Give Us Half That $6 Billion, Groupon

Here’s a great deal: get 11 million people to give you $3.5 million for your business. Then turn around and sell said business for $6 billion.

That’s what Groupon, the Internet coupon clipper, is doing. Just six weeks ago, Gov. Pat Quinn announced that the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity was giving Groupon a $3.5 million business investment package to hire 250 new employees.

“The package includes Economic Development for a Growing Economy (EDGE) corporate tax income credits over the next 10 years based on job creation, and Employer Training Investment Program (ETIP) job training funds that will help enhance the skills of its workforce,” the press release said.

Now that Google is offering to buy Groupon for $6 billion, the Beachwood Reporter’s Steve Rhodes asks a pertinent question: “will Groupon give us our money back?” Obviously, a company that wealthy doesn’t need a grant, or a tax break.

I’ve got a better idea, an idea based on the way Groupon does business. Whenever the website promotes a deal at a restaurant or a bowling alley or a Korean massage parlor, Groupon gets half the money generated. Not everyone thinks this is a good deal.

Groupon proposed that soul-food diva Ina Pinkney offer a $25 coupon for $50 worth of food. Realizing she’d only get $12.50, Pinkney said no. But many businesses go along, for the publicity value.

So here’s my idea. Since Gov. Quinn gave Groupon money to hire new employees, and since he gave the company free publicity by mentioning its name a zillion times during his debate with Bill Brady, Groupon should give the state of Illinois half of that $6 billion.

Lord knows we need the money a lot more than Groupon founder Andrew Mason. Our state is $13 billion in the hole. We’re trying to figure out how to pay the pensions of retired schoomarms. Mason’s only expense is his collection of miniature dollhouses.

Groupon takes half the gate because it provides business with a promotional platform. Notice that Google only came around with that big check after Groupon was name-checked during an Illinois gubernatorial debate? Pat Quinn made you, Groupon. Now pay him back.

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