Odds are, if you like a good deal, you’ve used Groupon.com a few times (I know I have).
With their wide spread discounts on everything from vacations to electronics, they are the go-to source for anyone looking to save.
But should they be?
Issues in regards to hidden loopholes, vacation scams and shoddy merchandise have many asking: is Groupon.com a place to find big savings or is it all a big scam?
It’s a legitimate question, one that deserves an answer, so I decided to do some research.
The results? While it’s not all bad, it’s not all good either, which is why I would suggest using them, but only if you use caution.
There is some genuine risk involved with some of their services, particularly when it comes to trips and date/time availability, as you’ll see in my review.
But don’t just take my word for it: read on to see the good, the bad and the ugly when it comes to Groupon and what you can do to protect yourself.
How It Works
For those unfamiliar with Groupon.com, it is a site that offers daily deals and discounts for local and national merchants and has been in business since 2008.
You can find bargains on clothing, baby items, trips and more, with some packages that are exclusive to the site, so you won’t find them anywhere else.
What attracts many people is their Groupon Promise. In an effort to make customers happy the came up with this pledge, guaranteeing your satisfaction or you get your money back.
The company promises to work with you to either get you what was promised or issue a refund if for some reason the service/merchandise ordered isn’t as expected.
What Makes Groupon.com a Good Deal
To start, they really do have some great pricing, you just have to do your homework. In the NY area you can get 50-70% off spa deals, gym memberships and restaurants- and many times it is for well-known, popular places, not some never-heard of spot.
For instance, a 3-month membership to Retro Fitness costs just $44 (normally $89); you can also choose the 1-month option for $14.99 (normally $29.99); either way you save $51%.
The site is also a good for helping anyone who has just moved get familiar with their local stores and get acquainted with neighbors.
Since Groupon offers deals on events and activities like photography classes or mommy and me it is a really smart and inexpensive way to become a part of the community.
Another plus to using Groupon is their coupon section. For those looking to maximize savings, you can find hundreds of coupons for retailers like Nordstrom’s, Home Depot, Pet Smart and others.
Since it is a well-established site it receives exclusive sales and promotions, so it pays to use them.
What’s Not So Good About Groupon
The biggest problem with Groupon is their vacations packages and lack of availability for other items and services.
You can see a full list of complaints to Consumer Affairs via this link.
They have some amazing offers when it comes to getaways, but there have been complaints by many consumers about how the deals are structured and their legitimacy.
Let’s take one of their current getaway deal for a trip to Abruzzo, Italy with all meals and hotel included for $1,698 (normally $3,498). This is a superb price, but, there are some catches that may not make the price worth it.
To start, when you book you can choose a time frame for when you want to go, but you may not get the date you want.
Dates are subject to the vendor, so you need some flexibility: you may get the deal you want at the price you want, but you may not get the exact dates you want.
This is the norm with most of their travel deals, and while they do offer refunds, it can be a major headache and disappointment to lose out on a trip because of scheduling.
Plus, in some cases Groupon’s policy conflicts with the vendor, which can make the voucher null and void and getting a refund a long, arduous process.
Another detractor, for those on a budget, is you must pay in full when you use Groupon for trips.
When you use a travel agent you can pay for trips in installments, but not with Groupon so make sure you can afford that amazing deal.
You also have to pay attention to the fine print. Currently, they are offering a great deal for a Lakeside Resort near Kissimmee, FL for $38 a night, 2 adults and 2 kids.
However, when you read the fine print you will see there is an additional $10 daily resort fee that applies for every day your there, which means you are really paying $48 a day.
Yes, still a solid deal, but that extra $10 a day can add up and be a deal-breaker for some. It is also a bit deceptive to list the price that way.
In addition, there have been complaints from several Groupon users about booking trips and arriving to discover the hotel/resort was either no longer open or not as described (as in not family-friendly or lakeside).
I will point out that this is rare, but it does happen, so you should thoroughly research where you are going before booking.
Besides their travel issues, there are some issues with the accessibility of many deals, slow deliveries and poor customer service.
I myself can attest to their deals being quite limited in scope as far as when they can be used, which is why I suggest Groupon for more last-minute outings and gifts.
For instance, many restaurant and offers are only good for a limited time, so you need to be diligent.
I recently found a great deal on local bagels, that expired the next day; this has happened on several; occasions, not always, but enough that I find it to be an issue.
Yes, most coupons have an expiration, but Groupon seems to have more limitations than others in terms of dates and times.
This may be a result of their 3rd party vendors, as per their site policy: Groupon.com is not responsible for the service, eligibility, or termination of the merchant or the merchant’s reservation.
So if you purchase a voucher it can still end up being unavailable or cancelled by the merchant, making your buy a gamble.
On top of this, there have been complaints about slow delivery when ordering merchandise; Again, I have personally had deliveries take 7-days or more in some cases.
While it’s unreasonable to expect the fast 2-day service of Amazon Prime, waiting a week or more is a little excessive in this day and age.
Finally, their customer service representatives can be hit or miss in terms of knowledge and friendliness/professionalism.
Overall, Groupon.com has some good offers and are worth trying, just make sure you do your homework before making any purchases, especially trips.
If you are flexible and pay attention to details, then you can find some big savings- just make sure you read the fine print to avoid any possible scams.
Have you used Groupon.com?
Tell us about your experience below and be sure to follow all my latest consumer news reports on Twitter!