Groupon CEO apologises to Japanese customers

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Indy Lifestyle Online

The chief executive officer of Internet bargain coupon phenomenon Groupon has apologised to Japanese customers for selling traditional New Year's meals in a "terrible condition" through its website.

The rapidly growing provider of online coupons has been under fire in Japan after buyers of the "osechi" celebratory box meals complained that the food did not match the images posted on Groupon's site in Japan.

"We featured a deal in Tokyo recently that we really messed up," the company's founder and CEO, Andrew Mason, said in a video message posted on its Japanese unit's website.

Mason admitted that the meals were delivered "late to many of our customers and in terrible condition to others" because of an overflow of orders.

"What I really want to say is how terribly sorry I am and everyone at Groupon is about what happened," Mason said. "We know how important the New Year's holiday is in Japan."

On New Year, Japanese traditionally eat "osechi" - a variety of Japanese delicacies such as broiled fish paste, herring egg, black soybeans, grilled prawns - neatly decorated in special boxes.

"We created Groupon to help enrich people's lives by bringing new exciting experiences to them, so when we do the opposite, as we have in this case, it really hurts," Mason said.

Groupon, which has been operating in Japan since last year, has refunded customers and offered them vouchers worth 5,000 yen ($61), he added.

Mason said Groupon will take preventive measures to develop "capacity planning formulas" to help firms issuing coupons decide how many customers they can handle beforehand.

Last week, Groupon said it had raised $950 million in the past month to invest in technology, fund its global expansion and compensate company employees and early investors.

Founded in 2008, Groupon offers discounts to its more than 12 million members on retail goods and services, offering one localized deal a day.