Group deal sites: avoiding the traps to save big

The explosion of ‘group buying’ websites is nothing short of astounding. Twelve months ago most of us had no idea what a Spreet or Groupon was, and now there seems to be a new site every week offering up bargains to the masses.

The concept is simple: a business (usually local) offers its product or service at a drastically reduced price. If enough people purchase the deal, then it is ‘activated’ and the savings begin. For deal-buyers, the equation should be simple. Save over 75% on anything and you’re better off, right? Not always.

Here are our top 5 tips on making the most of these new-wave bargains…

1. Impulse: get yours in check
It’s alarmingly simple to buy one of these deals without thinking: ‘$120 worth of dog biscuits for $39… hells yeah!’ The problem is that saving almost $100 on dog biscuits isn’t really a great deal when you don’t have a dog. Don’t get sucked in by the ‘percentage discount’. Check the businesses website to make sure they aren’t inflating the retail price!

Our tip: If you don’t need something, don’t buy it just because it’s cheap.

2. End-date discipline
Most daily deals will expire a few months after the purchase date. This seems like a long-time, but getting to the salon for your cheap cut-and-colour in between work and the kids is always harder than you think. Businesses often rely on a large number of people not redeeming their deals to make money – don’t be one of them!

Our tip: Make an appointment to use your deal as soon as you buy it. Set end-dates in your calendar.

3. Don’t be a hoarder
A cheap meal? Great. Fifty cheap meals from the same place? Not so good. Don’t be tempted to buy more deals than you need. (Otherwise you’ll end up like one Mozo staffer who loaded up on a bunch of meal vouchers, only to have the burger-joint go out of business soon after.)

Our tip: Only buy one deal at a time

4. Read the fine print
Unfortunately, Mozo doesn’t compare group deal sites and some businesses get pretty sneaky when it comes to fine-print on these deals. Be particularly wary of which days/times the deal is valid, how many vouchers can be used per table (at a restaurant) and if the deal needs to be used in advance (call ahead!).

Our tip: Read all the nitty-gritty before you buy a deal, and check them again before you use it. If in doubt, call the business.

5. Expect the best
There are some horror stories online of people being treated like swine when using deals. Buying a massage, only to have your aching muscles kneaded by a work experience kid isn’t the best experience. Don’t let any business get away with sub-par performance!

Our tip: If you feel ripped-off, say something. If you don’t like the response, tell all your friends on the internet exactly how you feel…