Why I stopped using Groupon and other online coupon services

My last visit to Los Aztecas sent me over the edge.

I bought a Groupon/Living Social/Seize the Deal voucher for this local Mexican restaurant a few weeks before this particular visit. I can’t even remember from which website I purchased this $10 coupon — they all became interchangeable when I craved a good deal — that would be good for $20 worth of food.

I grabbed The Hubs and hopped to Westport Village over for some fajitas the day before the coupon was scheduled to expire. My butt barely landed in the seat before I slid my fingers over my phone’s screen to show the waitress my coupon.

“I’m sorry,” she said after careful inspection. “This is only good at the Prospect location.”

Curse you, Small Print.

That experience was the culmination of several unfortunate interactions with online group coupon deals. I’ll take the blame for some of the problems — I can be a bad consumer. But the sum of these inconveniences was enough to make me stop buying into the bargains, no matter how much I was supposed to save.

  • I bought deals to businesses I had never (and would never) patronize. Highland Morning. Heitzman Traditional Bakery and Deli. Sleep Outfitters. Alpine Ice Arena. All places I thought I would patronize if I bought a Groupon first. All places I still haven’t visited. The deals have all expired, and now the voucher is just good for the amount I paid instead of the advertised discount. It’s not that I never want to visit, mind you, I just didn’t get around to them in time to make my vouchers worthwhile.
  • I spent more money with the coupons than without them. Rob and I had a voucher for O’Shea’s Irish pub. We shelled out $20 on top of what we paid for the coupon. There was something about knowing I had saved a bundle that made me itch to spend a bundle, especially at restaurants. Appetizer? Sure, we already paid for it! Drinks? Diet Coke, please! Dessert? Heck, yeah! All this, plus tipping based on the value of the coupon, quickly emptied an already bare wallet.
  • The small print. I’m a busy lady, so I don’t always read the important stuff like terms and conditions. Too bad this is the place where Groupon/Living Social/Seize the Deal tells you the particulars of their vouchers, such as the locations at which you can redeem the deal (see top of post), whether it is only good for carry-out (you usually have to dine in), or if alcohol is included (never is).
  • I was locked in to eating only at the places for which I had a deal. For a while, I wouldn’t eat at a restaurant unless I had a voucher. Why eat at one location if I had a paid-for meal at another? For a food writer, this is no bueno. 

Are you in the no-online-coupon boat with me? Or do you love Groupon and the like? Take it to the comments!

9 thoughts on “Why I stopped using Groupon and other online coupon services

  1. We’re definitely in the same boat. We thought we were smart so we only started buying them for places we already went but that ended up not working either. You would think 4 months to use a coupon would be enough time but it just wasn’t and like you, we now have 3 Groupons that are only good for face value and to be honest, I don’t want to go argue with someone about it so we’ll probably just lose the money.

  2. Ooooh bummer. I’ve cut waaaay back on my Groupons because I had a couple expire and one place even quit doing the service the coupon was for! (No worries, I did get my money back) Now I only buy Groupons for places I know I’ll be going anyway – nothing new, just places I already like!

  3. Oh, I’ve been there. For me, it was the Comfy Cow coupon that was only good at the U of L location. I finally stopped subscribing to the emails so I wouldn’t be tempted.

  4. I agree to some extent. I have gotten some really good deals for places I frequent even without a Groupon, but I also have a bunch that expired. I had a few places that complained about taking them, making me uncomfortable. One place closed, and Groupon refunded my money. BUT I always read the fine print after having similar problems with locations. My biggest issue is that often there are ones for restaurants downtown that I would love to try for lunch (I work downtown) but they are only good for dinner hours. Once I am off, I can’t WAIT to get home, so there is no way I am hanging around for dinner. I understand WHY they do it, but they would get much more business at lunchtime. I too, usually delete them without even reading so I won’t be tempted.

  5. I’m totally over buying food on those sites. There are too many restrictions. I’m really starting to dig the “goods” section of those sites though. But you have to be careful about shipping and other fine print, etc.

  6. I am also in the no voucher camp.

    A friend has a passion for vouchers, so we have eaten at a few voucher pubs and restaurants. They are usually not the places I would choose to go to. And I’ve noticed a couple of places have really high prices so we end up paying a lot for the extras.

    Being a Sydney-sider, I say give me a cheap and cheerful Thai takeaway or Vietnamese pho joint any day!

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