This morning $uburban Dollar wrote an interesting post about the complexities involved in purchasing deals from collective buying websites. The author’s rules for buying include investigating the deal, understanding any associated restrictions, reading reviews and ultimately making sure you can afford it. After all a deal might is not a deal if you can’t afford to pay the credit card bill at the end of the month.
I’ve experienced mixed success with collective buying offers. I once participated in a Groupon deal that offered $30 worth of food at a local restaurant for only $15. I noticed advertisements for the restaurant in our area, (it was relatively new), and thought of checking it out with my husband on more than one occasion.
Prior to signing up for the deal I looked online and checked out both the menu offerings, (my husband can be a little picky), and the prices. At first glance it looked like I could get a lot of food for my dollar, so I accepted the terms and bought the deal. What I didn’t realize was that everything on the menu came a la carte.
Shortly after my husband and I sat down we were told that our $12 – $16 sandwiches wouldn’t come with any side dishes. The sandwiches we selected cost $25 combined. By the time drinks and sides were included we owed an additional $20 and of course that didn’t include the tax or the tip.
Now this wasn’t the end of the world for us. The food was tasty and other than a screaming baby sitting at a nearby table the ambiance was actually quite nice.
My point is not that it was an awful experience, but rather that we didn’t realize just how much the night out was going to cost us. I thought I’d done my homework by viewing the menu online, but I missed the footnote about everything being a la carte. That deal was the first I’d ever purchased from a collective buying site and since that experience I’ve learned to look very closely before pulling out my credit card.
Despite the lack of success on my first try I didn’t give up. Since that experience I’ve bought three subsequent deals for cleaning services through Living Social, BuyWithMe and Groupon. At 50 to 60% off the regular price to clean my home I simply can’t resist. In fact, if I can’t continue to find such great deals I might go back to cleaning the house myself.