Bad Business Practice: The Motorsport Lab

Nearly a year ago, I received a very nice present of a Groupon certificate to “drive a ferrari for an hour.” Here’s the groupon ad. The company is The Motorsport Lab.

They had substantial scheduling issues. Between their flaky website, limited availability, and the fact that they cancel for weather, etc, I was unable to get a reservation prior to the expiration date on my coupon. I called up, chatted with some person at the company, and on his advice I went ahead and reserved for August 18th this year.

At the time, I downloaded their documents and choked down the first upsell: They expect a “gratuity” of between $89 and $150 for the driver. That’s based on the list price of $499 for an hour in the car rather than the groupon rate. I’m familiar with the fact that gift certificates do not include anything for the server, so you should tip as you normally would based on the full price. If you use a $25 coupon to get a $50 meal, you should tip based on the $50.

However, $100 gratuity for an hour of a guide seems pretty high.

Also, they charge me a tax fee based on the $500 cost – which is a legal grey area. After all – they never got the money. Are they really going to report $500 in income to the IRS and pay the higher tax themselves?

Anyway, today (July 25), I got the email below:

Hello Chris:

How are you?

We see that you’re redeeming a 2010 Groupon Certificate (begins with “4”) for an upcoming supercar driving experience after 7/31/11. We wanted to kindly confirm that you’re aware that your Groupon will be expired by your reservation date and you are applying the $89 Cash Value of your Groupon as a credit to our regularly priced experience of $499. Your new price will be $410. As our charity / non-profit benefactor for 2011 is MassChallenge, we’ll match that $410 dollar amount and allocate it towards MassChallenge use of our services to further their Cause. There will be no further extension, as we already extended it once, from 6/26/11 to 7/31/11.
If you are not aware of this or made this reservation in error, could you kindly let us know if you would like the option mentioned above or would like us to cancel your experience. If we do not hear back from you, within 48 hours, we will go ahead and cancel your reservation.

If you’ve received this in error, we apologize – please respond to this eMail and let us know.

All the best,

The Motorsport Lab Driving Experience Team

So let’s see – that’s a quick upsell of $410. Looks to me like they expect me to cancel. Here’s what I wrote back:

This is a pretty astonishing email, coming less than a week before the deadline. I've had these reservations for months.

Please give me a call to discuss this at 1-800-MIXALOT.

If you have availability prior to 7/31/11, I am happy to consider rescheduling. My Tuesday and Wed this week are already booked, so Thursday – Sunday would be best. Within those days, I can be quite flexible.

If your company is unable to deliver the services you sold through groupon, then I would prefer a refund of my groupon purchase. I will certainly not be subject to a high pressure $400 upsell – especially after the original $100+ upsell for gratuity and other fees.

Please give me a call.

A quick google search leads to some rather scathing discussions about how I’m not the first one to get pissed off at these people.

here’s the discussion on groupon itself
Apparently there’s a board called ‘yuppie racing’ and man are they pissed off.
They pissed off one dude on Yelp, but the rest of the reviews seem to be remarkably chipper.
There’s also a website called ‘groupoffed’. Who knew?


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