I love the social buying sites: Groupon, Living Social, KGB Deals, etc.
I’ve gotten some amazing deals at these sites. Let’s not forget the huge birthday savings this year, courtesy of Groupon.
That said, it’s easy to get carried away with the idea of the deal. When that happens, you end up disappointed or, worse, wasting money instead of saving it.
So I decided to list some (potentially obvious) rules for buying from deal sites:
Know the basic restrictions
Hey, I warned you some of these were obvious.
But seriously, the restrictions are important. And not just the number of vouchers you can buy or how many you can use at a time.
Note the old chestnut that’s often forgotten/overlooked, “Not valid with other offers, specials or coupons.”
A $30 Busted Tees Groupon for $15 was intriguing. I was then even more intrigued to find the site’s standing discount offers: 20% off signing up for the email or 30% off for sharing a shirt via Facebook.
But the two almost certainly couldn’t be combined. Make sure your expectations of savings mesh with reality, or you can end up disappointed. When you’re dealing with non-returnable vouchers, that’s a problem.
Know the special restrictions
Buried in the middle of the Busted Tees restrictions: “Valid only on $15 and $20 t-shirts.”
Okay, that’s most of the shirts on the site. But what if I’d wanted a Today’s Deal or sale item? Too bad for me.
If you want to buy an online deal, make sure the stuff you want is available on the site.
Apparently, EntirelyPets doesn’t carry our cat food, Nutro. Hey, it’s not Iams or Purina, but it’s a pretty standard brand. If I hadn’t checked, I would be pretty pissed off right about now.
Back to the Busted Tees example, I’d have gotten it because of this shirt. It’s one Tim has wanted for awhile. But it wasn’t available in his size.
Websites can (seemingly) randomly discontinue an item. Then they remainder what’s left. In which case, he’d still want the original shirt but would still buy even more t-shirts in the meantime. Ugh.
Know the store’s prices
A voucher may sound like a great deal, but what do the items actually cost?
Blue Nile ($$$$$) is offering a $200 Groupon for $100. All well and good, but most of the decent stuff on there is indecently priced.
You also need to know shipping prices. Are they reasonable? And are you willing to pay them?
Some people are fine with paying for shipping. I hate it — especially for a “deal.” If I’m paying $15 for $30 of stuff, I don’t want to pay another $5 to get it.
Check the store’s location
If it’s not an online deal, make sure it’s a reasonable distance from you. We get all sorts of great offers for massages — but a lot of them are in Scottsdale (18-20 miles from us) or Tempe (25-30 miles).
It’s not just the gas. It’s the hassle of driving there. That can vastly change your opinion of a “deal.”
Be sure you want it
Vouchers can be the ultimate impulse buys. So you’d better make sure it’s not a passing fancy.
Ideally, it’s something you would buy anyway: a dental cleaning, a store you shop at regularly, etc.
At the very least, it should be something you would buy, except for the price. The indulgence of a massage or maid service springs to mind.
In the end, just make sure you won’t have buyer’s remorse before you can even redeem the thing.
Buy with cash back
Most social buying sites are on cash-back shopping sites.
LivingSocial is on all four sites at 2%.
KGB Deals is only on Ebates (6%).
Eversave is only on Mr. Rebates (5%).
Check appointment availability
If the voucher is time specific (for you or the store), call before you buy.
When Tim’s back problem flare up, a massage Groupon is a great deal — unless he can’t use it in the very near future. So I call up the store. Once I’ve verified that there are appointments available — even for someone redeeming a voucher — then I go ahead and click “Buy.”
Know your resale sites
Even when you’re careful, sometimes you end up with deals you can’t use. In which case, they’re not really “deals” so much as sunk costs.
Be aware of sites that let you sell your vouchers to other people: MyCabbage and CoupRecoup. (If there are others, feel free to mention them in the comments section.) You won’t get all of your money back, but at least it’s something.
So… Those are the (probably obvious) rules I use. Did I miss any?