14,906 Coupons and 903 Handpicked Deals for 3,984 Stores

Once (Gro)upon a Time: A Cautionary Tale

On any given day you can turn on the television or computer and be treated to at least one advertisement for a local daily deal site.  They all promise the same thing:  a sizable discount on a range of goods and services.  Is it worth your time to investigate?—Absolutely.  However, not every deal will be as good as they sound.  Not to say that the fine people of Groupon, LivingSocial, and Restaurant.com are out to grift you out of your hard-earned cash; it's just easy to be seduced by a deal or discount that may not be quite right for you.

Groupon is arguably the largest and most well-known Coupon Ship on the Sea of Discounts.  In many cases, their reputation precedes itself, particular in online usability and geographic accessibility.  Long story short:  If you live in or near a big city, you’ve got Groupon.  However, just because you have this resource at your disposal, doesn’t necessarily mean you should always use it.  The two main factors you should consider when using Groupon or any other local daily deal site are Time and Budget.

Timing:  Make sure the coupon fits into your schedule.

Some coupons will be offered by merchants in an effort to generate sales in the slower season.  Case in point, I purchased 2 Groupons for paintball back in October when the weather was just starting to get awful in the Midwest.  They wouldn’t expire for 7 months, but what I failed to realize at the time was that only 2 of those months were eligible  (either too cold for them to be open, or too cold for ME to go).  Now I find myself at the beginning of May with only 6 weekends left in which to use my coupons.  Since the weather is STILL not cooperating, I might have to let them expire or be forced to take a midweek “sick day” just to keep them from going to waste.

In another example, some coupons for restaurants are only good for certain days of the week.  Most dining spots have no trouble filling up on a weekend, so they might utilize Groupon or Restaurant.com to less-crowded Sunday-Thursday meal slots.  If you do choose to use a restaurant coupon, make sure it is valid for the day in which you wish to dine.  Restaurant.com includes these details in the fine print, and is usually the best one to go with in terms of price.  While Groupon offers “50% --$10 will get you $20”- type deals, Restaurant.com has more “$2 will get you $25”-type deals.

Budget:  Are you REALLY saving money by using a coupon?

This question may seem like a no-brainer, but very often coupons are subject to a mandatory spending minimum.  A $20 off coupon is great, but not if you are required to spend $100 for it to be valid.  This is easily accomplished by a table of 6, but a table of 2 might find themselves ordering extra apps, desserts, or drinks just to meet the minimum.  If you have to spend an extra $50 just to get $20 off, then you are not saving money.  Always check the fine print on your coupon before you buy, especially if you’re no stranger to a light dinner.

Availability also has a way of messing with your budget.  As mentioned above, some coupons for dining are only good for weekdays.  If you only go out for dinner on weekends, you may find yourself creating an additional night to eat out just to utilize a coupon.  If you have to go out on a night that you normally would stay in just to save $20, then you are not saving money.

Before this sounds like a sermon, let me just say that local daily deal sites are an EXCELLENT resource to both merchant and consumer.  They allow new businesses to bring in new clients they may have otherwise missed.  They give people an excuse to stop in and try that “new place they’ve always been curious about”.  They open doors to possibilities you may not have even considered.  Groupon is taking me on a helicopter lesson this summer.  LivingSocial wants me to go sky-diving with them.  Restaurant.com introduced me to Korean food.  While these sites tend to cater more to the open-minded and the impulsive, they can still be used to accommodate the sensible consumer.  To avoid being seduced by a deal, my advice is to set your own conditions and see who meets them.  You are free to enjoy all that your particular city has to offer, but you’ll enjoy it more if it is on your terms.

13 Responses to “Once (Gro)upon a Time: A Cautionary Tale”

  1. Tonyc says:

    Brad… Thanks again for this important tip!!

    I just bought a year’s membership at a gym, it’s in a Hilton, with a sun deck…this was for my neighbor cause she works nearby.. And a pool, those are RARE in NYC ! On Groupon for 89 bucks for one year.. Even if she goes just for the sundeck, it’s so worth it !! But with all these hand devices available to most, or just get on their mailing list.. You are aware after using the Internet, WHO abuses your email and who are the good ones … So ” email sifting” ,I call it!!


  2. Diane Nash says:

    We have purchased several Restaurant.Com certificates. Last night we decided to drive 22 miles to use one at a Persian restaurant. We parked, put $ in the meter, and got to the front door to see a sign saying they no longer accept Restaurant.Com certificates! So we went to another restaurant we had their coupon for and, guess what! Same kind of sign in the window. Back in the car to the 3rd restaurant, whew, no sign. We ordered appetizers, bottle of wine and a nice dinner, talked to the waiter about our coupon, was told they DON’T ACCEPT RESTAURANT.COM CERTIFICATES ANYMORE. He said they contacted the company to be taken off their list, they kept it on for many more months. He said several restaurants in the area were having the same problem. Restaurant.com refuses to co-operate and take their names off, so they’re still selling coupons and us dummies are still wasting our money and time buying them, not knowing we’re unable to use them. They have been turned in to the BBB, but to no avail. Be careful!

  3. NOEL says:

    I’ve been buying Restaurant.com coupons for $ 2.00 which gets you a $ 25.00 discount if you spend either $ 35.00 or $ 50.00 and I use them at least once a week. I always call the restaurant before to ask if they accept it the night we’re going out.
    About 1/2 don’t accept them on Fri. or Sat. night but that’s explained beforehand. 2 people can’t eat for less then they require and they have a lot of good restaurants on their site.

  4. Tats says:


    This article does not demonstrate that a credible thought process went behind its creation. If you have shopped Groupon/Living Social/Restaurant.com, you would notice that they take a minimum 50% off the listed price before they advertise a deal-which translates to huge savings. A restaurant or an activity which you would typically never pursue suddenly becomes within reach. Is it a blanket discount-No, otherwise it would not be advertised as a coupon. You being in the deals business would know better than that, right? Would I get 90% of the discounts you highlight here if i did not enter a coupon code/use a special link-No. Yes, there are conditions-but any user would i believe read through the coupon before taking it to a business. If they do not, they should if they wish to take full advantage of a deal.

    And trust me, when you eat $50 bucks of food at an upscale restaurant and pay $20 with a coupon or buy a $50 shoe for $15-it makes up for the “trouble”.



    • Cyndie says:

      Tathagata, I think the point of this article was to say to be cautious when you purchase from these local deal sites. There are plenty of times when my friends and I have purchased deals for stores/restaurants we probably would not have otherwise gone to, but they lock you into having to go make a purchase and redeem the certificate since you already paid for it. Perfect example, I bought the Nordstrom Rack coupon from Groupon over the holidays but the checkout line was SO long all three days that I went to use the certificate! Worst part is, I probably would not have otherwise gone to Nordstrom Rack over the holidays! So I appreciated this article because these sites can often turn you into a sucker. Thanks BradsDeals!

  5. Mark says:

    I love groupon, can’t believe the deals they offer.

  6. [...] things like group outings or hair appointments, can make just as big of an impact on your budget. Don’t get sucked into believing that all local deal sites are going to change your life, but be aware of the deals going on around [...]

  7. [...] case, this means more deals at more places for YOU, the consumer. Take advantage, but remember to research these deals to ensure you get the biggest bang for your [...]

  8. [...] Once Groupon a Time: A Cautionary Tale (bradsdeals.com) [...]

  9. I agree. I love great deals but find myself with a stack of vouchers on my desk I need to use up. I have had two restaurant vouchers expire from Groupon-like sites. One restaurant was nice enough to let me use it anyway. The other one credited the purchase value to my tab but not the extra $10. A lot of consumers don’t seem to know that per gift card laws the purchase value doesn’t expire!

  10. [...] Once Groupon a Time: A Cautionary Tale (bradsdeals.com) [...]

  11. Dave in Indy says:

    Groupon is not selling coupons, they are selling actual Gift Certificates. Restaurants.com is opposite. They are actually selling coupons disguised as Gift certificates.

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