I love to shop. In my former life (re: before I had kids and spent all my discretionary income on adorable rompers and ballet lessons), I may have been a borderline shopping addict. During one particularly memorable shopping trip, I spent over $800 in less than 45 minutes – turning my entire paycheck into three dresses, two handbags, and the more unbelievable pair of boots you’ve ever seen. These days, I’ve had to reign in my spending, but that hasn’t stopped me from searching for bargains whenever I can.
That’s why I’ve fallen in love with the plethora of deal of the day websites out there right now. Over the next several weeks, I’m going to examine several of these deal of the day sites, from flash sale sites that have become household names to obscure discount sites that are just getting started. Today, I’m staring my tour-de-discount with the granddaddy of the deal of the day industry: Groupon.
As the grandfather of the deal of the day craze, you may think that Groupon has been around for a while. Well, you’d think wrong. Groupon was born in November 2008; a mere three years later, it went public, boasting the highest IPO for a U.S.-based web company since Google.
Today, Groupon employs more than 10,000 staffers, most of them based in the company’s Chicago headquarters. Groupon offers daily deals in all 50 states – deals are often narrowed down to specific regions or even cities within those states – as well as 47 international countries.
These days, it takes a lot to stand out as a flash sale site. That’s why Groupon has expanded beyond discounts on basic services – like the ubiquitous carpet cleaning or spa treatments – that first made the site so popular. Groupon now offers bargains on travel in its Groupon Getaways section, where it’s partnered with industry heavyweight Expedia to craft exclusive travel deals, like an overnight stay to a quaint bed and breakfast right in your own hometown to an all-inclusive, week-long stay on an exotic Caribbean island. On top of that, Groupon’s newest section features products ranging from clothing and makeup to accessorize equipment and housewares – and everything in between.
Groupon’s Customer Service
Groupon’s customer support page comes with a promise that the company will solve any problem you may have with one of its vouchers, or it will refund your money. I’ve never had to test this policy firsthand, but my best friend Jeni did. She bought six house cleaning sessions for $129 (a discount of 57 percent off the $299 retail price) through Groupon. When she called the local company to schedule the first session, she was told she’d have to wait three months to redeem her voucher. My friend was non-plussed; she’d been hoping to get her home cleaned before her in-laws arrived in four weeks. She contacted Groupon’s customer support team through the company’s website, and had her $129 back in her back account within 48 hours.
Like just about every other deal of the day and flash sale site out there, Groupon rewards its current customers with referral points for bringing in newbies. Groupon’s referral program nabs you $10 for everyone who uses your link (gratuitous plug: here’s my link) to sign up for a new Groupon account. Here’s the catch: your friends and family only have 72 hours from clicking on the link to sign up with Groupon and make their first purchase. So, say you send them the link on Monday, they click on it on Tuesday, but don’t make a purchase until Sunday – too bad for you! Or, say they don’t make a purchase of at least $10 – again, you’re out of luck, as purchases under $10 don’t qualify for the referral program. However, once you’ve received your $10 referral bucks, there will be no time limit on when you have to use them: they never expire.
My Groupon Experience
I’ve made four purchases from Groupon since signing up for an account in January 2011:
- $5 for $10 at a local custard shop
- $69 for deep carpet cleaning of two rooms (retail: $139)
- $10 for $20 at Whole Foods (this was my FAVORITE Groupon deal of all time; it was so good, I made my husband and everyone else I knew with a Groupon account buy one for me)
- $40 for an all-day wine tasting excursion – with 5-course dinner and a souvenir bottle of wine included – at a local vineyard (retail: $100)
My Groupon Advice
The con of buying products, services, and experiences through any deal of the day or flash sale site is that, in many cases, you’re buying something you don’t need and normally wouldn’t spend money on. Among my four Groupon purchases, two were “needs” – my carpets were filthy and I was going to have them cleaned regardless, and I have to grocery shop on a regular basis anyway – the other two were wants. So, my first piece of Groupon advice – and really, advice that can be applied to any type of shopping discount – is to keep in mind that you’re not saving money on a purchase, regardless of how deep the discount, if you weren’t going to buy it in the first place.
My second piece of advice is to do your research. In general, I won’t buy anything from Groupon unless it’s at least 50% off its retail price. On top of that, I always do my research to make sure I’m getting that deal. For example, a few weeks ago, I almost splurged on several microdermabrasion treatments from a local spa. Groupon was offering the sessions for $150, a discount of an even 50% off the $300 retail price. But when I went to the spa’s website, I saw that the microderm sessions were actually cheaper than the company was advertising on Groupon. I felt like I was getting the runaround, so I skipped the purchase and bought a nice exfoliating scrub the next time I stopped by the make-up counter.
Reader, have you used Groupon to make any purchases? What did you buy? What rules do you apply when buying something from a deal of the day site?