I like saving money and getting bargains. (Is this a surprise to anyone who knows me? No).
So you might think that I’m really really into sites like Groupon. (If you’ve been somehow living in an underground bunker for the last couple of years, Groupon and the many many knock-offs of Groupon let you buy gift certificates for outings, restaurants, hotels, etc at a large discount – usually around 50% off).
And I’ve bought a few Groupons here and there (one just recently for this little food truck called MamboBerry in Austin – the menu will make you want to die of happiness), mainly because somehow some people signed up long ago through my link and I got some credit. And so by “bought” I mean, “not bought, but rather got for free.”
Also, I have a little stash of credit to the more local Morgan’s Deals because they kept giving out coupon codes for $10 off, so I’d “buy” something for $10 and then tell other people about it and THEY’D get free stuff too and I got credit for that, etc. Bart and I went on a couple of nice little dates for free ice cream, pizza, and cupcakes (including one memorable night at Baskin Robbins where Bart barely got through his double scoop and I put away, almost effortlessly, a triple scoop (and each scoop was the size of a tennis ball). He was impressed. I was a little horrified. Also full.).
Additionally, I have some Mamapedia credit which I will likely never spend because they never have anything I’m interested in.
And, Juice in the City just recently launched in Austin and by signing up early I got some credit there which I’ve already spent because they’ve actually had some interesting deals (although you don’t get referral credit on their extra-good deals which makes SHARING their good deals less tempting, which is, I think, a mistake on their just-launched part. But what do I know?).
(By the way, I don’t get emails from any of these places – I’ve filtered them all straight to my trash folder, so I just look at the sites when I remember to).
So yes, I like the concept of getting big discounts to restaurants and things.
But I can’t stop wondering how good of a deal this is for the businesses themselves.
I understand, of course, that the idea is for people to try out somewhere new and be so enthralled that they go back again and again. And that they’re only paying for customers who actually come in, rather than, say, advertising on a billboard where they pay up front, regardless of how much traffic it drives.
But it’s a high cost for businesses, since you pay about 50% of the regular cost and then they only get half of THAT. So they’re generally getting around 25% of your meal food, comping the other 75%.
(Also, I recognize that lots of restaurants expect you to buy some beverages of the adult variety when you go out to eat, and since we don’t drink, well, that doesn’t work out for the restaurant’s bottom line very well).
I’m conflicted on the whole thing – not so conflicted that I won’t use my free credits, of course – but I’m not really wild about supporting Groupon and the like either, since they’ve basically just put themselves between the business and the consumer (which is why I like the free credit because then Groupon isn’t paid; the discount comes entirely out of their pocket. I think).
Of course, in a crowded marketplace, businesses need SOME way to get their name out there.
On the other hand, as deal sites pop up like crazy (one of the Austin blogs I read listed FORTY ONE local deal sites recently), I wonder if people are just more likely to hop from one Groupon-ed meal to another, trying tons of new restaurants and outings, instead of, as the restaurant probably hopes, developing a deep and long-lasting loyalty to a particular place, where they will return month after month to spend scores of real money.
I try to ease my guilt by leaving really good tips when we go out, but still, I always feel badly about paying by Groupon (except that one time we went with Landen and Adam to this cupcake and ice cream place that was so terrible I would have been angry for days if I’d paid real money for it. The ice cream appears to have been made with flavored Crisco. All four cupcakes with sub-par).
Am I the only one who is way over thinking this? (And of course, if you sign up through my links and I get credit, I won’t be complaining about that either. So maybe I’m just a raging hypocrite).