This year I have decided to decrease my spending on online deal sites. I am mainly referring to Groupon, but also Living Social, TravelZoo Deals, and other coupon/deal website.
I have been thinking about doing this for awhile for several reasons.
First off, purchasing deals has become way too easy. With the Groupon iPhone application (disabled that), and my credit card information conveniently stored in my online account, I click “buy” and it’s done. I was also getting up to twenty emails advertising various deals per day. I decided to unsubscribe from those emails. It is much easier for me to impulse buy with all of the above temptations. I’ve purchased several deals which I really don’t need.
This leads me to my next points of waste and expiration dates. Between L, myself, and my parents, it is easy to lose track of all our purchased deals. My mom has given us a number of Groupons as gifts. Last year, we received a one night stay at a luxury San Diego resort off a deal site as part of L’s birthday gift, and we forgot about it and it expired. F*ck. We called the resort, and were told we could get the equivalent of the original price paid for the deal, which was the cost of a discounted room. However, the extra amenities that were part of the package such as wine and a picnic basket lunch expired along with the deal. We felt terrible, and have yet to use our room credit.
Then there’s good old procrastination. Most of our online deal purchases are from restaurants. Really awesome deals from places like Gap, Whole Foods, or Nordstrom Rack are the unicorns of the online deal world. Yet, there are tons of restaurant deals. If you’ve actually been to the featured restaurant before and know it’s good, then buying an online coupon is probably a great idea. However, trying out new places on a deal can be tricky, especially if you procrastinate. Our experiences have gone a little like this.
I get reeled into buying $20 for $40 worth of food at a New-to-Us Restaurant. I look at the expiration date, and see that we have seven months to use it. “No biggie,” I think to myself, “We will surely use this within SEVEN months!” Seven months go by, and we realize the deal is set to expire within days. We arrive at the restaurant, coupon in hand, and get stuck on a forced date with a shitload of other procrastinating deal junkies. The restaurant, which hasn’t seen this much business since 1998, is swamped, and consequently the service is most likely less stellar than it would be on a normal business day. We get the bill, and are excited that it’s $17 not including tip. Score! Except, if I was more astute, I would realize that we just spent well over $40 for a mediocre experience.
This has happened to us on a handful of occasions. I take some responsibility for our procrastination, but still, we are paying out money for this.
Conversely, there are some definite upsides to deal sites. We have a beautiful canvas print of one of our favorite wedding pictures. We have gotten discounts on museum memberships, movie tickets, and massages. When we treat ourselves to deals that we really want or need, we have a much higher level of satisfaction.
On average we purchase one to three deals per month; it varies depending on the offerings that month. I’d like to limit this to “must haves” (like Whole Foods), and deals where we make concrete plans to use it. For example, we recently found a discount on Cirque du Soleil tickets. L has never seen a show, so we decided we will go as a Valentine’s treat. I feel good about this type of purchase.
In addition, I am trying to be more vigilant about checking up on new restaurants and businesses before purchasing a deal from them. I check Yelp, and read restaurant and small business reviews religiously. Last week, I was within an inch of purchasing what looked like a great deal for a pedicure and massage. Then I did a little online research and wasn’t thrilled with the spa’s reviews and comments. I decided to pass on it.
How has your experience been with online deal sites like Groupon, Living Social, etc.? Have you ever gotten carried away with purchasing deals?