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10 Reasons Why I Completely Stopped Buying “Group Deals”

Shop­ping Street in Lon­don, U.K., August 2012

I dis­cov­ered “group deals” in 2010 and imme­di­ately sub­scribed to a few pop­u­lar web­sites, such as Groupon, Liv­ing­So­cial and Team­Buy. Soon, there were so many group deal web­sites that I resorted to an aggre­ga­tor that deliv­ered the best deals directly to my mailbox.

In spring 2011, I was won­der­ing whether group coupons were a bit­ter or sweet deal.

And here we are in 2013: I com­pletely stopped buy­ing group deals. I guess I answered my own ques­tion… and here is the ratio­nale behind my decision.

There are no more local offers — Most of these group coupon web­sites started by adver­tis­ing local deals and busi­nesses. For instance, you could buy dis­count tick­ets for a pop­u­lar local attrac­tion, test a new restau­rant in the neigh­bor­hood or try a new hair salon. These days, most deals in Ottawa seem to be for generic products—accessories, jew­ellery, etc.—from for­eign man­u­fac­tur­ers. Why would I want to buy generic made in China crap I can get anywhere?

The value of the deal can be grossly over­es­ti­mated — Group deals are sup­posed to offer buy­ers a sub­stan­tial dis­count on prod­ucts or ser­vices, but it’s just too easy to over­es­ti­mated their value in the first place. I mean, I have seen hair­cut pack­ages “val­ued” at $700. Yeah, right. I value this arti­cle at 2 mil­lion dol­lars, doesn’t mean it is worth that much (I’d take a million!).

Most of the offers are scammy — I’m tired of see­ing offers from unknown web­sites such as buymyproduct.ca (yes, I made that up) that may or may not be reli­able. But over­all, I’m tired of see­ing deals for teeth whiten­ing treat­ments, weight-loss pro­grams or Power­Bal­ance wrist­bands (yes, the prod­uct is a scam—shock­ing, I know).

Reviews are hard to come by — A lot of local busi­nesses offer­ing deals are new or not that pop­u­lar (which is usu­ally why they adver­tise on group deals in the first place), and it’s hard to find reviews on them, includ­ing on Yelp or Google Review. As a cus­tomer, you are tak­ing a risk.

It’s always the same (ter­ri­ble) busi­nesses sell­ing group deals — And that brings me to this impor­tant point: it seems that some busi­nesses (typ­i­cally hair­cut or tan­ning salons in Ottawa) are con­stantly run­ning deals with var­i­ous web­sites. That makes me very sus­pi­cious because group deals are sup­posed to be a one-time thing—not a busi­ness plan con­sid­er­ing the profit mar­gin after the deal is sup­pos­edly very low. So either the prod­uct or ser­vice is over­val­ued in the first place, either the busi­ness is try­ing to get cash quick to stay afloat.

Busi­nesses don’t always honor the deal — See point above! Some busi­nesses go bank­rupt because they sold too many deals on too many web­sites and can’t hon­our them, some were never to hon­our the deal and were just look­ing for quick cash. In Ottawa, the story of Aubrey’s Meats is sadly famous: they sold thou­sands of coupons and never hon­oured them.

I received sub-par ser­vices — The deals I was mostly look­ing for back when I was brows­ing the offers daily were typ­i­cally spa ser­vices, such as mas­sages and pedi­cures. I like being pam­pered and deals were a way for me to dis­cover new places and to try new ser­vices at an afford­able price. I had a great expe­ri­ence with my first Groupon, at Elgin Mas­sage Ther­apy Clinic (I am still a cus­tomer two years later!). But I often received sub-par ser­vice just because I was using a coupon. Spas that I would never go back to include New-U Body Bar, Essence Mas­sage & Spa and Peveecka Spa: ser­vice was poor, the own­ers com­plained that they were los­ing money with the deal (not my fault!) and rushed me in and out. Meh. Not impressed.

Sched­ul­ing appoint­ments is hell — Because so many peo­ple buy deals, sched­ul­ing an appoint­ment can be a real headache. I had to wait months to get an avail­able slot in some cases, which is kind of annoying.

Busi­nesses try to upsale — When busi­nesses feel they are los­ing money with the deal, they try to upsale. I get it, it’s part of the game, but some places (includ­ingNew-U Body Bar) were very pushy. Some busi­nesses just make up new terms and con­di­tions as well, i.e. no appoint­ment between what­ever time and what­ever time, which is annoying.

Deal web­sites have ter­ri­ble cus­tomer ser­vice — Finally, I do not trust deal web­sites any­more after an issue I had with Team­Buy and their deal for a mas­sage at Glebe Fit­ness. The first appoint­ment I made in was can­celled, and so was the sec­ond one. Both times, I only learned about the can­cel­la­tion at the last minute, upon arriv­ing. Sched­ul­ing a third appoint­ment was impos­si­ble: the place was booked solid until Decem­ber 2012. Frankly, I doubt the busi­ness wanted to hon­our the voucher. I emailed Team­Buy and explained the sit­u­a­tion. Three emails and sev­eral weeks later, I finally received a very curt email, in which Team­Buy offered me credit towards a future deal. Con­sid­er­ing how slow their reply was, and how bad the atti­tude was, I declined and asked for a refund—I don’t want to use their ser­vice ever again. Team­Buy never emailed back. I even­tu­ally resorted to doing a charge­back and my bank refunded me the money (good job CIBC!).

How about you? Still buy­ing group deals? Did you have any issue with them?

20 comments

  1. Oh I didnt know it is pop­u­lar there in Canada, I know my Daugh­ters shopped online very often and Groupon is one of them besides QOO I think. I will ask her to be care­ful and check on the deals as well.

    • I didn’t know it existed in S’pore! I guess it depends on the coun­try, some local deals may be good but tell her to keep an eye open for fraud.

  2. I agree with most of your points but I keep buy­ing some groupe deals when it suits my need. Like hair dresser recently because pay over 100$ for higliths and a cut, no thank you, but 40$ okay. Before, I bought more restau­rants deals but it’s been a while since there was any place that I was inter­ested in.
    And once I couldn’t get an apoint­ment for a mas­sage that my boyfriend bought so I wrote to Groupon and got reim­burse but clearly if there is a next time I will call for an apoint­ment as soon as I got the deal! Oh and last thing, I think it’s very inter­est­ing for laser epi­la­tion and that one I will buy one day…

    • I think you have more offers in Mon­tréal, big­ger city and all. That said, be care­ful with the laser epi­la­tion ones, I read about a few scams in Mon­tréal with those deals on the Red Flag Deals forum.

  3. I was always quite sus­pi­cious of these so-called deals after com­par­ing prices and offers. In the end, I have only bought two (cruise in Toronto har­bour for me and a vis­it­ing friend, and a one-year Bixi mem­ber­ship for $47 which was less than half price), redeemed one gift from a client, then unsubscribed.

    There is such a thing as “too good to be true”.

  4. GroupOn should have real­ized all this before their IPO

    great post Mamma!

  5. Another point is that the deals are usu­ally for things/services that we don’t really need and most peo­ple buy it just because it’s a sup­pos­edly “good deal” and offers “value”.

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