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When daily deal discounts aren't worth it

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

By MSN Money Partner Oct 8, 2013 12:41PM

This post comes from Brandon Ballenger at partner site Money Talks News.

MoneyTalksNews on MSN MoneyI'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 Hands catching shopping coupons © Vstock LLC/Tetra images RF/Getty Imageswanted 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?

More on Money Talks News:

Oct 9, 2013 11:41AM
Good article.  Don't buy these things unless you really know the company and know what you typically would pay for the service.  Not all of these offers are good deals.

I saw a gutter cleaning deal the other day.  I have a guy who cleans my gutters and cleans moss off my roof every 3-4 years.  He charges me less than the price of the groupon and he does a great job.  I'm pretty sure they Groupon deal would have involved some negotiation about how I have a bigger roof or more gutters than are covered in the deal once the company showed up.

We also saw a furnace inspection/servicing deal which we passed on.  I called around a couple of local service companies and found a better price from a local company I know and trust.  They've been in business based in my town for 20+ years.

I avoid buying the home service deals.  They all seem to be designed with limitations that you can only get about half of the job done with the offer. Then when they show up, they try to upsell you on the other half of the job at full price.  Just find a reputable local service provider who charges a fair price and you'll be happier.

The deals we do buy are when restaurants we routinely eat at or services we've purchased in the past have offers.  Only pay for a coupon when you're 100% sure you're going to use it - and 100% sure it's going to save you money.

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