| SAN FRANCISCO, June 4
SAN FRANCISCO, June 4 For years, online daily
deals site Groupon has peddled discounts on
restaurants, dance classes, and spa treatments.
The Chicago-based company reached for something rather more
unorthodox this week: it offered up one of its own employees for
a personalized, bedtime tuck-in.
For $100, buyers of the deal get a visit from Ben Kobold, a
Groupon employee whose services were described in intimate
detail on the company's website.
"Ben's sinewy, well-groomed fingers delicately raise each
sheet and blanket over your body until you're comfortably
bundled," the offer reads. "Careful not to disturb any children
who may be in the adjacent room, Ben leans in and uses his
summer-breeze-like voice to gently sing you one of the five
lullabies he has authored."
Groupon spokeswoman Julie Mossler told Reuters that the
offer was authentic, making no mention of the company's penchant
for inside jokes or founder and CEO Andrew Mason's quirky
"There's a real demand for a service like this," Mossler
said. "There's nothing strange about it. It's very
Groupon, which raised more than $600 million in a highly
anticipated IPO in November, advertised Kobold as a 28-year old
who is "disease-free, physically." Kobold's LinkedIn profile
describes him as a writer employed at Groupon since 2009.
A photo accompanying the offer depicts Kobold, in a black
hoodie and white latex gloves, smirking at the camera as he
draws a purple fleece blanket over another young man smiling in
"The gloves are negotiable," Mossler added. "But for Ben's
safety we prefer that he wears the rubber gloves."
Kobold will visit customers with a "legally required
entourage of two or three companions," the offer noted.
Groupon did not make Kobold available for an interview. But
he said in a statement: "I'm overwhelmed by the response so far
and I hope this inspires tens of millions of Americans to start
their own businesses."
The tuck-in deal serves up a moment of levity during an
otherwise difficult period for the company. Groupon stock has
plummeted 55 percent since its November IPO amid investor
concerns about its growth prospects and accounting methods.
Headed by the irreverent 31-year-old Mason, the company took
a knock in April when it sharply revised down quarterly revenue
after disclosing "material weakness" in its financial controls.
The company had faced questions by the U.S. Securities and
Exchange Commission during its IPO process.
Groupon stock slumped further on Monday after its six-month
"lock-up" expired, allowing employees to sell stock for the
first time since the IPO. The stock dived 7.6 percent on Monday.
Investors have also expressed doubts over whether Groupon
can crack new overseas markets to keep up the scorching pace of
expansion it has enjoyed in recent years.
There was at least one bright spot this week, though, as
Groupon's website lit up with questions from curious customers
who wanted to know more about the deal.
As of Monday, the tuck-in offer page listed just two sales.
But the company had to politely turn down several users who
posted questions asking if Kobold could visit them in cities
hundreds of miles away from Chicago.
The service is available between 6 p.m. and 10:30 p.m.,
Tuesday through Sunday, the company said. And Kobold will only
visit customers within 5 miles of the zip code 60601, which
translates roughly to the Loop district in downtown Chicago.
One woman named "Pamela S." asked if the service was
available at the Cook County Jail.
"I know someone there that would love this deal!" she wrote.
The answer was no.
"Unfortunately, Cook County Jail is not within the 5-mile
limit," the company replied. "Ben will not be able to travel