Of all local deal websites, Groupon remains the most popular. But you just have to wonder, is Groupon legit and will it always save you money?
There’s no doubt that many people have saved an impressive amount of money by using Groupon. However, there are also some real dangers involved if you aren’t experienced with the service. So, what is Groupon and how can you avoid scams or bad deals? These Groupon tips will help you make better buys on the marketplace.
What Is Groupon?
If you’ve never shopped on the Groupon website before and don’t know how it works, it becomes a lot harder to spot red flags associated with bad deals. Not only is Groupon a great website for online coupons and promotional codes, but it also helps you score discounts with local businesses and services.
You can buy Groupons for restaurants, hotels, automotive services, activities, products, personal services, home services, spas, and much more. When you buy a Groupon, you buy a specific product or service at a discounted price. While most of Groupon’s offers give you a great deal, you have to be careful about the Groupons you choose.
How to Spot Potential Fraud
You can’t trust every single deal you see on Groupon, but you shouldn’t let that scare you off from using Groupon altogether. Identifying these red flags can help you avoid a Groupon scam.
Low Number of Buyers
Groupon will display the number of buyers on a popular deal. When you go to the deal’s page, you’ll see small text that says something like “1,000+ bought” above the Buy button. The number of buyers displayed can range anywhere from 10 to 25,000 and beyond.
Smaller businesses might not have thousands of buyers, and that’s okay. If at least 10 people have bought a specific Groupon, you can have confidence that it’s a legitimate deal. If the deal doesn’t have any buyers listed, you’re taking a risk by purchasing it.
Always visit the website of the business to make sure it’s a legit website. You’ll often see the site name listed in the “About” section of the deal page—otherwise, Google the company. If the site looks like it was thrown together in five minutes, don’t splurge on the deal.
Little Contact Information
When you scroll down the page of a Groupon deal, you’ll usually see the company’s contact information. This includes the business’ address, phone number, and hours. If you don’t see any contact details, then the deal likely isn’t trustworthy.
A Complicated Fine Print
Every Groupon has a “Fine Print” section towards the bottom of the page that you should make sure to read very carefully. Even if the business is legit, sometimes this section can reveal conditions about the deal that the title or description left out. Avoid these deceiving deals at all costs!
Bad Groupon Reviews
Each business on Groupon comes with a rating from one to five stars. You’ll also get to check out what customers say about the business under the “Customer Reviews” section on the deal’s page. A slew of negative reviews and a low star rating are signs that you shouldn’t trust that Groupon.
How to Identify a Bad Groupon Deal
Is Groupon reliable when it comes to its deals? The good news is that fraudulent listings on Groupon are very rare, and when the site learns about them, they are quick to shut them down. Beyond the few fraudulent listings, is a much more prevalent problem: some deals are structured in a way so that the deal isn’t really as good as you’d think.
You’ll sometimes come across restaurants that split deals into multiple Groupons. At first glance, these deals seem amazing. However, they’re more inconvenient than helpful.
This type of Groupon limits your ability to get the full 50% discount advertised in the Groupon. Instead, you can only spend $8 of the $24 Groupon at a time, on any given day.
This means if you take your family to the restaurant and spend $30, you can only use an $8 Groupon. In other words, you’re only getting the discount off a small portion of your purchase. To make matters worse, you have to go back and make two more purchases to use your remaining Groupons. The only way to make the best of a deal like this is to only purchase $8 worth of food at any given time.
The Hotel Room Bait-and-Switch
Hotels often advertise very steep discounts off of their rooms on the main Groupon ad. However, Groupon isn’t always the best way to find cheap hotel rooms.
When you click and review the hotel deal details, you’ll discover that the discount only applies if you’re traveling alone and only need one bed. You can still book a room with extra beds, but that cost will dramatically increase when you do.
The Groupon deal usually only applies to the specific days of the week—Fridays and weekends still have sky-high prices. If you schedule the room for the weekend and book it through Groupon, say goodbye to those cheap prices that were advertised on the main Groupon listing!
Home and Personal Services Are Limited
In the Home Services and Personal Services categories of Groupon, you really need to read the “Fine Print” section on each deal.
Unfortunately, the Home Services and Personal Service sections are some of the most tightly controlled discounts with many little details buried in the deal’s conditions. For example, some deals might require that you live in a specific area, and may exclude services you initially expected. To avoid any confusion, just read the “Fine Print” details with a very fine-tooth comb.
Skip Out on the Products
You also need to use caution when shopping for products in the Goods section of Groupon. In this category, you can buy anything from electronics, clothes, kitchen tools, pet supplies, and even jewelry.
Before you make the purchase, you should compare prices with other sellers. In the photo above, you’ll see Groupon selling an Anker 4-Port USB 3.0 Hub. Simply using a price comparison tool proves that Groupon doesn’t have the best deal—Amazon sells the same product for an even cheaper price.
That said, you can still find some decent discounts on products. Just check with other online marketplaces to find the best price.
Use Groupon With Care
Groupon is one of the best resources to get awesome deals, but not every “deal” is amazing. When it comes down to determining your question, “Is Groupon safe?” the answer is most of the time.
There’s always the possibility that the business isn’t honest when listing deals, so do your due diligence before buying. You can also get a better deal elsewhere, so shop around. But if you do spot a killer deal on Groupon and the business looks legit, by all means, jump on it.
Groupon has its fair share of problems, but so do many other online marketplaces. In fact, you should keep an eye out for these eBay scams before placing your next bid.