“After offering Ottawans daily deals for almost two years, we have suddenly and unfortunately have had to close our doors due to circumstances beyond our control,” reads an email sent Friday morning to a customer who had inquired about a coupon redemption.
A spokesperson for online local event directory OttawaKiosk.com, Stephen Lau, said his firm severed ties with Kahoot in April 2011.
OttawaKiosk was never involved in Kahoot’s daily operations, but did participate in mutual advertising and was in regular contact with the company, Mr. Lau said.
In April of last year, OttawaKiosk was no longer able to get in touch with Kahoot, he said. No one returned their calls.
“We didn’t even know what was happening,” Mr. Lau said, so OttawaKiosk pulled out of the business.
Two weeks ago, Mr. Lau visited the website and noticed Kahoot was not offering any deals.
“I made an assumption that something was going on,” he said. But when he tried to get in touch with the company, no one called him back.
No Kahoot employees could immediately be reached for comment.
Kahoot customers have been calling OttawaKiosk wondering why they haven’t heard from the coupon company, Mr. Lau said.
“When they don’t answer their phone, I’m not sure why they do it,” he said. “Customer service says you should always talk to the customer.”
OttawaKiosk still owns stock in Koopon.ca, another online deal company with Ottawa-based coupons, but is uninvolved with daily operations.
Koopon founder Olivier Simart said that larger companies such as Groupon have been expanding their offerings by partnering with travel agencies and grocery stores, making it difficult for smaller companies to compete. But there is still value in offering specialized local deals, he said.
With Kahoot out of the picture, Koopon has become the only local group discount website in Ottawa, and that will work to its advantage, Mr. Simart said. When asked how the company was doing, he said business was going well, but did not provide any more details.
“Since we’re the last local player, we want to focus on those local deals,” he said. “No matter what it is, if the deal is good, people will buy it."
Perhaps future competition could come from OttawaKiosk.
“It’d be better for us to just own our own (coupon website) if we wanted,” he said. “At the time when group buying was hot, we said, ‘Hey, let’s get some shares, what could be the harm?’ But if we’re not in the companies, we have no control over them.”
Kahoot’s website offers an apology to patrons, and still allows users to sign in and view their purchased deals. The website will service customers until January 1, 2013, according to the site. All purchased coupons will remain usable.
“Thanks for your patronage!” a pop-up banner on the site reads. “It has been a pleasure serving the Kahoot.ca community for the last couple of years. We truly appreciated your support.”
The company’s phone number is still in service, but its mailbox is full with no one answering calls.
Kahoot faced criticism earlier this year when it refused to provide refunds to coupons for Aubrey’s Meats. The popular ByWard Market butcher announced in January it would stop accepting online purchased coupons after the sudden death of its owner and the financial difficulties that ensued.
TeamBuy, Deal Find and Groupon all offered to redeem their customer’s vouchers, but Kahoot would not, according to media reports.
A similar coupon offered by Kahoot for Aubrey’s Meats in 2011 was purchased by 3,000 people, according to an e-mail to OBJ from the company.