13 Things Deals Sites Won’t Tell You
Attention shoppers: You'll get the best bargains on daily deals sites like Groupon, Living Social, and others if you follow these insider tips.
by Perri O. Blumberg
1. Hunt for deals outside of your area.
Do you live in Ohio but see a great deal in Seattle? Scoping out bargains in other cities might pay off. Quite a few “local” deals from national chains (say, Starbucks) are actually valid all over the U.S.—just read the fine print to double check.
2. Do your homework before you buy.
Some vouchers, particularly travel packages, may be available for comparable prices—or even less!—on the vendor’s own website. For example, a promo may advertise that it includes a special breakfast, but a quick web search can reveal that every regular paying guest also gets the same deal.
3. Beware of overselling.
See a great deal for a haircut? If it says 100,000 are available and the coupon expires in three months, chances are, it’s going to be tough to redeem. No single salon can cut that much hair! Also be on the lookout for completely phony deals, like this unfortunate instance when a photographer offering vastly discounted photo shoots turned out to be plagiarizing her sample images.
4. Set a reminder for expiration dates.
No matter how great a deal is, it’s not worth anything if it expires before you use it. Twenty percent of Groupons go unused, according to a New York Times article. To avoid wasting coupon vouchers or frantic scrambling, follow this simple rule: As soon as you make a purchase, automatically set a reminder alarm on your calendar to go off a week before it expires.
5. Consider secondary markets.
Sites like CoupRecoup provide a marketplace in which buyers and sellers can trade coupons from sites like Groupon, Living Social, and Social Buy. So if you’re bummed you missed the window to snag great theater tickets before they sold out, or if you bought a hotel deal that you can’t redeem before it expires, try these sites.
6. Sometimes, the site will pay you.
For example, you can get $10 for every friend you refer to a Groupon deal, for a maximum of $100 Groupon Bucks. This could translate into a one-night stay at Vail Cascade Resort & Spa in Colorado, or dinner for four including wine and appetizers at a Manhattan restaurant. (You can also play the online game Clicky for a chance to win free Groupon Bucks.)
7. Don’t expect the best service.
Unfortunately, there’s a downside of saving big. Many merchants might treat you differently when you come in toting a deal since they expect smaller tips or none at all. On that note: Remember to tip your servers based on what the meal or service would have cost pre-discount.
Since vouchers can lead to a large influx of customers, some restaurants
might do crafty things like skimp on more expensive ingredients at a
buffet, or eliminate signature dishes. Buyer beware.
8. To get the best deals, you need to personalize your account.
On Groupon and similar sites, updating profile preferences gets you better offers that are more suited to your interests and lifestyle. No more of those annoying Craft Beer Fair promotions when you’ve developed an allergy to everything with the word “Bud” in it. If you see a deal you like, click the heart icon and more options like that will get thrown into your mix. Some apps will even go a step further in getting custom-tailored to your interests. dealBoard is a free iPhone app that personalizes your selection of deals by learning about your interests as you swipe deals up when you like them and down when you don't.
9. You don’t have to pay for vouchers in advance.
Sites like ScoutMob offer 50% off vouchers—for free. You just have to “collect” the deal offered each day and have it sent to your phone or email, then show it when you head to a restaurant.
10. Psst: You actually don't need to join all of them to find the best deals for you.
If you don't have time to sort through all the endless promotions, try the Aggregator of Wallet-Friendly Deals: Yipit.com, which amasses over 30,000 offers per month from over 800 daily deal sites (including Groupon, LivingSocial, Gilt City, Google Offers and more). It then filters the savings based on where you live and your interests.
11. Some sites are more discreet than others.
At newcomer Savored.com, for a $10 reservation fee, you get special pricing (typically 30% off your bill, and for once, that’s alcohol included) at premier restaurants across the United States. When the bill comes, no need to be embarrassed by coupons; you're already in their system and the deductions are automatic. Invite your friends to join and get $10 for successful referrals. Bon Appétit!
12. You can literally see the world on a shoestring budget.
Sites like Priceline.com or Hotels.com have excellent seasonal deals, but for practically free travel accommodations try house-swapping sites like Digsville which serves 55 countries around the world.
13. It's not just luxury purchases; you can save big on everyday items.
For a small handling fee (about 5 to 50 cents per coupon), choose from a selection of thousands of coupons on sites like Coupon Clippers to save big on name brands. When Reader’s Digest editors tested the site, our total outlay to the Coupon Clippers came to $6.64, including the cost of coupons, postage, and a 50-cent administration fee. The savings came to $61.75 when we redeemed the coupons at face value. Some stores will double coupons, creating a savings of $123.50!