Groupon, Group Off — Enough Already!

Group on, logo, cellphone

Apologies for the headline, but blame David Pogue. Whenever I think about the coupon company Groupon I have a Karate Kid moment (you know, wax on, wax off), and Pogue’s  column today is all about Groupon and the parsimonious groupthink that is compelling millions of Americans to decide, apparently at the whim of an app, that a set of scented candles is just what they’ve always wanted.

Hey, who doesn’t love a deal, right? And the only thing we deficit-spending Americans love more than a bargain is a bandwagon, and Groupon’s is packed to the running boards with me-too start-ups — LivingSocial, BuyWithMe and Woot to name a few (Pogue has a full list).

It seems every media outlet with a browser button is now in the deal-for-a-day business. Daily Candy, the entertainment list, has Swirl, deals on trendy clothes. Marin Magazine (who I do work for) has SFSpree, deals on chic San Francisco things. And, today, my local paper, the anorexic Marin Independent Journal, has a  front page, above-the-fold deal — only $64.50 for a $129 room at the San Anselmo Inn.

I smell something fishy. Is it a shark? Has it been jumped?

Is this what the all the great power and potential of the Internet has become: The opportunity to turn us into a nation of coupon-clippers? Move over, Grandma, the ‘Net’s caught up to you.

I don’t argue that for the early movers like Groupon the math is good — 10 bucks here, 20 there times a few million users  adds up to real money, so much so that the company’s upcoming IPO is valued at $15 billion. Hey Groupon, how about half-off on that?

Maybe Pogue is right and it’s all a psychology thing. As he says, “is saving $10 such a landmark event? The last time you bought a house, a car or even a night at a hotel, did you haggle for another $10 off? You probably could have gotten it. But you didn’t Somehow, though, in the Groupon context, it feels like a steal.”

Hmmm. I’m still not convinced. Half-off on botox injections or cuticle cream may entice some of you, but I’ll start clicking the buy-this-deal button when I open the Groupon app and Today’s Deal is 50% off on a new Nikon.

Grab Shots: Autumn and Annie

* Mystery Image Revealed: While doing some rainy day bookmark cleaning, I found this aging link from David Pogue of the Times about one man’s quest to find the origin of the Windows screensaver image you see at the left. Here’s the whole, hilarious story from writer Nick Tosches. One quote: “I see people in black hoods and robes sitting round a table, bound by blood oath never to divulge the latitude and longitude of Autumn.” Read on.

* Annie Works, We Watch: Annie Liebowitz photographs pairings of actors and directors for Vanity Fair. Here are the vids. Make sure to watch Mickey Rourke, then click to this Huffington Post collection of Rourke photos with him posing with one hand down his pants.

* Blogging Photog: A new entry on the blogroll is travel photographer Paul Souders. His blog is well worth the click. Here’s a takeout from an entry on shooting surfers in Costa Rica:

“I have never been much of a surf beach kind of guy. I grew up next to a chicken farm, a long way from any ocean. Plus I have issues with public nudity stemming from low self-esteem and a rigorous Lutheran upbringing.”

* Wayback Machine: Ever wondered what big city newspaper photographers looked like a couple of decades ago? Here’s the answer. The big guy on the left, Kim Komenich, won a Pulitzer; the pretty boy on the right, Kurt Rogers, is one of the founders of Think Tank Photo. All worked for the “old” San Francisco Examiner.

* Burning, Man: Magnum shooter David Alan Harvey has started Burn Magazine, an online platform for emerging photographers.