Please Don’t Buy Me a Star

Last year, I subscribed to Groupon because I’d heard people talking about the really good deals you could find on there. I have to admit, there are some real bargains; I’ve purchased a couple of restaurant Groupons myself. But there are some real head-scratchers, too. Take yesterday’s Daily Deal for Portland: for $29 you can dedicate a star to somebody and name it after them (a $79 value, so you’re saving 63%). Just between you and me, I think this whole star-naming thing is a scam. Because really, is the International Astronomical Union going to refer to PSR J1302-6350 as “Sally Snugglepuss” if somebody coughs up the dough for those naming rights? I highly doubt it. It’s a romantic idea in theory, but when you get right down to brass tacks, not so much. You are basically comparing your loved one to a hot ball of gas, right? One whose midsection will keep expanding the older it gets until one day it explodes, raining fiery death down upon anybody unfortunate enough to be close by.

Oh, baby. How sweet of you.

Besides, how does a company “own” a star in the first place? That’d be like me selling individual grains of sand on a public beach. (Hmm…). Plus, there is more than one star-naming registry out there. How do we know that Sally’s star doesn’t already “belong” to Herbert in Idaho Falls or Trudy in Tallahassee? I can see fistfights breaking out over celestial property rights.

Naming Stars
"Look, honey - I picked that one out just for you!" (Courtesy of

I don’t want a star named after me, even if the intentions are good. Because with my luck, that star would be home to some advanced alien race who decides to invade earth one day, and when they land, if the star charts show I’m the owner, those bug-eyed green monsters are going to come a-knockin’ on my door, just you watch. And they won’t be delivering a package.

So, if anybody is thinking about doing this for me, kind gesture aside – thanksbutnothanks. (I will, however, gladly take an iPad if you are still in a “giving” mood).

Hey, speaking of Groupon…

I love reading their daily deals. They are chock full of the wittiest prose this side of Orion’s belt (in keeping with the celestial theme). Their ads are creative, clever, and rely on bizarre imagery and wacky, unexpected metaphors to drive the point home. I daresay, they entertain, which is why I look forward to seeing them land in my In Box every morning. And also why, a few months ago, I had a conversation with my girlfriend regarding Groupon. “I’d love to write for them,” I said. “Their sense of humor is just like mine.”

So, when I opened a Groupon e-mail in the beginning of January and saw an ad for Freelance Writers, I eagerly clicked on the link. The application process involved writing a sample article for a sea kayak company in Georgia, submitting a cover letter and resume, and then waiting to hear back while they sifted through hundreds of applicants. I had nearly given up hope – after all, four weeks had gone by with nary a word – but I would occasionally check on the status of my application and as long as it read “In process” I figured I had a chance. Then, last Friday, I finally heard back from one of the Groupon editors. His e-mail was encouraging. I read your sample carefully and found a lot to like about it, and a number of elements that I think we can build on. I’d like to talk to you further about the humor and mechanics you displayed in your writeup, and how we can work together to make it adhere more closely to the Groupon voice.

Whoo-hoo! He set up a phone interview for yesterday afternoon, leaving me cautiously optimistic. We chatted for a few minutes about my freelance writing experience, how I came across the ad, and why I decided to apply. Then he critiqued my sample literally word for word, which was a bit humbling, but he was very positive about my writing. Said I “made an assertion and then delivered a classic 1-2-3 punch” in my opening paragraph while maintaining the trademark Groupon “absurdist, offbeat humor.” He told me I had a firm grasp of the mechanics of their writing style and had clearly given thought to the structure and voice they aim for. My sample wasn’t perfect – he warned me to avoid hyperbole and let the jokes come out of the humor rather than vice-versa – but overall he was pleased enough to invite me to continue through the application process. Which is rather stringent. I’ll have to prove myself through three additional sample articles, continuing to demonstrate the qualities and characteristics they are looking for while showing growth, and then they will make a decision. So it’s by no means a done deal, and I hope I’m not jinxing my chances by writing about it here, but I feel pretty confident in my abilities and will give these samples (for which they are paying me, so it’s a win-win no matter what happens) my complete focus. The first one is due by Friday morning, but I hope to have it back to them by the end of the day.

This is very exciting to me, because it’s the big freelance opportunity I have been waiting for – a chance to show off my creative skills for a well-known and fast-growing company who will pay me a much better per-article price than I’m earning anywhere else. Groupon freelancers can choose to write between ten and twenty articles a week, and he said each one takes the average writer about an hour to complete (pretty much the same amount of time I’m spending on my other articles). He asked what I thought my commitment would be, and I told him I’d be comfortable doing a full load of twenty. That’s a twenty-hour workweek, which gives me another twenty hours (if I’m thinking in terms of a “traditional” 8-5 job) to work on other projects. The Groupon gig alone would net me more than I’m earning through unemployment, so I would officially stop filing claims and wouldn’t have to worry about meeting Washington’s three-job-contacts-a-week requirement. Add in additional income from my other gigs, and suddenly I am earning the same amount I was from my last job at KNA, but doing it on my own terms and in the comfort of my own home.

Again, not counting my chickens before they’re hatched, but I can’t help feeling a little bit optimistic these days. Things seem to be looking up. While the company I interviewed with last week hasn’t called me back – thanks again, universe! – I did win my battle against the state and am free to work in self-employment and still earn benefits.

I’m just hoping I won’t need to do that much longer.


Published by Mark Petruska

I'm a professional writer and editor living my best life in south central Wisconsin.

17 thoughts on “Please Don’t Buy Me a Star

  1. Sounds very promising, Mark! If these Groupon ads are so entertaining, perhaps I’ll have to start reading them… and look for yours in the coming weeks! 😉
    I hope it all works out for you. Sounds like it would be fantastic.


  2. Very cool! I’m excited for you! Looks like several prospects have opened up for you and both would be interesting. I’m biased to enjoying your humor so I’m really rooting for this Groupon thing. Although, you just ruined my April Fool’s joke for you with the whole star thing! Thanks a heap!


  3. Okay, this is really bad, but I don’t know about Groupon, but then again I don’t exactly live in a place with a Groupon-driven economy. What planet do you live on, you might ask. Planet Port-au-Prince to be exact!
    At any rate, I really enjoyed your post. Jane turned me on to your blog. Good luck with the freelance gig.
    Blogging from Haiti,


    1. Groupon is talking about expanding into China, so it wouldn’t surprise me if they landed in Haiti eventually, too. Thanks for visiting – how nice of Jane to send you my way. I’ll be sure to check out your blog too, Kathy!


  4. Good luck with your Groupon writing. It should help that you are really excited about the possibilities and where the job could take you. I’m holding my thumbs once again:)Jeanne


  5. Wow, how exciting! I must say, I’m really enjoying watching everything come together for you. I didn’t even know they had freelancers working on the Groupon ads! Learn something new every day…. good luck!!


    1. Thanks, Catherine! With so many cities that Groupon is infiltrating…it makes sense that they’d need an army of freelancers to forge ahead for them. I can only hope that I become one of them!


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