To Coupon or Not to Coupon

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When the craze of deal sites first began, I resisted at first, but then, like a moth to the flame, I signed up for every single one.

Groupon, Living Social, Dealeo, you name it. I bought massages, car details, meals, fitness classes, carpet cleaning, and for a while, it was fun – finding something I never knew I always wanted.

Such a deal, right?

And then, after purchasing a deal for a local day spa, two months before my coupon expired they closed on short notice – something about one partner bilking the other and leaving town in the middle of the night. So much for that deal.

Then, I tried to get an appointment for my car detail. I left message after message and finally, two weeks later, a very nice lady called to set the appointment another week out. Fine. But the guys showed up late and the car detail was average.

Hmmm, maybe these deals aren’t so ideal.

In the back of my mind, I knew better than to get sucked in to these “deals.” Having worked in marketing, advertising and public relations for more than 25 years, red flags were practically blinding me as I went ahead and punched in my credit card number anyway.

I know that consumers will buy just about anything if they think they are getting a killer deal. Like gambling, the psychology and the “winning” aspect drives the transaction, but rarely does it last or deliver as anticipated. But I didn’t listen to myself – denial set in like quick-drying cement.

What is that old saying? “If it’s sounds too good to be true, it probably is.” Sheesh, I think I learned that one in kindergarten!

And then there’s the side of receiving a deal as a gift. For some reason I still haven’t been able to unravel, a girlfriend gave me a deal coupon for a trapeze-twirling-in-silk series of classes in which we would learn to wrap ourselves in a long rope of silk suspended from the ceiling and pull ourselves upside down and sideways. It was a birthday gift, but I felt like I had just received a coupon to run naked across PCH for kicks.

I reluctantly met her for our adventure, and after about a half-hour of both of us getting tangled up, grunting and groaning, I couldn’t stop laughing. Suffice to say, we only went to one of the four sessions.

(Thank goodness it wasn’t a pole-dancing class. There are just some things women over 40 shouldn’t do; I don’t care how great a shape you are in.)

Then there’s the coupons you forget you bought or the ones that expire a day before you want to use them.

Kelli Grant from says that more than 40 percent of consumers never redeem their vouchers, and most customers wait until a week or two before the voucher expires to redeem it. So, many businesses are unable to fulfill the numbers of vouchers purchased before they expire. For both sides, this is a problem, and the business model is beginning to unravel as both consumers and businesses reexamine the value of participating.

I’ve since cancelled my subscriptions to the deal sites, mostly because I am not interested in laser nail fungus removal, skeet shooting or any more trapeze classes, and those are the deals that seem to pop up with more regularity than any I would genuinely be interested in.

There will always be a Brooklyn Bridge out there for the taking, but at least I won’t be whipping out my credit card to get a deal on it.

Columnist Lynn Selich resides in Newport Beach. She can be reached at [email protected].


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