To Be Perfectly Frank | Caveat emptor!

I wonder how many readers have already reached for their smart phones and Google Translate to see what on earth Theakston is drivelling on about now (always assuming they have recognised the headline as being Latin). It’s still the silly season, so what can you expect? Anyway, for those of you, like me, who lack such devices it simply means ‘let the buyer beware’.

I started subscribing to Groupon as a result of my daughter getting me a ‘deal’ on hotel accommodation when I visited her recently in the States. Now I get several offers each day for stuff I don’t want, have never bought and would never consider buying. Interestingly, I’ve never once had an offer of hotel accommodation in Copenhagen. They must be doing well, or maybe they don’t offer it in Denmark.

One offer recently caught my eye because the discount was significant. Not that the percentage was so enormous in the Groupon context (47 or 55 percent, depending where you looked), but that the amount of money involved was substantial in relation to the product, which was a single treatment with “cosmetic acupuncture”. Now I have tried acupuncture, though not for cosmetic reasons, and thus have some insight into the procedure. It’s extremely simple. The acupuncturist places the needles in the relevant areas of the body and leaves to treat other customers. After half an hour or so, the needles are removed by the same person or an underling and you are free to leave, though not without paying of course.

Now when I tell you that the normal (i.e. non-Groupon) fee for this treatment is 1,500 kroner, and that one person can attend to several customers at once, you can see that it’s not a bad business to be in. All you need are suitably luxurious-looking premises in a smart part of town, a few cubicles and some acupuncture needles and you’re in business. I’m not even sure whether the acupuncturist has to be qualified in anything, since this is not a medical procedure; the needles apparently tighten the face muscles! Hmmm … Well, I suppose if it’s not acupuncture, it’s face cream, equally as expensive and just as useless. I still ask myself why on earth such businesses are even legal, given the weight of the evidence that these treatments simply don’t do what they claim to.

But then, as I understand it, we either have to accept that a certain proportion of the population (often, I suspect, those with low self-esteem and/or more money than sense) contributes to the economy in this way or we risk the further collapse of said economy. So now this is really serious! The reason people are going to Groupon is because they are not selling their products at the full price. This is presumably because even those with more money than they need are seeing that such luxury has to be the first to go. So is this then the end of civilisation as we know it?

We probably don’t have to worry too much, but then we must surely ask: why is so much energy expended on such frivolity and why do we allow people to exploit human vanity and fear in such a lucrative way? The range of ‘services’ offered to me over the last couple of weeks includes luxury pedicures, organic cocktails (!), hot stone massages and weight-control hypnotherapy. Sushi also seems to crop up a lot – must be going out of fashion. The only sensible offer I saw was a trip to see Real Madrid play Barcelona at the Bernabéu, including tickets and a four-star overnight stay, for 1,485 kroner. That’s what I call a real deal! Nothing frivolous or silly about that, is there?

I realise I’m risking opening up the running sore of gender conflict with my remarks. But hey, relax, it is still the silly season!