal that same day. So on Friday 2nd July, we and, according to Groupola, 5 million other people tried to purchase the new iPhone for £99 from their site — if we could get on it. People started to get angry. People started shouting they only had 3 iPhones. People started wondering if this was a legitimate deal at all. They took to Facebook and Twitter in their frustration, creating hate groups and asking Groupola to make a statement to reveal if they ever had any iPhones in the first place.

By this time it all started to click into place. They had just created the biggest hype for their company as well as Apple and gained (according to their figures for the number of users entering their site that day) millions of emails from new users. Even though the hype backfired and many tried to unsubscribe from the company, I’d be interested to know the stats for the providers selling the new phone in the UK as to whether they got more visitors whilst the offer was going on, and what Apple has to say about the hype. I knew that Apple would never have agreed to sell the phones with Groupola at such a discounted price, which started off my concerns that the deal was a little fishy. I worked out that with 200 phones sold (as they claim) Groupola was working off a 90k loss at the start. Wow, risky!

What seems to be the most interesting is how they managed to get 200 iPhone 4s in their possession, or perhaps they’ll be handing out vouchers to the lucky buyers instead. The limit of 2 per person by Apple would have taken a while, so I’m interested to hear from anyone who was lucky enough to get one from Groupola – if they even exist in the first place. I ended up not being lucky enough and like 4,999,800 others I’ll be hanging around my provider for an upgrade. Even if it doesn’t save me 80%.

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