Sunday, October 23, 2011

The Joy and Pain of Groupon

We all love Groupon, right? Do you get your Groupon?

I don't know about you, but I've had good and bad experiences with Groupons I've purchased over time. No problems when I bought one for Sewflakes, Mod's or Vintage Pearl, but I've got to admit I've had a few duds too.

Once I bought one for cleaning services, and not only were they a little misleading about what services the coupon included, I honestly felt like my house was dirtier when they were done than how I'd left it! Then I purchased one for carpet cleaning. I called the number listed four or five times, each time reaching a recording that said the mailbox was full and not receiving new messages. When I finally did receive the actual voicemail for the business (3 days before the Groupon expired), I left a message informing how long I'd tried to get a hold of them and when my Groupon expired and that I'd like to make an appointment. Still haven't heard from them.

Recently, after writing about wanting to go horseback riding as a family on our Summer To-Do List, I saw Groupon for either one lesson or a horseback riding birthday party at Labzara Ranch. Of course we already wanted to saddle up, and to top it all off, I've got an October Birthday Girl who's in love with animals; I had a feeling it would be one heck of a surprise for her!

Corrinne was psyched, and so were the three boys. We invited neighbors, cousins, grandparents, aunts, ordered pizza and cupcakes and showed up to the ranch ready to get our party on. Labzara Ranch is located on the south side of 111th Street in Broken Arrow about halfway between Aspen and Elm. You can't miss it; there are a few large signs advertizing riding lessons, camps and birthday parties.

We were a little early, so we made friends with the barn cats. This little girl might just be a veteranarian one day the way she loves animals!

I worked in a barn at a summer camp and learned you could use horse troughs for watering horses and cooling off a barn hand with a bad attitude, but I've never seen one used like this! She made a little fountain out of it. Who says you can't dress up a barn?!

Here's our bunch anxiously awaiting the saddles and stirrups!

While two children at a time were allowed to ride horses in the ring, the other kids had stick horse races. We were entertained to no end watching them gallup along; you'd be surprised how much the bigs loved them as much as the littles!

And here's the birthday girl and first rider. She was very proud and kept telling everyone, "Don't worry, everyone gets a turn to ride with the Birthday Girl!" It didn't quite work that way; for the sake of time each child only got one turn, but they got to stay on a good little while.

We assured the little ones, whose only option for a helmet that fit was a pink one, that pink was a perfectly acceptable color for boys. They didn't seem to mind all that much once they got on the horse though!

Carter informed me, "Um, uh, technically this is my first time petting an actual horse." He was a little hesitant at first, but warmed up pretty quickly. The horses chosen for us were very sweet.

My littlest, Alec, was THRILLED to say the least. He kept saying, "Yeehaw! I'm a cowboy!" I was asked to lead him around since he was the youngest there. I'm not sure what I was thinking wearing Tom's shoes...I'm just glad I didn't step in poo!

Meanwhile, my Marc decided to show off his "trick riding" skills. This is a shot where I caught him right in the middle of the one where he jumps up (while the horse is still moving mind you) and turns around in the saddle and rides backwards. Impressive, I know!

The most intense race of the evening was between Marc and his sister, Auntie M. She pulls no punches when it comes to competition. She told me flat out, "He's goin' down!"

He was up to the challenge and they were off. I don't have proof, and they would both argue differently, but I'm pretty sure it was a tie!

Now, we had a great time, but our goofy clan can have a good time anywhere. I am highly committed to supporting local businesses, and normally don't blog about experiences with my kids that I wouldn't recommend, but I've got to be honest about this one. Without being too cruel, here's what we walked away with from this experience:

  1. The "rules" of the barn were not clearly posted or explained to us; however, we were scolded repeatedly for breaking such rules. "Don't stand on that side of the ring or the horses will think you have food!" "Not so much motion by the ring or you'll scare the horses!" We were also SHOUTED at several times to not shout or scream on the horses. Um...I think the only child who said ANYTHING on the horses was Alec telling us he was a cowboy, and it was anything but a scream!
  2. Our birthday party was scheduled from 5 to 6:30, and the woman running the place was busy with a lesson when everyone arrived and we waited at least 20 minutes for her to have the horses for our party saddled and ready for us. Believe me, I understand being late for things, but not when you're running a business, and especially not when it's a kid's birthday party! The kids already only got one turn each, and this just cut down on the amount of time they got in the ring. She then ended up rushing us, which I just felt was unfair.
  3. Just to prepare you if you do choose to have a birthday party there - it is a barn nearby a couple of riding rings and a field. The "accommodations" are two dirty plastic patio tables and plastic chairs. Don't expect picnic tables or tablecloths. Bring hand sanitizer, table cloths and pretty much everything you need if you want to have food there. Or, honestly, wait and go do food somewhere else after where the flies won't land on your pizza and cupcakes (gagface)!
  4. I can't be sure I would want my child to take riding lessons at this location. As I said, when we arrived, the owner was giving a lesson, but I don't recall her ever once being near the ring the child was riding or watching her for more than a moment at a time as she bustled around the barn. She would shout out, "tighten up your reigns," or "heels down" while moving buckets and hoses around in another location, seeming less than interested in the child's performance.

All in all, it was an adventure, and we are up for just about anything. The kids had fun, which is truly all that matters. Corrinne felt special and got to have fun with her friends, and the adults were entertained by the whole experience. I'm just glad I got it for half price. I'm learning to be more discerning and ask more questions when I buy Groupons, and...I think I'm going to keep looking for horseback riding options for the kids! Got any suggestions?

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