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The Pros and Cons of Groupon and LivingSocial

Who doesn’t love a good deal? As a consumer, you buy a variety of things every day — from groceries to restaurant meals and fitness classes to spa packages. Groupon, LivingSocial and other group sites offer a daily download of discounts that are hard to resist. These electronic offers recommend local businesses’ products and services while offering you deep discounts up to 75% off if you purchase those coupons.

To get a better idea of what you’re getting into when you purchase a Groupon coupon, here’s a quick lowdown of how it works: Groupon is a free service for consumers. Every day, Groupon emails an announcement to its subscribers with the daily deal in their area. Groupon then earns a commission from the businesses they promote whenever they successfully refer a customer.

So, what’s not to love? Actually, there are a few issues that consumers find off-putting.

Negatives

The fine print. The terms and conditions of a Groupon or LivingSocial voucher may include a long list of restrictions. Some deals may be available for new customers only. Restaurant restrictions might include limited menus or only specific days of the week being eligible for redemption. Look for expiration dates, as well as additional fees and charges. The bottom line here is to read the fine print details so that, in addition to any and all restrictions, you will fully understand the refund, cancellation and return policies for any products, services or coupons before you buy.

Some “unbeatable” deals actually can be beat. A while back, Groupon offered an $18 admission to New York City’s Metropolitan Museum of Art. However, the MET operates on suggested donation admission. The recommended entrance fee is $25, but you can visit the museum for less than $18 if you want. So, do some homework and check prices before purchasing a voucher. Search online for the going prices on specific items before buying the daily deal, because you may find lower prices from coupon codes or sales on retail sites. Another option is to contact the business directly, inform the owner that you’re thinking of buying a LivingSocial or Groupon for their product or service, and see if you can negotiate a lower-than-retail-price by booking directly with them.

Positives

Huge savings. The main benefit of services like Groupon and LivingSocial is the money you’ll save. Here’s your opportunity to treat your spouse and another couple to a gourmet dinner for under $100. Get a haircut or a mattress at 50% off. Or book a four-star hotel at a two-star price. Many of the deals provide significant savings on travel packages, home furnishings — just about everything you can think of to buy. And when you can’t think of something to buy for someone, one of these vouchers can make a great gift.

New experiences. If you’re a creature of habit, these daily deals give you an incentive to try different restaurants and shops, as well as new travel destinations, local activities, entertainment venues and more.

At the end of the day, consumers can benefit from these daily-deal sites. Just familiarize yourself with the details and consider this advice: think twice before you click and buy.

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