Giving daily-deal sites a second chance
Changes • Groupon, LivingSocial and Google Offers are going beyond prepaid offerings and vouchers.
Published: February 13, 2014 07:45AM
Updated: February 13, 2014 07:45AM
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Rex Arbogast | The Associated Press Because you’re dealing with a third party — and not just the merchant — you can encounter a host of problems unique to daily deals stes, such as Groupon.

New York • I gave up on daily-deal sites about a year ago. The last straw was a $45 pizza-making class I bought, but didn’t show up for. Before that, there was a long list of deals I never used, including a $149 wine-tasting tour, a $20 monthly gym pass and a $50 boot camp class. Paying in advance for a deal doesn’t work for my busy lifestyle.

Daily-deal sites, known for blasting email offers for limited-time discounts at restaurants, spas and gyms, were one of the hottest things on the Internet in 2011. But as more and more websites entered the market, people grew immune to their clogged inboxes and stopped buying as many daily deals.

But the sites have recently changed their businesses to lure back customers. Groupon, LivingSocial and Google Offers are going beyond the prepaid deals and vouchers they began with and are now selling items such as TVs and iPhone chargers or offering free coupons from local and national retailers.

The changes have gotten my attention. I’ve found myself downloading the apps again and scrolling through my email’s spam folder to see what kind of deals I may be missing. I’ve managed to save a few bucks at Toys R Us and a local grocery store.

The offerings are diverse enough that they might rate a look even if you long ago unsubscribed from the email lists. Here’s a look at how daily-deal sites have changed:

Groupon • The company started the deal-of-the-day craze when the site was launched in 2008. It still sells pre-paid deals, but it wants to be a one-stop destination for bargain hunters. Its Groupon Goods business sells everything from perfumes to toothbrushes to TVs at a discounted price. Groupon Goods are available on the Groupon app and at Groupon.com/goods.

Another service, Groupon Reserve, lets users reserve a table at a restaurant for free and offers up to 40 percent off the total bill. No vouchers or printouts are required. The server will know to apply the discount. Groupon Reserve, which you can find on Groupon’s app and at Groupon.com/reserve, is currently available in such big cities as New York, Chicago, Boston, Denver and San Francisco.

The company also offers over 26,000 free online coupons on its site.

LivingSocial • Like Groupon, LivingSocial has started selling goods and offering free coupons. Recent items up for sale include magazine subscriptions, mattresses and jewelry.

The difference between LivingSocial and Groupon is that when you buy something on LivingSocial you are given a code to redeem the item from another merchant’s website. I bought a $6 iPhone charger this way, which saved me about $20. Groupon’s items don’t require a code.

LivingSocial sells goods through its app and its website. The company has over 20,000 free online coupons for retailers.

Google Offers • Last year, Google Offers stopped selling prepaid vouchers altogether. It now only offers free coupons for restaurants, gyms and clothing stores. I once found a $5 coupon for $30 worth of groceries and a nearby Fairway supermarket. I’ve also used a 15 percent-off coupon from Google Offers at Toys R Us.

Recent discounts include ones from Jamba Juice in New York and Dunkin’ Donuts in Chicago.