Saturday, February 2, 2013

Groupon Guilt

After my Crossfit class this week (thank you, Groupon) I felt an unbearable guilt.  What? You might ask.  Feel guilt at getting a nice deal for an activity you would never have otherwise tried?  You and your budget feel guilty for that?

Let me explain.  In fact, let me explain with a story from my childhood, from a pre-Groupon age.

Crazy Bones.

1999.  I was in 7th grade, and my brother, Edwin, just ten years old at the time, had BEGGED my mom for some Crazy Bones.

If you don’t remember Crazy Bones, you are not alone.  They were small, plastic figurines, almost indistinguishable in shape but varying in colors that, if I remember correctly, resembled gem stones.  They weren’t particularly pretty, and I think you were supposed to play a game by tossing them around and seeing how they landed.  But the real sell was in the collectability: They were marketed to adolescents as valuable items worth buying, trading, and saving for a potential resell on eBay years down the road.  Nineteen ninety-nine was the height of the Pogs and Pokemon frenzy, and tons of companies were trying to jump on the small-and-cheap-to-make-but-able-to-sell-for-giant-margins production wagon.

What do these four pictures have in common?
If I may speak candidly, Crazy Bones were POSs.  They weren’t cute, they weren’t fun, and in all their plastic glory, they didn’t seem valuable, the way a collector’s item should.  Now, I’m almost surprised at this opinion of mine, because it makes the next part of this story a bit ludicrous.

After an abundance of begging, my brother got what he wanted: a trip to Target to get his hands on Crazy Bones.  And just as advertising had led us to believe, Target was promoting the hell out of the item.  I remember seeing several giant banners directing us to the very aisle where we could retrieve the toy.  As we walked, even my excitement grew.  (Picture Ralphie from A Christmas Story, chaperoning younger Randy to see Santa Clause.)  My brother, hyperactive ten-year-old that he was, was practically running.  But as we turned the corner onto the very aisle where Crazy Bones lay, we halted, aghast.

Not only was this toy a shell of its advertisement (as described above), but it seemed that everyone else thought so, too.  The Crazy Bones were battered and abandoned, as boxes had been torn open but then tossed back onto the shelves.  It seemed like no one had liked them, and everyone had been pissed about the hype, to boot.

We stood there, the failure of Crazy Bones becoming uncomfortably clear to all of us.

“Someone lost the shirt off their back for that one,” my mom said.


She didn't mean it like that, I know.  It was just an expression.  But my 7th grade heart dropped.

Now, in 2013, how can I describe the impact this comment had on me -- has continued to have on me?  The overwhelming sympathy I had for this unknown figure who I imagined had poured his heart and soul into a failed idea?  The sadness that, sympathy though I had, even I hated the product?  The guilt I felt at hating that product -- oh, the guilt!

I don't remember quite what happened next, but legend has it that I broke down into tears, right there on aisle 14.

And so it was, and has been ever since, that I have a real sadness when businesses fail, especially when I perceive myself to be part of those who turned their back.  No matter what the company -- mom-and-pop-shop or Borders -- when I hear about a struggling company, I always picture that someone who, well... lost the shirt off their back for that one.


So how do Crazy Bones and Crossfit overlap?  Well, like most of us, I had never intended intended to use Crossfit beyond the two weeks my Groupon allowed.  So when the owner -- who had learned all of our names and who personally coached us through kettle bell swings and powercleans -- said he'd give us a month free if we committed, the alarm bells of a struggling company started going off, and my stomach turned in knots.  Here I was, once again turning my back.

I had a Crazy Bones moment, and I dealt with it the only way I could (this time sans tears): I looked at the floor, I looked at the ceiling, I looked everywhere but into his hopeful eyes.

Ah, Crazy Bones.  Groupon Guilt.  Almost not worth it.  But as Michael -- ever the capitalist -- said, "Yeah, but you get over it real quick, honey."


  1. Hahaha, Groupon guilt. Nice! Even I got sucked into the Crossfit cult :P Already bought a bunch of 1 month and 3 month deals to try out other Crossfits and other boot camps and swimming deals. So could not commit to Universal. But I would love to go back to Universal once I exhaust all the deals.