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Above: Galley slave from Wikicommmons

Groupon employees have alleged abusive working conditions, breach of contract, and a boss (Groupon’s Eastern European CEO Daniel Glasner) whom they described as a “slavedriver”.

Before we dive into the specifics, it should be noted that these emails were excerpted, not printed in full, and translated from German on the Berlin-based tech blog Village Ventures.

The first email reads:

I must remain anonymous, otherwise I will face serious issues. Here I send you something that has bothered us for days, weeks, months, on a regular daily basis at Groupon. Strong pressure, breaches of contractually agreed bonuses with subsequent penalties. Now our titles are supposed to be changed — we will be degraded — if we do not acquire our Dreamlist partners.

“Dreamlist partners” refers to high-end restaurants and spas that Groupon is hoping to provide deals for. CEO Daniel Glaser responded with  a statement denying the accusation.

We don’t have any insight or connections in Berlin, so let’s leave the he said she said alone for now and examine the historical context.

In September 2011, Groupon employees in the U.S. filed a class action lawsuit. Like their German counterparts, they were owed money for unpaid overtime and bonuses, in that case reaching into the millions of dollars.

Leading up to that lawsuit, a series of increasingly negative testimonials appeared on the website Glass Door, where employees can post anonymously about their bosses and company.

• Immense pressure to hit unrealistic sales goals.
• Management out of touch with what’s going on during phone calls (it’s getting harder and harder to close deals as more and more people don’t want to work with Groupon)
• Used to be a fun culture. Now it’s all about the bottom line and feels like your typical call center
• Sales staff are worked to the bone
• Everyone is miserable and they treat the customers ( merchants) as well as employees with little respect. All they care about is how much money groupon makes. They also created a “boiler” room environment and micromange to the 100th degree. They suffocate you and you can barely breath or go to the bathroom with out feeling guilty.
• They make you feel guilty to take a Saturday off to go to a wedding.
• Sales staff cries all the time.

The issues of unrealistic sales goals, demanding hours, and brutal managment mirrors the complaints coming out of Berlin.

Groupon has been called the fastest growing company in history. It achieved an IPO that valued it in the billions of dollars. A brutal sales culture may be the obvious byproduct of that aggressive expansion.

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