Thursday, August 4, 2011

Let’s Make a Deal! The Real Scoop on Groupon and other Online Discount Sites

Let’s Make a Deal! The Real Scoop on Groupon and other Online Discount Sites

My Friend Sara just told me about a great deal she found on Groupon. Online discount or deal sites have been cropping up on the internet like weeds.  Groupon(Click here non-shopaholics). and Living Social (click here), are the most popular, followed by Daily Candy Deals, Bloomspot and Gilt City. Even my favorite sample sale site Rue La La(only the brave click here) now has “local picks.” Facebook apparently is not far behind and is soon to start their own daily deals.
You may have seen the commercials for some of these sites. “Skydiving usually $150, now only $75 for two!” “Romantic Seaside Dinner for Two –just $50! “ You can get great deals, on great experiences for only a fraction of the price! So what’s the problem, you ask? There is no problem. There are lots of problems!
 Take my friend Sara, for example. I wouldn’t say she is a type A personality. She is a type A + personality. So you can imagine my surprise when she told me that her deal consisted of a 5 pack of Yoga Classes. Sara and Yoga? A Zen moment for my dear friend entails drinking a cup of coffee and smoking a cigarette, while simultaneously sending an email on her Blackberry, as her iPad is powering ON. Seriously, I am not so sure she realizes that she cannot bring personal electronic devices into the Yoga studio
 Yes, yoga is great for stress and anxiety, but only if you actually GO to the classes

This brings me to the first issue with these “deals.”  Many times the bargains are time limited. You may receive your email voucher for the service you purchased in early July, only to realize that it expires on August first! You better find that motivation, to get to your yoga class, Pilates session or sky diving lesson A.s.a.p. Because if you snooze, you lose, both your money and your experience! Not such a great deal is it?

It is also important to read the fine print. That romantic dinner for two in City Island on the water, may only be valid on Monday nights after 9pm. How romantic is it to drag yourself out after a manic Monday at work, and have your meatballs show up at 10:00 pm in an empty skeleton staffed restaurant?
 Not wanting to miss out on all the great deals out there my friends were enjoying, I recently jumped on the Groupon/Living Social / Deal of the Day bandwagon. Since the deals are fleeting (usually available for only 24 hours) I dug out my Gold Card and charged ahead. It’s now or never-my deals can’t wait!
I loved what I found. Spa Treatments!  A juice cleanse (the perfect way to jump start a diet for summer)! A river cruise! Before I knew it, I purchased $500 of future opportunities in less than 2 weeks!
That was back in June. Now I find myself in August, calendar in one hand, Amex bill in another, trying to figure out how to schedule it all before the expiration dates take effect. I basically had less than two weeks complete a 3 day juice fast, get a massage at a luxury spa, take a ride on a Schooner and gather up the courage for a Brazilian wax at 50% off (no pun intended). Talk about stress! Do I invite Svetlana the waxer and Brando the masseuse to drink spinach juice with me on the boat? Do I call in sick to get a massage? Can you say stress?  Maybe I am the one who needs yoga now?
 Issue number three: unlike regular services, “deals” require vouchers, usually sent to you via e-mail.  Emails get lost, or deleted. I purchased a beer and cheese tasting Hudson River Schooner Cruise for my husband’s birthday. He loves beer. I like cheese. It sounded dreamy! My dream however turned into a nightmare when I realized on the day of the event I had accidentally deleted the voucher! My husband’s romantic present was lost in cyberspace forever! I spent nearly two hours  searching Hotmail  through my deleted trash items , emailing Rue La La customer service, and manically dialing an 800 number  trying to get a “live English-speaking concierge” to help me. (FYI, Rue La La has excellent customer service; Matt somewhere in the Midwest gladly reissued my voucher and calmed my hysteria).

fish tank design by Aquarius Aquariums NYC

The cruise turned out to be lovely, despite the fact I had spent the previous three days imbibing liquefied kale as part of my juice cleanse. For the record you do not want go on a boat during a “cleanse.” When the captain said there was no “head” on the boat, I though he meant the stern. He was actually referring to the bathroom! And the consequences of breaking a three day juice fast, with beer and cheese? You don’t want to know!
So the moral is read the fine print, don’t purchase things you normally would not and keep your calendars open, because often what lies beneath the thin veil of a great deal is a dud in disguise.