• The Associated Press


The chief executive of Groupon, the rapidly growing online coupon provider, apologized to Japanese customers Monday for a New Year’s deal gone wrong that highlighted the difficulties the company faces in managing its global expansion.

In a subtitled video message uploaded onto YouTube, the company’s founder and CEO Andrew Mason acknowledged that the company had “really messed up” and outlined steps it was taking to rebuild its tarnished image in Japan.

Mason attributed the that misstep to similar growing pains the Chicago-based company has felt in the U.S.

Groupon has expanded quickly since launching two years ago. It owns the Internet’s largest ad network and its daily discounts now reach about 50 million subscribers in 35 countries. Last week it secured a nearly $1 billion investment to fund its growth.

“We created Groupon to help enrich people’s lives by bringing new exciting experiences to them,” he said. “So when we do the opposite, as we have in this case, it really hurts.”

The blunder that prompted the apology involved a deal for delivery of “osechi,” the traditional New Year’s meals containing a variety of Japanese dishes painstakingly prepared and beautifully presented.

Unfortunately, some customers who paid ¥10,500 for this particular bargain were left feeling they had been duped.

Many of the 500 osechi sets sold arrived late, while others were in “terrible condition,” Mason said.

In an explanation earlier this month, Groupon Japan said the sets didn’t match the photo or the description provided by the restaurant, Bird Cafe, which was overwhelmed by the volume.

Groupon subsequently refunded customers their money and offered them vouchers worth ¥5,000.

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