6 tips for buying a daily deal

With all of the doom and gloom surrounding Groupon, which reached yet another all-time low in trading today, I thought it would be useful to write up my best practices for buying Groupons and other daily deals.

Yes, despite being Groupon’s toughest critic, I’m also one of its best customers and a Groupon whale. I’ve purchased more than 18 Groupons, well above the company’s average of 4 and median of 1.

Here are six tips for avoiding trouble with deals:

1. Read the fine print carefully. As the market has matured, businesses are getting savvier about how to run deals and they often come with more restrictions. My favorite place to go in New York when I’m drunk on a Friday night is Crif Dogs. They just ran a Groupon,  but it’s not valid on Friday nights or all day Saturday. It’s also not valid for my favorite item: chili cheese fries.

2. Don’t rely on overly broad promises like the Groupon Promise. These may be aspirational, but often don’t mean what you think they mean. Inconceivable!

3. Buy only deals you expect to use within the next 60 days. Within that time, you can dispute your purchase with your credit card company.

4. Avoid larger ticket deals. These are the ones that create the most risk for you. They are also generally the ones with the smallest percentage discounts because companies like hotels know how to play the game.

5. Buy your deals on an American Express card. I’ve never been disappointed with the handling of disputed purchases on my American Express cards. Note that this does not apply if your card is issued by an American Express licensee. I’ve had a really hard time getting credit for a fraudulent transaction on an AmEx card issued by Pentagon Federal Credit Union.

6. Buy deals from providers like AmazonLocal or Google Offers. There’s no meaningful risk of insolvency here.

Rocky Agrawal is an analyst focused on the intersection of local, social and mobile. He is a principal analyst at reDesign mobile. Previously, he launched local and mobile products for Microsoft and AOL. He blogs at http://blog.agrawals.org; and tweets at @rakeshlobster.

[Top image credit: wrangler/Shutterstock]

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