Groupon, no stranger to controversy, now finds itself in one related to a topic of national debate. The company has, until further notice, halted all gun-related deals.
Groupon says it is reviewing this category of deals. Do you think people should be able to purchase gun-related Groupons? Let us know in the comments.
If you live in the U.S., there's no question that you've either heard people voicing their opinions about gun control, or contributed your own to some conversation. Since the massacre in Newtown, Connecticut, the conversation that has been going on for ages has been escalated, also fueled by President Obama's position on reducing gun violence.
Michael Cargill, a gun rights activist, concealed handgun instructor, and owner of Central Texas Gun Works, is calling for a nationwide boycott of Groupon, saying his contract with the company was "abruptly terminated" on Friday, after Groupon CEO Andrew Mason "decided the company would no longer associate with any business related to firearms," according to shooting sports news site Ammoland.
Here's a report from Austin's (where Cargill is based) local FOX affiliate:
Here's another from NBC affiliate kxan:
Groupon's official stance, so far, is not quite as dramatic, saying that it is reviewing its policies regarding gun-related offers. AOL's Daily Finance, who spoke with Cargill, also shared an emailed response from Groupon on the topic, which the company has since sent to WebProNews and a number of other media outlets.
"All scheduled and current gun-related deals featured on Groupon North America, including shooting ranges, conceal-and-carry and clay shooting, have been placed on hiatus while we review internal standards that shape the deal inventory we feature. The category is under review following recent consumer and merchant feedback."
That's the official statement, but is it just based on consumer and merchant feedback, or is the media itself playing a role in Groupon's decision?
Cargill told FOX 7 that after Obama made a speech, his deal "went crazy," and it looked like it was going to max out. Groupon, he says, called him to see if he could raise the ceiling of the number of people they would let in on the deal, so he did. He had over 1,000 buyers until Groupon shut it down two days later.
InfoWars also spoke with Cargill:
“Then they called me up on Friday morning and they said, ‘Well the CEO has decided to suspend all gun deals, anything having to do with guns, gun training, shooting clays, gun ranges; they suspended all gun deals,” Mr. Cargill told us.
When Cargill asked for an explanation, he says the representative told him, “Well, because of everything that’s going on in the media.”
“I said, ‘Well that’s not good enough because this is a concealed handgun license course, this is about gun safety, this is about conflict resolution, and this is about law-abiding citizens learning safety.’”
So, now Cargill is calling upon people to boycott Groupon, and is talking about exploring his legal options, so we may see at least one lawsuit against Groupon over this come to light soon. He says Groupon is not living up to is end of the contract, though it does reportedly say Groupon can terminate any deal at any time, but with written notice, which Cargill maintains he did not receive.
Here's an example of one such deal that Groupon has run in the past:
It's not uncommon for marketing services to not accept gun or weapon-related ads. Google's AdWords, for example, prohibits the advertising of guns, gun parts or hardware, ammunition, bombs, knives, throwing stars, and brass knuckles. That's in the U.S. Some countries have further restrictions. Google does allow for the promotion of: airsoft guns, stun guns and tasers, swords, air blog guns, non-working antique and replica guns, battery-operated flare guns and emergency flares, guns and ammunition books/magazines, holsters, paint guns, paintball guns, rifle/gun scopes, scope mounts, laser sights, kitchen knives and gun ranges.
Groupon's policies are not as clear.
It's entirely possible that gun-related deals will come back to Groupon. The company is reviewing its policies. That doesn't mean they're shutting them all down for good, though that's a possibility too at this point. Groupon isn't getting any more specific with its plans. If nothing else, perhaps Groupon will lay out a clear policy, more like Google's, for what exactly is and is not allowed to be marketed using Groupon.
Should Groupon provide gun-related deals to consumers? Was Groupon right to pull deals like Cargill's prematurely, despite having a contract with merchants? Tell us what you think about it.