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The Weekly Cinema Debacle & Group Buying

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A lot of group buying sites like Groupon have been popping up all over the place. You have Groupon, LivingSocial, BuyWithMe, and a litany of others. You also have secondary markets for these vouchers too, a topic tackled by NYTimes Bucks blog. They’re all very similar in how they operate, basically leveraging group buying to get great deals, but I recently had an experience that changed how I perceived them.

Weekly Cinema was a service that let you buy discount movie ticket vouchers. The vouchers turned into coupon codes which you could use as at Fandango. The real gem of it all was that you could get movie tickets extremely cheaply relative to their box office price, basically $5 a ticket eligible for almost every movie (IMAX included). I first saw them on a group buying site called BuyWithMe and then I saw it on Groupon a few weeks later. I purchased the voucher on BuyWithMe, good for four tickets, and we used two of them before seeing it again on Groupon, where we purchased a pack of six. Since you could use the movie tickets anytime over the next six months, I figured it was a good purchase since we’d probably see four movies in six months especially with the upcoming cold weather.

Before we could use any of them, Weekly Cinema shut its doors. The vouchers were now worthless. Here’s where the group buying experience diverged.

Groupon immediately emailed me on November 12th, which I assume was basically as soon as they could. I learned of the closing through Groupon. They said that I’d be refunded the full purchase price regardless of how many vouchers I had used (none yet).

BuyWithMe emailed me on November 17th, five days later, and offered up a choice. In that time I’d emailed them twice about it, with absolutely no response. Refund of the unused vouchers (they could keep track) as credit plus 10% or refund of the unused vouchers to my credit card. I chose refund to my credit card. Five days doesn’t seem like a long time but they should’ve notified people as soon as they found it. I’ll probably use BuyWithMe if they have a compelling offer but this knocks them down a peg or two in my book.

I still think group buying sites are a dime a dozen but some of those dimes are better than others.

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11 Responses to “The Weekly Cinema Debacle & Group Buying”

  1. eric says:

    This was a fiasco over on the Slickdeals and Fatwallet boards. I saw the offer but decided to pass for some reason (lethargy?), but I’m glad you (and tons of other people) were able to get it resolved.

    I just bought the Nordstrom Rack deal on Groupon this weekend……..so let’s hope Nordstrom doesn’t decide to fold right before the holiday seasons. :)

  2. I did this deal too and was quite disappointed, when I received the email from BuyWithMe. I think that this type of problem might help stores like Walmart gain market share on the group buying crowd. By the way, I also chose to put the money back on my credit card.

  3. I purchased 5 packs using Groupon and had a similar experience. I was able to use two of the vouchers before they were cancelled, but I still got a complete refund. Essentially, I got two free movie tickets out of the deal. Not bad, but it really couldn’t have ended a lot worse. I’m really interesting in what WeeklyCinema’s business plan was. I’m assuming the vouchers were actually costing it more than $5, and that they were banking of people not using them and having them expire.

    • Jim says:

      I’m surprised they would be selling the vouchers for less than cost. I would’ve sold it at cost and basically used the whole process as a way to gain subscribers… either way they’re kaputski.

  4. Sun says:

    The measure of a company becomes apparent when they have to deal with crisis and how they treat their customers in the process.

  5. emma says:

    I bought the deal through buywithme. Interestingly, I tried to use the vouchers for Harry Potter tickets after the company closed, but before buywithme contacted me to let me know. So it simply appeared that my paid-for voucher numbers were not valid. I wrote to buywith me and received no response. I got the email 2 days later with my choice of refunds. Because there was a buywithme that I intended to purchase, I opted for the refund + 10%. I still haven’t been credited for that. I am borderline annoyed, but we’ll see if they come through in a timely manner.

    What always amazes me is that companies will debit your account in 5 seconds but crediting your account often takes several weeks. It’s lopsided and leaves the consumer feeling gypped.

  6. billsnider says:

    I am amazed that you guys got your money back.

    I remember when phone cards first came out. They were a bunch of independant companies. before you could really use the card, you guessed it, they went belly up and you were out all the remaining cash.

    Bill Snider

  7. jsbrendog says:

    groupon is great. i have bought a few things on there and will continue to use it with out fear

  8. zapeta says:

    I love the group buying sites. I’ve scored some great deals on local restaurants on a couple sites that cater to my local area. I decided to skip the Weekly Cinema deal…it seemed like it was too good to be true and so I’m glad I ended up saving the hassle.

  9. Strebkr says:

    The coolest “group buying” item I have purchased so far has to be an hour of flight time at a local airport. It was great!

  10. bridget says:

    has anyone heard of dreamers pass? and if so how does it rate as an alternative to weeklycinema?


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