Are discounts on sites like Groupon, Living Social, etc. really worth it?

Recently I signed up for Groupon and wanted to see what all of the hype was about.  The first couple of weeks it was exciting seeing what deals were available everyday and I purchased a few items.  Then I got tired of the extra email so I unchecked the box that said send the deal to my inbox.  There were more days when the deal wasn’t interesting. Do I really want lasik eye surgery done by someone who needs to hand out discounts or jump out of plane at half price? Not really.  Around the same time I was trying out Groupon I came across Restaurants.com. The Web site sells discounted coupons for local restaurants; I bought a few of those too.

Now I have purchased about 10 of these deals but I’ve only used two –one from Groupon and one from Restaurants.com. Neither turned out so well.  On Groupon I purchased a gift certificate for an ice cream cake from an ice cream parlor on the other side of town. The place received great reviews on Yelp.com, but I’m not sure why.  When I purchased the cake I ended up paying $7 more than my Groupon certificate because of this and that extra fees.  The cake, for my daughter’s birthday, was gorgeous! It was a dream cake with beautiful pink ribbons.  We took it home, sang Happy Birthday, and dove in.  It tasted awful! I have never tasted an ice cream cake so dreadful! I’ve heard many vendors who post on these deal sites get more traffic than expected and as a result service falters.  So I don’t know if the poor tasting cake was a result of that or if I just don’t like this vendor.  Nevertheless, I won’t be going back.  In retrospect, I wish I had just paid full price at the place we normally go closer to home. It would have tasted so much better and even been a few dollars cheaper. Maybe it wouldn’t have looked as pretty, but at least it would have been edible.  So, the first purchase didn’t go so well.  But the second one – the one I bought through Restaurants.com — I didn’t even get to use. We went to the restaurant and were told our coupon would not be accepted. They said Restaurant.com had oversold them and they were in dispute.  Since we were already at the restaurant on a Saturday night, we decided to stay and eat there anyway.  Big mistake! It was a terrible restaurant with mediocre food at best.  Now, this restaurant isn’t a place I normally go. It’s not even on my list of places to try out. But because of the coupon I decided to try it.  It is not a place I would ever try at full price.

On the coupon front I am now 0 for 2.  I need to quickly use a few of the other coupons before they expire and I lose all of the money I’ve invested in them. So far I don’t think these sites are really such a deal.  Do places that are really good and get enough traffic ever give a deal? Or is it just the mediocre places that have to resort to giving you a coupon to come in? On the other hand I get discounts from quite a few of the vendors I visit regularly without having to buy any coupons in advance.  I get these discounts just because I am a regular customer. I think I like this option better than paying upfront for an unknown experience.

4 thoughts on “Are discounts on sites like Groupon, Living Social, etc. really worth it?

  1. I’ve had good luck with both Groupon, Living Social and Restaurant.com. I’ve visited some really good restaurants using Restaurant.com and some that were not bad, lackluster I guess you would say. Daughter missed a date on one coupon for a discount at the bookstore – that was a flub! It was for Barnes and Noble and how can you go wrong with that – don’t pay attention to the expiration date! I like using all of these but I agree you have to be judicious in what you choose and if you really want it.

  2. I competely agree. I bought a Living Social coupon for a massage and it has been impossible to use because he oversold the coupons. We bought ten certificates from restaurants.com – we have used 5. We were able to use 4 out of 5. Restaurants.com gave us another certificate when we told him them that one was not accepted. We now call ahead of time and check and then buy it on that day.

    My friend had a hard time using two of her certificates from Groupon – she pointed this out to the customers and they refunded her money.

    Overall, I think it is more of a pain to use these certificates then the benefit I receive. I also think you ended up spending on things you would have not otherwise purchased but only did so because you thought you were getting a good deal.

  3. I would add that, unless they are broken down further than just San Francisco area, the daily deals are mostly useless to me, in Marin. Your commentary reminds me of the Entertainment Book, which turned out to be restaurants trying to generate business…and there’s a reason for a faltering business.

  4. I totally agree with you. I much rather choose to use a coupon for a place I am familiar with for the reasons you mentioned. You never know what you are getting when you go with the unknown. However, it’s great marketing for the new business.

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