I have been actively using social buying websites  for two years now. Typically I have great experiences, such as our half-price weekend trip to Moody Gardens Hotel and tickets in Galveston, half-price tickets to Houston Museum of Natural Science exhibits and butterfly atrium, and the Cake Pop class I recently took with a friend.
But lately I have had a few not-so-good experiences. I have touted the great experiences, and now I would like to take a look at these other ones as well as discuss any outcomes to help you in your future group buying deals, whether you are using Groupon , Living Social, or other social buying sites.
Negative Social Buying Experiences
- Manicure/Pedicure: I have found that one of the best bargains for me with social buying sites is the manicure and pedicure deals. I can usually score both a manicure and pedicure for $20 (typically the pair would cost $35+). Several months ago I decided to use a voucher for one. When I called to make the appointment the woman explained to me that she was going to come to my house at anytime that was convenient for me because she no longer had a salon. I felt bad asking her to drive to my home, but she was persistent in needing to fulfill her obligations. As the weeknight came closer, I started to get excited by the idea that a person was coming to my home to pamper me. How neat! Unfortunately, it was quite subpar. This was supposed to be a spa medi/pedi, but the manicure was dry (meaning there was no soaking of my fingernails to soften the cuticles nor use of lotion). My feet were soaked in cool water in one of those home pedicure machines. Also, instead of new or sterilized instruments, she simply squirted used ones with rubbing alcohol before using them on me (I cringed, but did not have the heart to say anything). Finally, her nail polishes to choose from were quite old.
I tipped her nicely seeing how she came across town (she was 45 minutes late because of traffic, but I thought I should help her gasoline costs to get to my home). Even though I was dissatisfied, I did not call the social buying site for this one because I thought she was just trying to fulfill her obligations, and that it was not necessarily her fault that she no longer had a salon.
- Air Duct Cleaning: This one was a nightmare. I have been sick (mainly respiratory) four times this year and thought we needed to clean and treat our ductwork. We are in Houston, afterall, and it gets quite humid here (I am also allergic to mold). Fortunately (or so I thought), a $99 social buying deal came across my inbox one day for the air duct cleaning of 10 vents. When the guy came, he was an absolute swindler. He charged me an extra $210 on top of the voucher, including things such as glue and travel. I let him know that he was not supposed to charge me for the travel because I was within the 30 mile distance of his office (this was in the fine print). He replied that he had to travel 20 minutes to get here, and 20 minutes back, so he was going to charge me the $35 for an hour of labor. Huh? And he said the 10 vents were included in the price, but that the $65 glue to put the vents back into our ceilings was not. Come again? It was so bad that my husband and I actually holed up in my office upstairs and shut the door so that he could not continue to sell us things.
I was so outraged by this man that I called the Living Social site while he was still in my home (from the office upstairs). The woman was very apologetic, but said she could not refund the voucher to me because the work was being completed. What she did do was credit me $110 in Living Social bucks to make up for some of the extra fees that were not represented in the voucher. Honestly, my husband and I considered ourselves lucky to get him out of our home.
- A Timeshare Presentation Disguised as a Travel Deal: Since writing about the timeshare presentation disguised as a travel deal  about five months ago, I actually came across another one on a different social buying site. I think this is terrible! Nowhere in the advertising for the travel deal (to New Orleans, Las Vegas, or Orlando) does it state that it is a timeshare presentation  and that you and whoever attends with you will need to attend a 120 minute presentation. I also have not seen any other bloggers or news sites notice this. To me, this is news! Imagine if you don’t find the fine print that tells you about the presentation, or the fact that you will have to use the voucher on specific dates (not holidays), and typically in the middle of the week (forget about that weekend getaway).
I have contacted both of these websites about these “travel” deals, and am waiting for a response.
Does Satisfaction Matter?
These experiences have taught me that Social Buying sites do not have much control over what happens after the voucher is purchased. This means that the vendor can fulfill their obligations to their satisfaction, but not necessarily to yours. It is not in their best interest to dissatisfy you, as part of the reason why they have deals is so they gain new customers. But it does happen. There is recourse for issues with vouchers, but it is not always ideal. For example, according to Living Social, once the services are rendered I cannot get a refund. This is even if I am unhappy and $210 poorer, which I pointed out to the woman on the phone in regards to the air duct cleaning. Still, I appreciated that they gave me $110 in Living Social bucks to compensate me for my troubles.
Have you had any negative experiences with social buying websites? How were they handled?