Groupon started in 2008 but it took me a while to jump on the bandwagon. The concept is simple – many people buy into a specific product or service at a designated price, and everyone gets a pretty great discount. Unfortunately, most businesses restricted the times and dates you could redeem your Groupon coupons, which made things frustrating for consumers.
In recent years, Groupon has revamped its practices and made redeeming coupons far more reliable. No longer do you need to buy into a deal with thousands of other people or redeem them at certain times. Now, coupons are available and redeemable whenever, which is a huge improvement. But do these changes make Groupon worth checking out in 2021?
An Honest Groupon Review
Online coupon sites like Groupon work by offering a deal on goods or services. This benefits the retailer because, though their products are discounted, Groupon’s reach draws in many more customers. It benefits you because you get a great discount on something you want.
What this means is that Groupon isn’t directly selling you anything – they’re merely a link between you and a retailer. This means there is no direct oversite on transactions, so if the seller doesn’t deliver, Groupon can’t really help. While the complicated coupon redemption windows of the past are mostly gone, there still might be fine print you need to read before you make a purchase.
Groupon shares goods and services for sale
While Groupon used to have separate sites for their various offerings, they have consolidated their Groupon coupons and Groupon goods into their main Groupon page. One day you might find a great discount at a local restaurant, and another day you might find deals on lawn care. Not every deal you find on Groupon will be local, either – retailers from around the world sell on Groupon.
I bought a set of solar garden lights from a Groupon deal a few years ago and we’re still enjoying each night. What’s better is I was ready to buy a similar product from Amazon, but it would have been $10 more than what we paid through Groupon. It’s worth doing a little bit of cost-comparison if you know what you’re looking for.
It’s also fun to just browse the deals they have from day to day; you might not think you need a lemon juicer, but if you find one for 80% off retail, you might consider it!
How to Use Groupon
Once you’ve made an account, Groupon is incredibly easy to use. You can search for anything you might want and it will pull up relevant results which you can browse. It’s the ability to search for products and services in your local area is that sets Groupon apart from other similar sites.
For instance, we took a trip that brought us through Chicago, and so we looked at available deals in that area. We scored a greatly discounted hotel stay and a discount on breakfast at a wonderful little cafe the next day. There are also tons of discounts on everything from spa treatments to music events – you just need to pay attention to when there are deals in your area.
When you’re logged into Groupon, the homepage will show you deals that are trending each day in your area. It will also provide you with information on discounts and deals on retailers that you’ve frequented through the app. The more you use Groupon, the better it will get to know your preferences.
When different holidays get close, you can sort deals based on those special occasions. Need some prom accessories or Christmas decorations? The Occasions section will point you in the right direction.
Ultimately, you can find some really great deals and discounts through Groupon, and some might be right in your hometown. There are some considerations to take before you start buying off Groupon, though.
Why Not to Use Groupon
Because Groupon isn’t selling you anything directly, they cannot help you if a retailer doesn’t follow through with what they promised. As we said before, Groupon is just a middle-man between you and the retailer. They help you find the deal and they help the business find you.
Read the fine print
This is one of the biggest complaints against Groupon in general, that consumers miss the fine print on the deals they buy. Unfortunately, this really isn’t Groupon’s fault, but it is the largest source of their negative reviews. This is why it’s critical that you read every aspect of the deal you’re buying into. Sometimes shipping might be extremely expensive, or your item might not get mailed for weeks after your purchase. Other times, retailers will restrict when you can redeem your coupons, so you have to pay attention.
One way to protect yourself is to see how many people have bought the item before you. If just a handful have picked it up, there might be something you’re missing about the deal. Reread everything before you click that “buy” button.
Always compare prices first
You might find a deal on Groupon that seems incredible at first glance – 35-50% off of retail seems amazing! If you look around, however, you might find the price on Groupon is artificially inflated to begin with. That means you’re getting 50% off an item that is listed at a higher price than you can find it elsewhere, like Amazon.
With so many options for discounted online shopping, it’s worth your time to compare prices around. Additionally, you might find that using Groupon with Honey, Rakuten, or Retailmenot offers even bigger discounts. Don’t be afraid of shopping around and trying additional coupons to get the best price.
Knockoffs and cheap production
A lot of newer companies use Groupon to get the word out about their product, and you can find great deals this way. Unfortunately, Groupon is a platform that counterfeiters use to sell namebrand knockoffs posing as the real thing. Everything from shoes to Pokemon cards are faked and sold every day on the platform.
Fake goods are another source of the large amounts of complaints against Groupon, but again, it’s not directly their fault. When fraudulent sellers are reported, they do a great job of removing them, but they can’t get them all.
Pay close attention to what you’re buying, and remember that you need to use common sense. If the price is too good to be true, it probably is.
Alternatives to Groupon
Groupon is the oldest online coupon site, but it’s not necessarily the best. A lot of other companies have sprung up in the last few years and they all operate just a little differently. Let’s take a look at some of the best of the bunch.
Groupon vs Honey
Honey is extremely simple to use, and with good reason – its browser extension has been fine-tuned to find deals. All you have to do is download the add-on and it automatically finds you coupon codes before you checkout online. This means that no matter what you’re buying, Honey will find any deals available and get them applied to your cart.
Groupon finds you discounted goods and services, whereas Honey finds you discounts on things you’re already shopping for. They work differently but ultimately the aim is the same – to save you money. What’s even better is that Honey can be used with Groupon to add layers of savings!
They occupy similar spaces, but they’re not mutually exclusive. The biggest benefit to Honey over Groupon, however, is that Honey will always find you the best discount. Groupon only lists the deals they have directly available.
Groupon vs Rakuten
Like Honey, Rakuten (formerly Ebates) finds you discounts for shopping online, but it adds a cash-back feature as well. The money you earn back (usually between 1-10%) goes into your account, and you get a “big fat check” quarterly. It’s a great system and it really pays off – we’ve earned significant amounts of money back through shopping on Rakuten.
Groupon doesn’t give you cash back, but you can get very large discounts. Like with Honey, you can use Rakuten in tandem with Groupon and it can lead to substantial savings.
Groupon vs Snagshout
One platform that is as close to Groupon as you might find is Snagshout. This website lists deeply discounted items from Amazon.com – sometimes they’re even free for Snagshout members. You’re encouraged – but not required to – write an honest review of the item after you receive them.
The more you buy and search on the platform, the better it learns what you like. They’ll send you emails with deals that are relevant to your interests each week. Really nice deals sell out very quickly, so you want to be aware of them as soon as possible making these emails pretty wonderful.
Is Groupon worth it?
While the business model of Groupon has changed a lot since it started, it’s still worth checking out. You can find great discounts on food, hotels, or entertainment in your area. Still, there might be restrictive terms when cashing in coupons or deals, so remember to read the fine print.
You can find some great products on Groupon as well, often at huge discounts. Remember that those big discounts might be on a price that is higher than it would normally be. Always be sure to price compare with Amazon or whatever other retailers you frequent.
Sites that are similar to Groupon like Honey and Rakuten can often be used at the same time, so be sure to stack those deals! Check out Snagshout, too – you can find incredible discounts or even free items if you have an Amazon account. You have to be quick before the deals sell out!
Overall, Groupon has revamped itself into a decent place to find deals on goods and services. While the discounts might not be as tremendous as they were 5 years ago, the experience is a lot more user friendly now. I already recommend Honey and Rakuten, and I believe you should add Groupon to your list of online shopping tools as well.
Have you had a great (or not so great) experience with Groupon? I’d love to hear about it in the comments!