True Confessions: I Was a Group Sales Addict

True Confession: I’m a former group coupon addict who trolled various group buying sites to find great deals. For an embarrassingly long period of time, every mani-pedi, date-night dinner, walking tour and fitness class I participated in was paid for using a group coupon.

This worked out well. My nails never looked better, until I started to notice a drastic change in quality and level of service I was receiving from businesses where I used my deal. The change, which happened to correspond to LivingSocial’s partnership with Amazon and Groupon’s IPO, meant that my foolproof way of living large on a budget was coming to an end. *Sigh.*

I started to notice that group-buying coupon users received different, and many times worse service than other customers. I had a series of coupons I couldn’t use because the places went out of business (in one case, within two weeks of me buying the coupon). So in an effort to help others avoid my pain, I put together five reasons why you SHOULD NOT use group coupon sites.

5 Reasons Why You SHOULD NOT Use Group Coupon Sites

1. Lots of Deals from Bad Businesses. While there’s still some awesome businesses offering deals on these sites, a good percentage of the deals are actually for businesses that have horrible Yelp ratings. Like “I-would-never-ever-go-if-I-had-to-pay-full-price” Yelp ratings.

So what do we have to back this up? We looked at the deals for New York and Los Angeles for the top three group buying sites: Groupon, LivingSocial and Bloomspot. The average Yelp rating for the businesses that were offered was three stars. Three-star businesses use group coupon sites because they need extra encouragement to get people in the door.

The group buying sites know this, so they’ve tightened their return policies. Basically, you’re buying it “as-is.”

2. It can be impossible to get a refund, even if it is NOT your fault. I bought a deal for cooking lessons from one of the top group deal sites and immediately contacted the company to set up a lesson. I was told that they weren’t doing any classes right now (which is strange, considering I just bought the deal) and that someone would e-mail me once they had the new schedule.

Okay.

A month went by, I contacted them again, and was told the same thing. Another month went by and I finally received a notice–from the group buying site saying that the coupon was about to expire. I contacted the company again and received no response. So I contacted the group buying site and was told that I wouldn’t receive a refund because–wait for it–the coupon had expired.

Now, Groupon does offer a pretty easy return policy and makes it fairly simple. However, many of the other sites (and you know who they are) make you cartwheel through flaming hoops in order to get a refund.