Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Beware the group coupon

One of the recent innovations in the down economy is sites that offer you the opportunity to buy discounted services. Through Groupon, Living Social, Buy With Me, Tippr, et al. you can buy exercise classes (yoga, circus arts), beauty services (haircut, highlights, brazilian blowout), dinner ($30 of dinner for $15) and lessons (surfing, skydiving).

When I first learned of these companies earlier this year, I signed up to receive emails from every one of them. I mean, my mantra is to get out and do things and since I'm not working, it needs to be cheap.

So far, I've done the following: aerial fitness/circus arts class, surfing lesson, haircut, spinning classes (5 for $30), hypnotherapy and speed dating (bought, not yet used). I'm happy with the prices that I paid and the experience of purchasing through with Groupon, et al. Unfortunately, the companies that provide the services themselves are the ones to be wary of.

Here are some tips:

1. Wait, but not too long: I don't think that the service providers actually realize the uptick in business they'll receive and they get bombarded. So, if you can wait a bit it may make sense. But on the other hand, the service providers offering the discounts may be having some financial trouble. So don't wait too long.

2. Carefully read the offer and the fine print: Remember that Groupon, et al are marketing tools and the service providers want to put their best foot forward. On more than one occasion, I missed something in the writeup or the fine print. The hypnotherapy appointment? It was a group session. If you've never done it before, trust me being in a group is not the way to do it. The aerial fitness class was actually a circus arts class. I expected aerobics with bands hanging from the ceiling. Instead, I was learning the trapeze and how to climb a curtain. Which would be fine except that I'm deathly afraid of hanging upside down. Oopsies.

3. Mapquest the location: My spinning class studio has an address in Burbank but it turns out it is really far away. I had thought it'd be easy to get to and didn't bother to Mapquest the address before hitting purchase. It ends up taking me 30 minutes each way, so I've only used 2 out of the 5 classes. I have 3 weeks before the classes expire so  I'd better get in gear (bad pun.)

You may be a lot wiser than me and already use these tips automatically. In which case this post was useless for you. But if you're like me and get blinded by the idea of a sale (70% off!!!) then learn from my mistakes and pause before you purchase.

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