LivingSocial's twist on the process includes the option to share a link to your deal. If three more people bite, your deal is free.
For its part, Groupon has positive testimonials, with some businesses saying they consolidated a half year of expected customer acquisition time into a few days. Theaters have welcomed the opportunity to fill an otherwise half-empty house on some nights, which tends to improve the experience for the actors and the audience. Groupon says it will make right or return any purchase that doesn't meet consumer expectations. Response time has received mixed reviews in social media and retail blogs.
Deal sites also raise a bigger issue: The advent of "thrill of the hunt" marketing that seems to separate consumers more easily from their disposable income (or maybe not-so-disposable income in some cases).
[See Why I'm Shunning Groupon.]
As for this writer and consumer, I'm still a Groupon subscriber. If anything, the frequent emails drop local business names right in my lap, providing gift ideas or reminding me that I want to find a new dentist. But mostly I long to return to a simpler formula, in which I'm willing to pay full price for the best meal I've had in months. And I'll return because the food was just that memorable.
Whether you use daily deal sites—well, daily—or more sporadically, there are some common missteps or misinformation that can be avoided in order to improve your experience and benefit the local business that will keep money in your community.
Here's a snapshot of common Google gripes and LivingSocial letdowns, plus ways to improve your experience:
Note how many deals can be used at one time. Some businesses limit using more than one coupon during a single visit even if you buy up to the maximum number allowed at purchase time. So if you're hoping to cover a larger family by using three coupons at one meal, for instance, you may find yourself limited to one-per-visit and paying full price for the remainder of the bill.
Read the fine print regarding what the deal covers. Sometimes you may have to make additional full-price purchases to get the complete service. For instance, as one user notes, a spray-tan salon sold the booth session via Groupon, but the moisturizer and color tube that are apparently necessary for a longer-lasting complexion change were sold separately.
Do some research. LivingSocial claims its deals are handpicked by its on-the-ground experts. Consumers will be better served to read up on their purchase independently. It's not a deal if it's a disappointing experience.
Maintain spending plans for eating out and recreation. It's bad on the budget to buy an Internet deal just for the sake of getting a bargain.
Reconcile credit card charges with the deal specifics. Some comments have noted that charges appear right away on credit cards but deal confirmation can be delayed.
The deal broker is responsible for repaying the consumer if the deal provider (the shop or restaurant) goes out of business before the expiration of the coupon. Some consumers have reported a delay in getting their money back.
Groupon and LivingSocial stress the importance of appropriate gratuities, including calculating the tip as a percentage of the full-priced service. At the risk of stating the obvious, heed their advice.
Be constructive but fair about the quality of service. Some small business owners say they're getting horrible online reviews from fleeting "deal" customers.