Coupon Queen: What’s the deal with daily deal sites?Q: I would like to know if you ever take part in daily deal websites. Are there any good deals on them? What kinds of things do you buy? I trust your judgment and would like to know how you know if something is a deal worth buying, especially deals for family fun and activities. And, do you ever have trouble redeeming them once you buy them?
By: Jill Cataldo, INFORUM
Q: I would like to know if you ever take part in daily deal websites. Are there any good deals on them? What kinds of things do you buy? I trust your judgment and would like to know how you know if something is a deal worth buying, especially deals for family fun and activities. And, do you ever have trouble redeeming them once you buy them? —Joanna T.
A: There certainly is a plethora of daily deal websites out there these days. I do enjoy some of them, and I’d be happy to share my strategies for using them wisely.
Stick to reputable websites. Two of the largest and most popular deal sites are Groupon.com and LivingSocial.com. The majority of offers that I purchase or take part in come from these two websites. Why? Both have been around for a long time in “web time” – nearly five years for Groupon and six for Living Social. Both sites have established customer service policies to guarantee the validity of their offers and offer refunds or credits if something is unsatisfactory. And, both sites usually have countless offers running simultaneously – everything from entertainment to dining to destination stays.
My local newspaper also has a daily deals website that offers discounts on local, area attractions. I’ve purchased from them enough times to know that their offers and deals are reputable. And, because it’s a smaller newspaper, their offers tend to be very local to the area I live in.
There are many websites offering daily deals though, and every few months, another one seems to disappear. The market is rather saturated with these kinds of deals and, as with anything, the sites with the best reputations and customer service continue to reign.
Look for deals that are half-off or better. Just as we validate a grocery item’s price by trying to cut its usual price in half with a coupon or sale, you can apply the same barometer to daily deal sites. When I make a decision to purchase a deal, I compare the purchase price to the actual cost of the experience if I purchased without the discount. If the deal price is half off the regular price or better, it’s a bargain.
Here are some examples. I purchased a round of paintball for my daughter’s birthday from Groupon for $15. It included admission, safety gear, rental of the marker (paintball gun) and a bag of paintballs. The regular price of this package? $45! Admission to the field alone is usually $18 per person, so I knew that $15, with all of the rental gear included, too, was a great buy.
I’ve purchased Living Social packages for pizza and bowling for four – at $20, the price was cheaper than the per-person price of bowling alone, plus we enjoyed a pizza. Our kids enjoy going to waterparks, and I purchased a one-night hotel stay with six waterpark admissions for $99. The regular price of that package was $249, so again, I knew it was a great price. I even picked up half-price admissions to a local beach on Groupon – $4 per person instead of $8!
I haven’t had any issues redeeming the offers I’ve purchased from the sites listed. Other times, I’ve had mixed experiences. One time, I bought a $15 gift certificate for a clothing store from a deal site that I’d heard of, but the site went out of business a few weeks after I purchased the gift certificate. The store didn’t want to accept the certificate at that point because they could not validate it through the originating site to see if it previously had been redeemed. Since then, I’ve stuck to the sites that I’ve had the best experiences with.
Smart Living Tip: Daily deal websites abound on the Web. If you like these kinds of offers, subscribing to the sites’ email lists will ensure that you can keep track of each day’s new deals. Keep in mind though that daily emails also add up quickly in your inbox. I subscribe only to the sites that I use most often.
Jill Cataldo, a coupon workshop instructor, writer and mother of three, never passes up a good deal. Learn more about Super-Couponing at her website, www.jillcataldo.com. Email your own couponing victories and questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.