These schools offer big average discounts to financially needy students.

5 Things You Should Know About Groupon

The discount site doesn't always offer the best deal.

These schools offer big average discounts to financially needy students.

Before snagging that discount, be sure to read the fine print.

By SHARE

Groupon offers killer deals and taking advantage of them is tempting. But before you do so, you should consider these five facts about Groupon:

1. The fine print often contains essential details.

While you might casually skim or skip over the fine print on your iTunes agreement or the latest terms and conditions update from Facebook, the fine print on a Groupon may have a direct impact on whether or not you can actually use it. Be sure to consider all of the conditions that may present themselves in the fine print before clicking purchase.

For example, you might be restricted to redeeming your Groupon on a specific date or day of the week, or by a certain expiration debt. Before committing to the purchase, check your calendar. You might also face “new clients only” restrictions, which means that if you see your favorite salon offering a Groupon deal, you might not be eligible.

Another possibility is a limited menu in the case of restaurants. Some of the restaurant Groupons restrict you to ordering off a limited “Groupon” menu. A steep discount at a ritzy upscale eatery might not be worthwhile if you can only order a chicken breast or pasta with red sauce. 

Other fine print details include additional fees and charges. You should know exactly what is and isn’t included before making your purchase, especially if you’re giving a Groupon as a gift. Similarly, be sure to check out the refund and cancellation policy in advance, too. If you are on vacation and purchase a Groupon for a weather-dependent activity, like whale watching, what is the policy if the company cancels? If you don’t live in the area, you may not be able to reschedule, so make sure you can get a full refund.

2. Redemption can be tough.

If your Groupon is for an activity or service that has limited capacity, you might have trouble redeeming it, especially as you get closer to the expiration date. For example, spas can only accommodate so many people in one day for a massage.  If everyone is scrambling to use their Groupon in the last minute, they may be booked up by the time you get around to calling. “Subject to Availability” is a clause you’ll often find in the fine print. To avoid missing out, schedule your appointment or service as soon as you purchase the Groupon. 

3. It might not really be a great deal.

Just because something is listed on Groupon doesn’t make it a good deal. Back in the fall, Groupon was offering $18 admission to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. The thing about the Metropolitan Museum of Art is that it operates on suggested donation admission.  In other words, you can go to the MET anytime for $18; or less, if you feel so inclined. (The museum does request that visitors pay the full recommended amount.)

These “faux deals” are not limited to experiences. In some cases, I’ve found lower prices available from a quick Google search. That’s not to say that Groupon is never a good deal, but it’s worth checking whether or not you’re actually getting a discount before making the purchase.

4. Retailers don’t always benefit.

According to NPR, deal sites like Groupon take about half of the total sales revenue. That means when you purchase a half-off deal, the retailer ends up getting about a quarter of the original purchase price. (They do, of course, volunteer for the opportunity, presumably for the marketing and new business the deal sends their way.)

5. You might be able to negotiate a better deal on your own.

Because Groupon takes such a huge cut of the total sale, you might be able to negotiate or find a better deal by contacting the business directly. I suggest calling retailers and letting them know you were considering purchasing a Groupon for their services, and offering to book with them directly, even at a lower price. They might even say yes.