Daily Deals Gone Wrong: 7 Stories

Deals That Really Are Too Good to Be True

Daily deal sites have attracted millions of customers in just a few years and have changed the way many consumers shop for everything from restaurants to flights, but not everyone is a fan. MainStreet heard from dozens of daily deal users who purchased vouchers from popular sites like Groupon and LivingSocial that seemed like a great buy at first, but ended up being much less than they bargained for. In some cases, customers purchased deals for smaller establishments that were overwhelmed by the demand and fumbled in processing their requests. In other cases, customers complained that the value listed for items included with the voucher didn’t quite match up with what the venue actually charged. My one bad experience with daily deals is similar to the latter. I purchased a voucher on Travelzoo for a dinner for two at an upscale Italian restaurant in New York City. The voucher cost $55 – more than I usually spend on daily deals – but was said to have a “total value of up to $135.” It turned out the “up to” were the operative words. Much of that value came from a bottle of wine included with the deal that was supposed to be worth $40, but the bottle that actually came with it was Gato Negro, which typically costs somewhere between $4-$10 depending on whether you’re shopping at a wine cellar or a gas station. Unfortunately, we had little choice as to what we ordered and resigned ourselves to a not great meal and a not great deal. For their part, the daily deal sites recognize that things sometimes do go wrong and do their best to make up for it when they can. Groupon, for example, works hard to ensure the quality of its deals by running the offers through eight to 13 quality-control tests and even takes steps to independently value what a deal is worth, but in some cases, matters are out of their hands. “There are situations outside of our control, for example if a merchant goes out of business,” says Julie Mossler, spokesperson for Groupon. “If your experience redeeming a Groupon ever lets you down, we will return your purchase and go out of our way to make it right.” Likewise, LivingSocial tries to vet the businesses it partners with and respond to consumer complaints if and when they come. “We work very hard to make sure they provide a real value and a real deal, and we have actual sales people who go in and meet with the merchant to make sure they are doing that,” says Brendan Lewis, spokesman for LivingSocial. “If we get wind that things are being changed – it’s very rare – then we absolutely go back to the merchant and say we are getting a lot of complaints.” In these cases, the site might work to refund the customer who complained or even cancel the deal outright and refund everyone, depending on the situation. Here are stories from seven customers MainStreet spoke with who had less-than-pleasant experiences redeeming their vouchers, despite all the efforts that these and other sites have made to ensure this doesn’t happen. Photo Credit: Getty Images