Deal or No Deal? What To Know Before You Buy That Groupon…

Posted on Facebook October 30, 2011

Yesterday many people on the East Coast woke up to a rare freak of nature—snow in October!  In NYC where I live, it snowed all day and it wasn’t pretty. The city was wet, cold and dreary, and covered in shades of gray and brown.

Luckily, thanks to a great discount deal I bought online, I managed to avoid the slushfest outside.  Back in the warmer, stankier days of August, I had the genius foresight to buy one of the restaurant “perks” that Urban Daddy, a social events and deal website, offered.  Forty dollars for brunch and booze at Beauty and Essex—done! So yesterday, I spent the afternoon at a top NYC restaurant enjoying a four course brunch and two hours of unlimited mimosas and Blood Mary’s, while others slipped and fell into ice puddles outside.

I’ve had several awesome experiences using discount coupons I’d purchased from Living Social and Groupon, online companies that specialize in offering discounted deals from restaurants, bars, nail and beauty salons, language schools, dance studios, and pretty much any type of business that offers a service.  The business signs up with the online discount company and agrees to offer a certain number of deals at a deep discount; when the deals are sold, the company offering the services gets a cut and the online deal company keeps the rest.

For the most part, it’s a win-win for all parties involved.  The company offering the service gets exposure to a group of potential customers they never had before since companies like Groupon, Urban Daddy and Living Social reach millions of consumers.  The consumer gets to try something in their local area at a discount.

Once you sign up with the online deal company, you usually receive an email a day or periodically that highlights a discounted offering in your area. Because of the generous discounts, these deals can help you try new businesses or return to a favorite business, and can save you money in the long run.

Many of these deals are great—six Italian language classes discounted 50% to $150; a facial and sixty-minute massage for $75; a steak dinner for two with wine for $70; one night at a famous Atlantic City hotel for $125!  If you set your mind to it, you can do something every night using one of these deals!

On the other hand, some deals are offered by mediocre businesses offering mediocre  or crappy services. So while these discounts can be very enticing, there are some things to keep in mind before you make that final click to purchase.

  1. EXPECT QUALITY.  Often if a deal seems too good to be true, it is.  When a deal offers too many items or services for a very low price, it’s right to question whether quality will be compromised.  Even if it’s a twenty-dollar deal, it’s still your hard-earned twenty dollars, so think twice.
  2. TAKE ADVANTAGE OF GEMS. However, sometimes a deal that sounds too good to be true is actually great!  I’ve purchased a deal from a steak house that offers an appetizer, steak, side and dessert for two and includes a bottle of wine, all for $70!  The restaurant is an upscale steak house, albeit in a weird part of midtown that caters to a mix of Upper East Side divorcees, gweedos from Jersey and bankers stumbling in for dinner after happy hour.  But the food is consistently delish and the staff is really nice every time I go!
  3. DO YOUR HOMEWORK. Before purchasing any deal, no matter how inexpensive, do some research.  Like my good friend Tamar says, ‘Yelp that sh*t.’  Google it, read reviews and make sure you’re getting a quality service for your money.  My rule of thumb: don’t buy a deal from a business with fewer than three out of five stars.
  4. RESPECT THE RULES. Be sure to read the fine print.  Every deal has different rules attached to it, and most of them expire at a certain point.  Make sure you know the rules before you use the coupon so there are no surprises, and make sure you use it before the expiration date.
  5. BE A REPEAT CUSTOMER.  If it is a good deal, the business is highly rated and the reviews are good, don’t be afraid to purchase more than one deal.  These deals are a great way to save money in the long run and use your hard-earned money in a smart way.
  6. PURSUE YOUR PASSIONS! Let these deals take you out of your comfort zone and try new things.  I’ve purchased deals for wine tasting classes, language classes and sailing lessons.  These are all one-hit wonders; I’m not planning to make a career out of wine tasting and I’ve never dreamt of sailing my own boat to the Caribbean.  But the small investment I made in purchasing these deals was purely to push myself to pursue activities that I was curious about or enjoyed, without having to commit to a series of lessons and a big chunk of change.
  7. KEEP IT REAL. On the other hand, make sure you will follow through and do the activity.  If you’re afraid of heights and left your own fingernails imbedded in the armrest the last time you flew home to Virginia, don’t buy the paragliding deal on Groupon.  Seriously, don’t do it.  I’m telling you now, you’re not going to jump out of that plane so save your $150 for something you need.
  8. GIFT IT.  Consider buying a deal for a friend.  Since many of the discount companies let you purchase the deals for someone else, this could make a great and unique gift.  Buy a deal for yourself and make it a date.
  9. DON’T LET JUST ANYONE TOUCH YOU.  Beware of the massage/facial/laser/combo deals.  Especially when you are dealing with skin, make sure to research the business and find out whether their aesteticians are legit, the products they use are quality, how long in business, etc.  It’s possible to find a real gem and get a fabulous facial for $40, but there are a lot of shady businesses out there that will take your forty bucks and leave you with blackheads and bachne.
  10. REMEMBER YOUR SERVER.  Be sure to tip on the meal or service; most people tip on the original value of the meal but it’s up to you.  If you do opt to tip on the value of the coupon, consider adding a couple bucks  🙂
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