Ward Room
Covering Chicago's nine political influencers

The Winner of the Governor's Debate? Groupon.

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The Winner of the Governor's Debate? Groupon.
The Winner of the Governor's Debate? Groupon.

Groupon

Behold your new obsession: Groupon has arrived in Hartford. (Oh, and then there's this cat...)

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The big winner in last night’s gubernatorial debate? Groupon. Gov. Pat Quinn mentioned the Internet dealmaker so many times that Capitol Fax named “Groupon” the debate’s official drinking game word.

Ward Room's take on the matter: "This debate has been brought to you by @Groupon. Goodnight."

So what is Groupon? And does Quinn deserve any credit for its 900 jobs?

Groupon offers discounted goods and services, but only if enough people sign up for the deal. (The name is a portmanteau of “group” and “coupon.”) Today, for example it’s offering $20 worth of food and drinks at Tommy Nevin’s Pub in Evanston. Once 200 people signed up, the deal was “tipped.” The arrangement ensures the bar gets enough exposure to make up for the loss of revenue.

Why is it in Chicago? The scheme was invented by a Northwestern graduate, Andrew Mason, who is doing for S&H Green Stamps what Mark Zuckerberg did for the yearbook: he’s turned it into an online, interactive experience.

Quinn wasn’t exaggerating when he called Groupon a job machine: this summer, a Forbes magazine article on Groupon was headlined “Meet The Fastest Growing Company Ever.”

“Groupon represents what the dot-com boom was supposed to be all about: huge sales, easy profits and solid connection between bricks-and-mortar retailers and online consumers,” Forbes wrote.

According to spokeswoman Julie Mossler, Groupon has been hiring 125 employees a month, most of them in Chicago.

Last month, I visited Groupon’s offices in the old Montgomery Ward warehouse on Chicago Avenue. I went there to interview a University of Michigan grad about why young people are fleeing Michigan for Chicago. When she opened the door to Groupon’s boiler room, I saw hundreds of kids -- none of them older than 32 -- sitting at banks of computers. Groupon salespeople start at $32,500 a year, but with commissions, some are earning six figures.

Groupon got started before Quinn became governor, so he can’t say he brought it to Illinois. But if he has to take the blame for all the jobs lost during his governorship, you can’t blame him if he takes credit for the jobs created, too.

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