The line to get into India House was out the door for the Friday lunch crowd, so Linda and I decided to come back Saturday. We had to; it was the last day our Groupon was valid.

For those just catching up to speed, Groupon is the popular deal-of-the-day website that drives customers to various local businesses ranging from restaurants to dentists. It started in Chicago but now serves about 150 communities in North America (thanks Wikipedia) and the concept is if enough people sign up (or pay) for the coupon of the day, then everyone gets the deal. If not enough people, no deal. Linda paid $20 to get $40 off her next visit at India House, which was the deal of that day — six months ago.

Now I love Indian food, but I tend to overindulge at the buffet. So I don’t go too often. By the time we exhausted all our excuses not to go, it was the last weekend of the deal.

We took the L downtown on our day off and considered making a day of it. When we got to the restaurant, the scene was identical to the afternoon before: dozens of people crammed into the entryway there to use their Groupons.

The too-much-of-a-good-thing phenomenon has been a hallmark of many Groupon deals. Sometimes businesses have been unprepared for the crowds, having offered too good of a bargain and ending up taking a bath. Sometimes the customers have no one to blame but themselves for putting things off. We fell in the latter camp. I call us Grouprastinators.

Linda put in our name with the hostess and we squeezed into a corner to wait to be called. As some folks elbowed their way in to the front to add their names to the list, others were looking to bail — offering their Groupons to anyone not already in on the deal. The chatter throughout the crowd was constant as a few pushy whiners kept pestering the manager, who had his hands full processing a stack of bills.

What time do you close?

Will you be able to get all these people in by then?

The line is too long. Will you honor these tomorrow?

(You had six months to use it.)

Does anyone want my Groupon?

But sometimes you just got to suck it up and take it. I figure getting a sumptuous buffet for the price of fast food is worth the hassle. And I learned a valuable lesson about timing.

Now the latest trend I’m told is poachers who go to restaurants on the days Groupon deals expire to take advantage of those who don’t want to wait in line. They are the modern day equivalent to dumpster divers. Or Groupportunists.

In the end, the line moved faster than expected and we were seated in 30 minutes. It felt like we won the lottery when they called our name. Not long after, we would struggle to breathe, having joined the clean plate club. We washed down the chicken tikka masala, lamb, tandoori chicken and a couple grains of saffron rice with a creamy mango lassi. And what visit to India House is complete without a small dish of golden honey balls of joy? Officially, they’re called gulab jamun, and they aren’t really made of honey.

We waded through the crowd on our way out with an air of victory and took the train back home for a winter afternoon nap.

About the Author

Tom Long

Tom Long is one-third of the seldom heard Chicago band The Ethyl Mermen. The name Tom Long can be found in the dictionary, Baseball Encyclopedia and a pub in Ireland. Tom Long is not affiliated with any other Tom Long; he won the rights to use his own name after prevailing in a three-way game of Jan-ken-pon by choosing "dynamite!" No Toms were harmed in the making of this blog.

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