By now, we've all heard of Groupons. You may have used one, or have friends who swear by how much money they save with these deals.
It seems everyone is finding great Groupon coupons to restaurants, stores and salon services.
But its rapid growth is also revealing something else, some downsides you need to know about.
Valentine's Day Oops!
It wasn't a very romantic Valentine's Day for Groupon this year. The popular coupon site made headlines when it had to apologize for a half price FTD flower deal, after it turned out FTD's regular prices were lower than the Groupon deals.
But that was just one of several glitches in the most successful internet business since Facebook. Jason Krueger told me of another potential downside you need to watch for: coupon limitations.
Watch for Limitations
Jason jumped on the daily Groupon deal for a local szechuan restaurant: if offered $25 worth of sushi for just $15.
But he says when he and wife were seated, "we were immediately asked 'are you using the Groupon tonight.' And that kinda threw me off."
Jason tells me as soon as he said yes, the waiter told him he could order only full price items, none of the dinner specials on the menu.
Jason told me "he proceeded to take the specials menu and cross off the prices, and write higher prices, which was getting even stranger."
The restaurant manager did not want to be interviewed, but told me he simply can't afford to put a Groupon discount on top of already discounted dinners. He said he would lose too much money on that.
Beware Date Limits
Bev Riley told me a few months ago about another common downside of Groupon and similar sites like restaurant.Com: Often you can't use them on weekends.
Bev said "the certificate didn't say anything about Sunday to Thursday, but when I got to the restaurant Friday night it stated they did not accept the certificate Friday or Saturday night."
Business Owners Respond
Many business owners say they have to place limits, because Groupon deals are costly for them. The owner of a Portland, Oregon coffee shop recently blogged that a Groupon cost her $8,000, and made it impossible for her to meet payroll.
The consumer website "Redeeming Riches," warns of downsides with all daily coupon sites.
- It says read the fine print.
- In many cases you can't use the certificates on weekends.
- You often can't use them on alcohol, tax, or tip.
- They often come with expiration dates, many times in just 6 months.
Groupon: Refunds Available
Groupon responds to the criticism by customers saying most groupon users and business owners are extremely happy with the deals.
And it says it gives members refunds if they are unsatisfied.
If you read the fine print, and know some potential downsides, Groupon can give you some super deals, and that way you don't waste your money.
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