If you're an Old Person, have limited experience shopping online, or are a conscientious shopper, daily deal sites might overwhelm you. And depending on your budget, interests, and location, they may or may not be right for you. Let's discuss these daily deals sites and how they work for you.
Most sites send you one deal every day based on your geographic location. Some sites, like W00t, Amazon.com's Gold Box, and Target's Daily Deals offer items in limited quantities for bargain prices for a limited time.
Sites like Gilt City, Groupon, and LivingSocial e-mail deals daily. Most are location-specific and offer discounts on services and activities. I've heard of hot air balloon rides, spa days, and I've purchased vouchers for reduced meals, a haunted walking tour, reduced-priced tickets to the Guggenheim, half-priced movie tickets, and a baking course.
The Fine Print
This is the most important factor to consider. Check the details before considering and committing to a deal. Check for additional fees that might be associated with the deal, expiration dates, and any rules related to the deal. The site should display this information upfront. If it doesn't, don't hesitate to look aggressively for additional details.
Almost every deal will have an expiration date. Check the date before you make your purchase. Some dates are a year or more, but some are only 30 days.
If you are a customer overseas, Groupon is receiving the proceeds from your unused purchases. In the U.S., a merchant has to honor the value of what you paid (not what the coupon is worth).
Most sites will remind you to use your deal, if it's a daily deal. (W00t and Amazon.com don't need to remind you because they don't provide vouchers.) This is handy, but the sites require you to let them know when you've used your deal. (You'll log in and click a button. It's low maintenance but a little annoying.)
Using Your Deal
Most of these sites will provide instructions. Generally, you've purchased a voucher that will act like a gift card. You paid $10 for a $20 certificate, so now what matters is using your certificate.
You will most likely need to print the deal and bring it with you. If you book an activity, you will probably need to schedule and appointment. The site will instruct you what to do.
For one event I had to call the business, request a time and date, and provide my confirmation number. (And then I'll need to bring the voucher with me that day.) For another I followed the same procedure I would if I was paying full price, and then enter GROUPON at checkout. (Since I made my appointment the business has requested that people book by phone. Groupon notified customers by e-mail.)
Another deal, my first one, provided a coupon code. (I purchased it from the Washington, DC site, and the deal was open to all cities.) I picked my items and when I was ready for checkout, entered the Groupon code to pay.
All of this information was provided by the vendor and the deal site. It should all be provided when you make your purchase!
Some businesses will occasionally refuse to honor the deal your purchased. When this happens, and the business in the wrong, be polite, but firm with the business, and report the business to the site from which your purchased the deal.
I have to really talk myself into making a purchase. If you feel this way, research the deal first. (See what the prices are like from the vendor and if it's a good deal. It should be.) You, however, are an Old Person, and probably don't have this problem.
If you regret your purchase, or if you have extenuating circumstances, there are Web sites where you can unload your non-refundable purchases.
Lifesta is one, and others are sure to pop up. Lifesta charges a small fee for your transaction, but it might be worth it to get some of your money back and/or get in on a deal you missed.
Happy couponing! May you be as successful as the people on Extreme Couponing.
Technology Lesson: Shopping and Online + Getting the Best Bargains
Amazon.com's Gold Box
Target's Daily Deals
Five Best Daily Deals Sites, LifehackerBuy And Sell Unused Groupons (And Other Daily Deals) On Lifesta, Consumerist
Do Gift Card Laws Keep My Groupons From Expiring?, Consumerist
Groupon & FTD Offer Refund For Controversial Valentine's Day Deal, Consumerist
Groupon Sued Over Expiration Date Issues, Consumerist
Overseas, Groupon Pockets Money From Unredeemed Vouchers, Consumerist
Beware The Many Pitfalls Of Daily Deal Sites, Consumerist
Before You Shop, Check Out The Best Printable Coupon Sites, ConsumeristLifesta