A few years ago, the group-buying revolution hit Australia. Everything from beauty treatments to travel, homewares and more became available on websites such as Groupon, Scoopon and Living Social for far below retail. Currently, we are buying deals from these websites (and many others) to the tune of 10 million a year. The story has been far short of a fairytale however, as thousands of complaints poured in on dodgy deals, ‘grouponitude‘, and restrictive conditions. In response to consumer outcry, The Association for Data-driven Marketing and Advertising (ADMA) revised its Group Buying Code of Practice in May this year, increasing transparency in the industry.
There are still things to watch out for however. Here’s a few tips for people considering jumping into the fray.
1. Read the fine print
Drew Patchell of Your Life Choices recommends reading the fine print closely. There are in all likelihood exclusion dates, especially for restaurants, travel and the like.
“Reading the terms and conditions is vital for purchasing any restaurant experience on a group-buying website as the company will severely limit when the coupons are redeemable. It is important to get in first for these types of deals and to book immediately upon successful purchase,” he says.
2. Check review sites
Consumer group CHOICE recommends using review site such as Yelp! or UrbanSpoon to check up on feedback from customers. It’s also worth checking up on the prices they charge to regular customers. Blogger Richard Wenhao He discovered a scam on a group-buying website offering accommodation in the Blue Mountains.
3. Contact the coupon provider if you have complaints, if you aren’t offered a resolution, contact the consumer affairs body in your state
Last year, I bought a coupon for a small boating license. I was charged, and I waited for the email to come through notifying me of my purchase, with an attached PDF. It didn’t arrive. I called the coupon company, who assured me it might just be a software glitch, and to wait another few days. I waited for two weeks all up, still the thing didn’t turn up. I called them again and they said they would look into it. A week later, still nothing. Eventually, I decided to cancel – I had to send a copy of my bank statement with any details an identity thief may be interested in blacked out, in order to prove that I had made the purchase (they had no record of it). Finally, I was refunded the money. I should have been a tad more aggressive and contacted them in a more timely fashion, I admit. Don’t make the same mistake I did.
4.Don’t book at the last minute
CHOICE recommends you don’t wait until your voucher is about to expire to make an appointment – this is when the provider is likely to see a spike in demand, and may not be able to accommodate your request.
5. Check the location of the service
If it’s far from where you usually frequent, weight up the potential saving vs. convenience, travel costs, and your own personal level of laziness. This final one is a killer.
6. If you can’t use your purchase, consider selling it online
Investopedia recommends using websites such as Craigslist or eBay.
Best of luck!