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Groupon Review – The Best Daily Deals In Your City

By Kira Botkin

If you’re a deal hunter, you’ll love Groupon. Each day, Groupon, which is a free service, offers a different deal on something fun to do, good food, a new experience, or something you’ve always wanted to try. It’s basically a gift certificate at a discount. Groupon has coupons available in dozens of metropolitan areas including multiple ares in some larger cities like Los Angeles or Washington, DC. It is also available in several Canadian cities and many countries outside the United States as it continues to expand and gain a huge following.

How Groupon Works

When you sign up for Groupon, each day they’ll email you the daily deal. It outlines the terms of the deal and what the Groupon is good for. For example, you might pay $15 and receive a $30 gift certificate at a local store. However, you only get your Groupon if a certain number of other people also sign up (hence, the “group” part). It will tell you if the deal has “tipped,” meaning if enough people have signed up. Once the required number of people have bought the day’s Groupon, everyone who has already bought one will receive it, and after that anyone else who purchases one will get their Groupon immediately. The Groupon almost ways “tips” in my experience, and if it doesn’t, you don’t get a charged a penny.

Advantages of Groupon:

You can get some fantastic deals on this site that you couldn’t get anywhere else. Recent deals included:

  • $50 for $100 worth of apparel at an upscale clothing store
  • $25 for 30 days of unlimited tanning plus two spray tans ($100 value)
  • $50 for a catered buffet for a party of 10 people
  • $10 for $25 worth of food and drinks at a nice family restaurant
  • $99 for an introductory flight lesson ($225 value)
  • $40 for $80 worth of services at a high end salon

These are not deals to sneeze at! Groupons generally stay valid for a long time (the shortest I have seen is three months, and it’s frequently a year) and they can be given as gifts by email or by printing it out. On many deals, you can purchase multiple Groupons to use over time or sometimes all at once! Groupons only sell out in a given day if the participant set a maximum number of Groupons and that max has reached – once the deal has ‘tipped’ everyone can buy one for the rest of the day up until the max. As I mentioned, it is pretty rare that the Groupon does NOT ‘tip’ – I have never seen it in my city – so you’re almost certain to get it even if you buy early in the morning. The sale of each Groupon runs for 24 hours and stops at midnight except for certain weekend deals which are available Friday morning to Sunday night.

Deals featured on Groupon are also generally things you’d like to do if you could afford it – such as nice restaurants, upscale salons, teeth whitening, car detailing, artisan foods, or great experiences like golf, skydiving, or dance classes. If you think of something you’d like to do, you can keep an eye out and pounce on it if it arrives. Even better, if you live close to multiple cities or visit another city frequently, you can subscribe to multiple Groupon city alerts.

Disadvantages of Groupon

You have literally no idea whether the deals are going to be useful to you or not. I go weeks without seeing anything good, and then buy three Groupons in one week. It’s very random. Some deals also look good on the surface but have restrictions that mean I can’t use them for what I want. With this said, the only inconvenience of being a Groupon member is getting an email every day. There is no fee or anything involved. Just say diligent and read the fine print and you are sure to find some great deals.

Businesses who sell Groupons are frequently swamped right after the deal tips and people start getting their Groupons. On one deal I saw recently, people were complaining that they couldn’t get through on the provided phone number – the owner came on to the questions section to let people know that their phones were ringing constantly all day, and asked that people leave a message and they would try to get to everyone within an hour. A local upscale grocery by my house who had a Groupon for sale months ago still has a Groupon checkout line. So if you see something that you want to do this weekend, you might be out of luck unless you’re the first one on it as soon as the Groupon is announced in the morning.

Deals are sometimes good by percentage but not by dollar. I really enjoy eating out but have a near allergy to doing so at full price, so I snap up Groupons to good restaurants. Unfortunately, some places offer a deal like $5 for a $10 certificate – which is 50% off, true, but only $5 off in total, which makes it less worthwhile than perhaps $15 off $30.

Check the fine print. Many Groupons can only be used for specific services – for instance, the Groupon I bought for car detailing can only be used on the “silver” package, and you can’t apply its worth towards a higher cost package. Others on the Groupon message board have shared experiences of being told something would cost more if they were using a Groupon, or of being shut out due to unexpectedly high demand. If you know what you want to use the Groupon for and it isn’t clear whether that’s okay, call the location and confirm before purchasing. Groupon does have a great customer service team who will give refunds in circumstances like that if you are unable to use it.

Most Groupons are location-specific. Groupon tends to run items for local businesses, so you won’t be able to use it anywhere but the exact location that they specify. Even if it’s for a restaurant or shop that has locations elsewhere, you are unlikely to be able to use it there.

Would I Use It?

Absolutely. I have already purchased a number of Groupons for local restaurants, stores, and service providers. I like to keep a mental list going of things I want to do but don’t want to pay full price for, so I can keep an eye out and jump on the opportunity when it arrives. It’s also good for gifts; since some Groupons are good for a full year, you can buy many months ahead of someone’s birthday or Christmas and the recipient still has plenty of time to redeem it. The caveats are that you shouldn’t buy anything you aren’t certain you’ll use and to always read the whole description. Overall, Groupon is an unbelievable way to participate in those activities you never thought you had the money for. It’s a great way to experience some fun and new adventures and tasting some delicious food and drinks.

Do you have any experiences, good or bad, with Groupon? I would love to get your feedback on this service!

I’ve got a 60% off appointment with a salon, so I’ll catch you later! Happy hunting!


Kira Botkin
Kira is a longtime blogger and serial entrepreneur who enjoys gardening, garage sales, and finding stray animals. She lives in Columbus, Ohio, where football is a distinct season, and by day runs a research study for people with multiple sclerosis. She hopes that the MoneyCrashers team can help you achieve your goals and live a great life.

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  • Peter

    I’ve used them and subscribe to their coupons. I think I’ve bought two things from them and the restrictions can be a bit limiting, but there can be good deals. As you noted, I get a lot of offers that are of little to no interest, but sometimes a good one comes along. My biggest problem (besides the myriad salon / spa offers) is that the restaurants of interest have branches close to me, but none that participate in that offer. Still, it’s worth the regular e-mail in case something good comes along.

    • Kira

      I’ve noticed that too – but recently when they had a Gap offer that was good for every store in the country, the site went down from the traffic. ;)

  • Joan T.

    This article has been helpful, Kira. Thanks for the information. :-) There are also other trusted deal sites, including Groupon.

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  • theotherside

    most end users of a groupon do not realize the cost to a business to run a groupon. What groupon does not tell you is that they make the business give a 50% or higher discount to even qualify, once the business qualifies and sells the deal groupon keeps 50% of the already marked down price meaning the business is actually giving a 75% or higher discount which causes many business to make little and even times loose money for exposure. Groupon is not fair to the business at all, I am sure If groupon was asked to discount their services and then give another 50% discount on top of that they would say no way, and guess what….they do say no way I can help you if you ask them for any less than 50%. Groupon needs the businesses to offer deals or they are out of business, and if they keep asking businesses to discount so heavily and then offer up such huge sums of money to run a deal they will eventually do the opposite of their intention and possibly put a company out of business. There is bad with the good and good with the bad.

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