Groupon, Bird Cafe, and the Japanese New Year Osechi

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Google Japan and all the message boards are on fire right now with one incident that occurred over the holidays.

It’s 2011 now and at least one person is not having a good start.

His name is Mizuguchi, and he’s the self proclaimed pro surfer/ president of the  Bird Cafe (Gaishoku Bunka Kenkyujyo) in Yokohama, and is the prime subject of the intense flaming going on now.

In just one day, he basically ruined his empire of 5-6 trendy restaurants mostly run by a bunch of young enthusiastic people.

Peaking yesterday at 3rd place on Google’s “on fire” requested searches and now on Yahoo’s top news, the story goes like this.

Bird Cafe pre-sold 500 “Osechi” (traditional Japanese New Year meals) through the famous group-buy coupon site GROUPON. Groupon is a popular site where users pool their numbers and get together to make group purchases to get huge discounts on goods and services. Despite arriving in Japan last year in Oct, Groupon’s popularity has skyrocketed in the past few months and their ads are all over the place.

It was here that Bird Cafe sold the Osechi meal set at  50% discount for ¥10,500.

Originally priced at ¥21,000, many families eagerly awaited the arrival of a tasty bountiful meal.

Osechi takes a very long time to prepare and it is the most important family meal of the year. Each dish has a symbolic meaning and it’s a very special meal for Japanese. Many people decided to order online instead of cook.

With many stores closing for the holidays, these families didn’t have to worry about cooking because they ordered this great meal…or this is what they thought…

So what happened?

They were expecting this…

And ended up with this…lol…

This is for 4 people by the way…

I like the cheese that’s still in the wrapper…

Many commented on the innovative Ginger stick divider blocking the black beans…

The boxes look a little empty to me compared to the sample photos…


The bounty of the sea…lol…Truly a feast to remember for the New Year…

People are understandably on FIRE…lol. Many of the harshest comments are all here on this Complaint Board.

Not only are people angry about the food, (which was rotten for some people), they’re angry that he and the staff updated their progress on their blog and Twitter.

The blogs gave away the fact that no one wore hair nets, face masks or gloves while they put the bento boxes together.They also shipped out the bento boxes knowing the boxes weren’t full, would get trashed in transit, and had way to little food to begin with. I’m sure the younger employees had no ill intentions, but the outcome was so bad…you can’t hide on this one…

A great example of blogging backfire.

Osechi is usually prepared like this…

Well, as expected, Mr Mizuguchi resigned as president within the last 24 hrs, this topic has hit number 1 on Yahoo, the store site is down, his Twitter account deleted, and people are threatening to sue. I sorta feel sorry for the guy but come one…this is just sooo bad…lol.

He was there helping and shouldn’t have shipped this out. How could he not have seen this coming??

But it’s too late now and now everyone is sitting at home bored and looking this up…Super bad timing.

The lesson?

Don’t make promises you can’t keep, act honestly and quickly, and don’t cheat others. What comes around, goes around…

It’s unfortunate people had to get tricked, but I’m gonna learn from Mr. Mizuguchi’s mistake  and try to apply it to my daily life.

In an age where everyone is claiming to be a “creator” or “producer”, it’s important not to get tricked by the trendy businesses out there being run by amateurs. This can be said for every industry out there.

Let’s all be good for 2011.

I know Mr Mizuguchi is gonna have to be good now…

Good luck my friend.

UPDATE #1 :

Since then, this story has escalated gone international, waaay beyond just a flaming incident.

You can chck out the WALL STREET JOURNAL story here at: http://blogs.wsj.com/japanrealtime/2011/01/05/after-mochi-osechi-the-first-food-brouhaha-of-the-new-year/?KEYWORDS=better+luck

In short, the owner blamed the shipping company (which was standard shipping and not even cooled) for the scattered mess and also said that the pictures online were the worst cases. On TV, a famous announcer pointed out that he shouldn’t have even had one case.

The main problem seems to be that the president knew what was going on and let it all happen.

Now, the city of Yokohama is investigating the claims of rotten food and now, false declaration of food origin. Items declared as French were Japanese, items from Japan were form China..and so now the government is going to investigate the whole chain of restaurants…

It doesn’t pay to lie.

But I’m over it now. Thanks for listening.

UPDATE #2: Just for closure, BIRD CAFE, the restaurant that sent the meals out, has been voluntarily closed and it looks like we will finally have some closure to this story… ; )

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2 Responses to Groupon, Bird Cafe, and the Japanese New Year Osechi

  1. uk24 says:

    Maaan, Groupon is growing so fast in my country too, I hope businesses are not choking themselves… so much greed

  2. admin says:

    Yeah, after this incident, there were cases where Groupon basically forced customers to offer coupons even when they couldn’t afford to. When they did, they had to issue so many coupons that the business owner couldn’t fulfill the promise. In the end, he ended up losing customers…they’re like the mafia…lol

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