Daily Deal Sites: Are you getting all you bargained for?
By Attorney General Roy Cooper
The deals are enticing—half off dinner at a cool new restaurant or professional carpet cleaning for a fraction of the price. Many of us have signed up to receive offers from daily deals websites that fill up our inboxes with advertisements for goods or services at discounted prices. While these offers are tempting, make sure you’re really getting a deal before you shell out your hard-earned money.
Sometimes, these seemingly great deals turn out to be a great disappointment. My Consumer Protection Division has heard from consumers who purchased deals that businesses were unable to honor. Others complained that the product or service didn’t meet their expectations. Generally, we’ve had success helping consumers resolve complaints with sites such as Groupon or Living Social, but we’d rather help you avoid trouble from the start.
Keep the following tips in mind before you click to purchase the deal of the day:
Check out the company. Do a quick Internet search to look for reviews from other consumers who’ve done business with the company. Also, contact my Consumer Protection Division or your local Better Business Bureau to see if there are any complaints against the company.
Read the fine print. Most offers come with restrictions on when and how they can be redeemed. For example, if the deal is for a restaurant, find out if tax and gratuity are included, if you are required to have a reservation, or if there’s a limit to how many in your party can use the deal. Be sure you are familiar with these terms before you purchase the deal.
Make sure it’s actually a good deal. Some offers may simply advertise the regular price available to all customers, or you may be able to get a better deal by shopping around. Don’t assume the price offered is actually a good deal.
Pay attention to how many offers have been sold. Small businesses that sell a ton of daily deal coupons may have trouble honoring all of them. For example, if the offer is for a stay at a small bed and breakfast, you only have two months to redeem it, and 1,000 vouchers have already been purchased, chances are you may have trouble redeeming the offer if you buy it.
Check the expiration date. Most deals are only good for a short period of time. However, if you forget to redeem it in that timeframe, the actual value you paid should last longer. For the amount you pay, Living Social vouchers are good for five years while Groupon vouchers never expire. For example, if you pay $10 for $20 worth of groceries, the promotional $20 value may expire December 31 but you can use the $10 you paid for years to come—assuming the business is still open.
If you’ve run into trouble with a daily deal website or business, my Consumer Protection Division may be able to help. To file a complaint call 1-887-5-NO-SCAM (toll-free in NC) or visit www.ncdoj.gov