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Coupon site sells fake deal for Utah restaurant

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Owners of the Hapa Grill in Park City said they never authorized this offer on discount website MobileSpinach.com

Owners of the Hapa Grill in Park City said they never authorized this offer on discount website MobileSpinach.com


Not all coupons are created equal. Some online companies are selling fake coupons that leave customers empty handed when they go to pay the bill.

At least the coupons sold by San Mateo, Calif.-based Mobile Spinach, which sells discount vouchers similar to Groupon and Living Social, are not what they seem. The company has been selling unauthorized vouchers on its website, including one for a local restaurant that the owners did not know of.

The site, Mobilespinach.com, sold a coupon for $5 offering a $10 voucher to the Hapa Grill, a sushi restaurant in Park City.

The problem is, Jeanne and Andy Buppert, co-owners of the Hapa Grill, have never heard of Mobile Spinach.

“We didn’t approve that,” Jeanne Buppert said in a phone interview with the Deseret News. “We’ve been approached by Groupon and other people, but we have never been interested in doing that kind of thing. We have flat out told whoever has called, ‘no.’”

She also said that they would never authorize a $10 coupon because their restaurant’s price point is too high.

“Even the price doesn’t make sense,” Jeanne Buppert said.

There haven’t been any attempts to redeem vouchers from the coupon site, but the staff at Hapa Grill will not be accepting any of the unauthorized vouchers, Buppert said.

Antonio Vitti, chief executive officer of Mobile Spinach, said the company promoted deals from third-party providers that promised they had received authorization from merchants.

“We have learned, unfortunately, that was not true in many cases,” Vitti said in a phone interview. “Because of this issue, we have removed all third-party deals from our site this month.”

Vitti said Mobile Spinach received written authorization on Feb. 8 from Hapa Grill to promote a deal on their site through email and through their “online merchant tool.”

But the Bupperts said they don’t remember ever talking to Mobile Spinach.

Andy Buppert called Mobile Spinach to inform the company that he had never authorized a deal on the website.

He asked whom the company spoke with to get authorization to which they replied, “Andy Buppert.” The co-owner then told the company that he is Andy Buppert and that he had never spoken to anyone in their office.

“They didn’t realize it was him on the phone,” Jeanne Buppert said. “We asked them to take us off.”

The site featured the coupon as late as Tuesday afternoon before it was removed.

This isn’t the only problem Mobile Spinach has run into.

Edward Dworksy of Waltham, Mass., tried to redeem a $6 coupon he had purchased for $3 from Mobile Spinach at a local Chinese restaurant, according to an article on MSNBC.com. The owner of the restaurant said he had never heard of Mobile Spinach and that he would not honor the discount.

A New York incident was similar to the one at the Hapa Grill.

Jim Gilbride, owner of the Old Country Deli in Hicksville, N.Y., recently had a caller offer him an opportunity to buy a Mobile Spinach ad, according to the MSNBC article. The ad showed up on mobilespinach.com even though Gilbride had declined the offer.

Mobile Spinach received authorization to publish deals from both the Chinese restaurant and the Old Country Deli, Vitti said. The first of the ten coupons redeemed at the Chinese restaurant was problematic, but the nine vouchers after that were problem free.

No redemptions were made for the deli, Vitti said. The company stands ready to make refunds to any customers that have run into problems.

The site said there were “232 left to buy” before the Hapa Grill coupon was removed. It is unknown how many were sold because Vitti declined to answer any further questions after addressing the Hapa Grill and the two other issues of allegedly unauthorized coupons.

Several attempts were made to contact the company for a statement, but with no response.

Deseret Digital Media, the parent company of deseretnews.com, competes with daily deal companies through ksl.com/deals.

EMAIL: jferguson@desnews.com

TWITTER: @joeyferguson