When Is A Groupon A Good Deal? Six Things To Consider.

Man, I love Groupon and Living Social (and a few others, but those are definitely my favorites)!  It’s a little embarrassing how much I look forward to seeing what businesses have new deals each morning.

But, as I’ve used these sites more and more, it’s become apparent that there are some great deals, and there are some that are not, particularly when you’re looking at deals for online merchants rather than local businesses.  Here’s six things to consider when deciding whether to purchase that voucher:

1. How much is shipping?  Does the voucher cover shipping?

Shipping can be a killer on Groupon deals.  Always check out the shipping costs before you purchase a Groupon.  A few companies do allow the voucher to be applied towards shipping (like this frequent deal for Picaboo photo books), but not many.

It’s especially important to look at the cost of shipping on a low-value Groupon.  I didn’t realize it until days later, but that Bath and Body Works Groupon deal that allowed you to get $20 to spend for $10, or $30 for $15 was not that great of a deal after you factored in shipping of $6.99.  It was still a discount, but the $20 Groupon really only saved you about $3 once you paid $7 in shipping.  Obviously, the $30 Groupon was a little better, but not that much.

2. How are the merchant’s prices compared to where I normally shop?

It doesn’t much matter if you got a Living Social deal for 50% off – if their prices are twice as high as the store you normally shop at, it doesn’t save you any money!

I would highly recommend checking out prices before buying a deal for a business you’ve never purchased from before.  I’ve fallen into the trap of buying deals where I used referral credit to pay for it, thinking “hey, it’s free to me!” but then once I more thoroughly looked at their prices, I could barely bring myself to use the voucher on such overpriced items!

3. Do I have a specific purpose for this voucher?

Yes, 50% off is a a great deal, but not if you don’t need it!  Before you buy a voucher, make sure you always know exactly what you’re going to use it for.  If you’re buying a deal to use at a website that you think you’ll order a baby gift from, make sure you know what specific item or item you’ll be using it on.

4. Can I order from the “regular” website or menu, or is there a “special” one?

There have been a couple of instances lately where there have been businesses that offered a “special” menu to Groupon customers or something similar – take for instance, the trouble with the local Papa Murphy’s Groupon deal, or the backlash about the FTD Groupon deal.

With the Papa Murphy’s deal, it sounds like the franchisee decided to raise prices after running the Groupon deal.  This should never have happened unless it was disclosed to consumers before buying the deal that they would be required to order from a “special” menu.

With the FTD Groupon deal, it was not very clearly disclosed at all, but it was mentioned on the deal page that you would need to shop through a special section of the FTD site in order to redeem the Groupon.

This was perhaps the worst case of “fine print” I’ve seen: this Mamapedia deal was $25 for $50 to spend on Little Tikes toys – but required a $100 minimum purchase!  Needless to say, this “deal” didn’t make the cut for a blog post!

All that to say, make sure you read the fine print very clearly to ensure you know exactly what you’ll be able to order.  If there is a “special menu” for Groupon (etc) customers, it should absolutely be disclosed on the deal page so you can know before you purchase, and I hope they start making it a little clearer soon.

If you ever have problems with a merchant adding additional stipulations that were not indicated on the deal page or voucher, you should contact the company directly for a refund.

5. Can I use other coupons or coupon codes with this voucher?

Particularly with online deals, a Groupon or Living Social deal becomes a whole lot more valuable if you can combine it with other coupon codes.  This isn’t usually the case, as the voucher usually has to be input as a coupon code, and most sites don’t allow the use of multiple coupon codes on one transaction.

If the deal is for a site that does allow this, however, it can make the deal that much sweeter!

6. Will this deal make me spend more in the future?

I’m not a fan of the daily deals for stuff that really requires an ongoing committment to be useful.  Yes, if you were thinking about doing piano lessons anyway, 80% off of two lessons might be nice, but considering the fact that you’ll have to pay for hundreds more, it’s not really that great of a deal.

The same with gym memberships or fitness classes: if you like the Zumba classes you got a great deal on through Living Social, you’ll have to pay to continue – and then, is it really what you would have chosen if you hadn’t used the voucher?

Final Thoughts

When Jaime does the daily deal wrapups and we feature other deals, we do our best to make sure it’s actually a good deal by looking at shipping charges and minimum purchase requirements, but would encourage you to read the fine print every time so you know exactly what you’re getting.  And we really do appreciate when you point out the fine print that we missed!

Finally, we do appreciate when you buy daily deals through our links.  Some of the daily deal sites have programs for bloggers where we can earn a small percentage of the sale amount, which helps us be able to keep bringing you the daily deals and a whole lot more.

Got a question about daily deal sites or another caution? Please comment!

If you haven’t yet started earning referral credits and getting your daily deals free, make sure to read this post about how to earn Groupon (and other) referral credits!


  1. I had the same realization on the B&BW deal. I wanted a specific item (a CO Bigelow one) and luckily they went on sale (B2G1) but shipping really ate into the ‘great deal’ factor of that one. Especially since right after the deal, they were promoting a free shipping code, which of course you couldn’t use with the voucher…

    • Carrie,

      What was the problem with the Papa Murphys deal? I can’t follow your link because I don’t have a Facebook acount.

      • Heather, one of the locations made some Groupon customers order from a “special” menu that had higher prices. I don’t think it was actually a problem with Groupon in this case, more so with the franchisee. Still, something to be aware of.

  2. Thanks so much this was a great article!!

  3. I was so annoyed with the papa Murphy thing. The one on academy told me they recently lowered the prices so they charged me the price of the pizza before the price change since I bought the groupon before the price change. Of course they don’t tell you this before you order but after. I thought the lack of communications was really poor form on their part. They also don’t accept coupons at that one anymore because they claim that their prices are so much lower then other papa murphys.

  4. Here’s what I’ve experienced. Buy 1 for yourself and 1 additional as a gift. Then you get to a place, such as Color Me Mine and they say only 1 coupon per table. I said that’s not what the fine print said (never mentioned 1 per table). I was able to go back to Gazette.com and get a refund. Some sites allow you to ask questions before buying…take the time to ensure you interrupt the rules the same way as they do. The good news is we want the deals and this allows businesses/deals sites to be more creative in the ways they present deals (which could allow for groups of people (family) to attend). The purpose is to give exposure to the business and hopefully get repeat business…but for some of us, we need some type of deal/discount each time we visit some businesses in order to support them.