For the last year or so, group-buying sites have been all the rage on the Net. What appeal! You sign up for a site like Groupon, Dealfind or WagJag and get access to killer discounts on a range of products and services like spa days, hotels, sports tickets and restaurants.
10 Steps to Getting the Most out of Online Group Deals
There are dozens of group buying sites operating in Canada and new ones crop up constantly.
Smart consumers are getting great deals. But some are wasting their money. Follow these 10 steps to make sure you're actually saving when you use a group buying service.
1. Check the site
Is the website legit? There have been cases of new, untested sites running group deals and not following through. Make sure the site you’re using is reliable (do a Google search for the site’s name and “complaints”). Read all the fine print to make sure there is recourse for a problem sale.
2. Ignore the hard sell
The way group sites nab you is by holding a looming deadline over your head. Buy now! This deal is only on the table for four more hours! This is a tried-and-true hard sell sales technique and it inspires us to panic, worry we’re missing out, and buy on the spot. Always get away from the site first (even if it's for 10 minutes) and truly think about a purchase before you return and buy (or not).
3. Use a one-stop shop
New aggregate services are letting you compare shop without subscribing to several deal sites and clogging up your inbox or filling your day with surfing. Sites like DeliverTheDeals and SuperGroupDeals.com can streamline your shopping.
4. Love it, or don’t buy it
Just because something is a great deal doesn’t mean you need it. If it’s not a product or service that you would have bought otherwise, don't buy it just because it's on sale! If you love massages, great, go for a cheap hot-rock spa day. But if you never shop at a particular store, don’t bid on a gift card from said store. Also be aware of gift giving: while a group deal may seem a wonderful holiday gift idea for a family member or loved one, be sure this person will truly need or want the deal at hand. (And read the fine print to be sure the deal is transferable to another person.)
5. Consider quantity
These are group-buying sites, which means many other customers are going to get the same deal. So, is the purchase something that can withstand a crowd? Will the store run out of the product? Will you have to wait for weeks to get your haircut appointment?
6. Check the location
A great deal at a great place far, far from your house may not be a great deal at all. If it's out of the way or a pain to get to, chances are you may just never make it there.
7. Watch out for restrictions
I once bought a sports car racing day for a guy friend. He's a massive motor-head and was over the moon when I told him he could race around a track in a Audi R8 - until he realized that the offer was only available on Tuesday to Thursdays from 1-3pm. Oops!
8. Think of expiry dates
Most of these deals do come with expiration dates. Make sure you’re buying something you can truly use within the timeframe. Remember: the holidays are coming up and you’ll be busy!
9. Keep track of your deals
I have friends that regularly complain about deals they bought and forgot about, only to realize the deal expired and they just donated $20 to Groupon. Last time I checked Groupon doesn't need your goodwill donations. Have one place where you keep track of all your group buying deals. As soon as you make a group purchase, plan to use it. Put a date in the calendar with a friend to use that restaurant coupon. Book that pedicure. And order your photo-book.
10. Give yourself a group buying break
If your find yourself getting addicted to the group sales, maybe it's time to cut yourself off for a bit. Consider taking a break from visiting the deal sites and delete their daily emails before even reading the headline.
While group-buying sites offer a great chance to save money, they also tempt us to overspend and end up with products and services we may not entirely love. Deals are wonderful, but so is spending your money carefully, at full price, at the usual vendors you’ve always relied on.