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My love-hate relationship with social purchasing "Groupon-type" deals

As a frugal blogger, I have a great deal of exposure and access to social purchasing sites, and of late, I have been developing a love-hate relationship with these "Groupon-type" deals. Social purchasing sites are those deal-a-day websites, like Groupon (the first and probably the most famous), Living Social, Deal Nation, Tippr, Buy With Me, etc.  I've bought many of these deals over the past two years.  Naturally, I am always checking out the local deals in Denver, where I live, but I also particularly like the Jewish social purchasing sites, like Jdeal, Kosher Kouponz, and Shoof, because they are geared toward kosher-keeping members of the Jewish community like my husband and me.

The companies that offer these social purchasing deals are springing up like weeds, under many different names and with all sorts of variations on the Groupon business model.  Most of the time, they offer me tremendous bargains, usually 50% or more of goods or services, without my having to worry about a limited time sale, entering a promo code or clipping a coupon. However, like all popular money-saving trends, I'm discovering certain pitfalls along the way that make me occasionally question the value of buying these deals.

  1. I forget that I've bought them and they expire.
    I've tried to overcome this issue by printing them out and keeping them in one place, but more often than not, I just forget they are there.  So far, I've been lucky enough to recover the money I've spent on expired deals. Thankfully, there are state laws governing the use of gift cards (which is what these are in a technical sense) that allow you to at least recover the face value of the deal. i.e., if you buy a $25 for $50 coupon, and forget to use it, it will just be worth $25 after it expires.  I can't tell you how frustrating it is to buy a great deal only to let it expire.  If you've got an expired deal, especially if it's recently expired, call the vendor as soon as you can to see if he'll still honor it (there are some that will just to make their customers happy) or if minimally, he'll give you the face value.  Check with your state laws to seen what the vendor is obligated to do.  Some of the more veteran social purchasing sites, like Groupon, routinely send out email reminders to use your deals before they expire.   I wonder how much money vendors have made off of customers abandoning expired deals, thinking they blew it and the deals are just worthless.
  2. I can't use the coupons when I want to use them.
    I bought a local deal on housecleaning.   I called the vendor almost two weeks in advance to schedule the cleaning the day before we were getting some company, and was told that the company was overwhelmed with the deals and couldn't come to clean my house for three months!  Same thing happened with a car detailing deal that I bought.  I called the company three weeks in advance to schedule the detailing right before Passover, and was told that they wouldn't be able to detail my car for another two months.  I wish vendors would only sell as many deals as they can handle.  When I purchase a service, I want to be able to use the service when I want to use it, or it's really not that valuable to me.
  3. They deals are misrepresented and are not bargains at all.
    A friend of mine bought a Groupon for AAA membership deal.  The deal was for $20 for a "regular membership" which would have been half off the regular AAA annual rate.  What a steal, right?  Except when she tried to redeem it, it turned out to be only for a six month membership, not the annual one, so basically, it was just a regular price membership.  My friend was very disappointed, but she got in touch with Groupon immediately and they refunded her purchase, no problem.  When you are about to redeem a coupon, make sure the deal is exactly what it represented itself to be, and if you receive an unexpected and unpleasant surprise, don't be shy, return the deal.
  4. The deal you want to buy is great, if you don't count shipping, taxes, and the fact that there are coupon codes out there that will net you a better deal. 
    Make sure that deal is the best that you can do before you buy it. Can you apply the amount of the coupon toward shipping?  Since you can almost never use these types of deals in combination with other discounts, is there a promo code out there, stacked with cash back, that will result in a much better deal?  Do your research before you buy the deal.
What about you?  Have you gotten burned by problems with a social purchasing deal?  Or have you had nothing but positive experiences with them?  Are you as addicted as I am?

1 comment:

  1. One sales rep from such a "deal" site told me he recently read an article that estimated approximately 40% of these coupons go un-redeemed. As a Jew, he assumes the percentage is a little lower :)

    The contract I signed with one such site made me aware of the state laws which do in fact say that I, as a vendor, would have to honor the expired certificates at face value, like you said.


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