When Daily Deal Discounts Aren’t Worth It

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Got Groupons you haven't used? How about a LivingSocial deal for a business that went belly up?

I’ve purchased only two “daily deals” discounts: one for savings on a mattress, and one for a yearlong museum membership. I used both.

I couldn’t stand being on Groupon and LivingSocial mailing lists for more than a couple of weeks because the deals were usually for stuff I don’t buy or places I don’t go. I looked only when I wanted to buy something specific, or when someone recommended a deal to me. So, luckily, I’ve never been burned. But others have.

For instance, as The Huffington Post recently pointed out, there was a Groupon deal to visit the Metropolitan Museum of Art for $18, a value of “up to $25.” The problem: You can get in for free; $25 is just the recommended donation.

That’s one situation where a deal really isn’t — when you can get the same thing for less by looking somewhere else. Forbes notes that daily deal sites like to highlight percent savings, but as with any deal, it’s important to see how much you save versus other outlets, not versus full price.

Some of the big sites, like Groupon and LivingSocial, are making it easier to comparison shop by offering deals over longer periods, Forbes says. Some deals are now available for two weeks or more. Shifting from a model that encourages impulse buys to one that encourages value shopping may also fix another deal site problem — when the business offering the deal can’t meet the demand. Forbes mentions a spa that had to shut down after selling too many half-price massages.

To make sure a deal is worth it, Forbes suggests that consumers consider the product or service, not the bargain it represents. Is it something you actually want, from a company you’re familiar with? Read the fine print, too. Expiration dates, exclusions, and fees and taxes that aren’t included in the discount can be deal-breakers.

Have you ever been burned on a deal voucher? What’s the biggest savings you’ve seen from one? Let us know on Facebook.

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