Social buying sites are no longer a new experiment for frugal people. These sites are established, have commercials, and have managed to raise considerable funds in the few years they have been around. Groupon’s Initial Public Offering (IPO) raked in an impressive $700 million which made it the largest IPO since Google in 2004. LivingSocial, another social buying website powerhouse, has raised significant amounts of funds as well. Needless to say, it appears that these sites are here to stay for a long time (at least in internet years).
I have purchased and enjoyed many great experiences through social buying websites, such as a birthday bowling party I hosted for my husband where we paid $75 for two hours of unlimited bowling and rental shoes for ten adults and 10 rounds of 18-hole golf at Sienna Plantation Golf Club and 9 one-hour clinic-style group lessons with a professional trainer for $155. Since my first purchase back in 2009, I have learned many things about social buying websites that I would like to share with you to help you with your own purchases.
Reliability of Refunding Your Purchase
Issues come up and sometimes you need a refund for your voucher. This is not because you no longer want the voucher, but rather because of something on their side. Sometimes the business that you purchase a voucher for goes out of business before you use the certificate (many certificates are good for a year). Recently, I purchased something from Plum District, and I got a message that the website where you input your code in order to print out my voucher was no longer accepting codes (not all social buying websites use a third party website to print out vouchers). When I contacted Plum District with the problem, they responded quickly and told me that I would receive a refund. The refund was given within 7 days.
Read the Terms and Conditions of Vacation Deals
My husband and I shared a beautiful weekend together in Galveston, Texas thanks to a LivingSocial deal I scored. We got two nights stay at the Moody Gardens Hotel, two passes for two days to the Moody Gardens Pyramids, and a fruit/cheese/wine tray upon arrival for $245. This was over a weekend, and even included hotel fees and taxes! Many of the travel deals are 50% off during the off-season or when hotels are giving away specials to boost business.
However, recently I was sent an email of a deal from dealster.com for a two night trip to New Orleans for $89. Something told me that the deal was too good to be true (most deals are no more than 50% off, which is a great discount). When I clicked on the terms and conditions button I found out why: this was sponsored by a vacation property or “timeshare” company. Most likely the two nights would need to be in the middle of a week, and I would need to attend a 120 minute presentation with my husband. I felt this was pretty sneaky since this was not mentioned anywhere in the advertisement for the deal. So keep your eye out if you are purchasing a travel deal! This is the first travel deal that I have come across on a social buying website that turned out to be a timeshare.
Keeping Track of all of Your Deals
I will be the first to admit, I have allowed one of my deals to expire. With so many different sites (Groupon, LivingSocial, Gilt City/BuyWithMe, Plum District, etc.) it is sometimes difficult to keep track of all of the deals I have purchased and their expiration dates. I attempted to get a refund, even though I knew this was my fault and the chances of a refund were slim. I was correct—my email was actually ignored.
A few new websites have popped up that will actually keep track of your purchased deals for you in one location. Citypockets.com will automatically import all of your vouchers from each of the social buying sites and will send reminders when one is going to expire. I need to sign up!
Deal Aggregate Sites to Cut Down on Emails
There are over 30 social buying sites at this point in time. Who wants to receive 30 different emails with 30 different deals in their inbox? A few sites have capitalized on this by providing aggregate deals from several social buying websites at once. 8coupons.com offers deals from Groupon, LivingSocial, Gilt City, BuyWithMe, ScoutMob, and Restaurants.com. Yipit.com is another aggregate site offering service in 118 cities, and from 806 services. Dealradar.com is another one of these sites that will aggregate deals for you.
Purchasing Deals You Have Missed or Selling Ones You Don’t Want
Previously I had discussed a website called lifesta.com where you can purchase deals you missed. They have since shutdown. There are several other websites that have taken their place though, including Dealsgoround.com, and Couprecoup.com.