From meal deals to discount days out, bargain breaks to reduced rates on home and garden wares. You name it; it’s probably listed on a group buying website. So why am I so sceptical about these offers?
Big discounts always make wonder, ‘what’s the catch?’, which is probably why I’ve never bought anything through a group buying website where discounts are up to 95%.
Surely these offers are too good to be true? While group buying sites provide you with plenty of ways to save money, our research has found they’re still regularly overstating the benefits and the true value of the discounts on offer.
Too good to be true?
For example, discounts on holidays or short breaks are often worse than they first appear. This is because they don’t tend to include additional charges such as luggage fees or transfers between the airport and the resort. Personally, I find this incredibly frustrating and off-putting.
I’d much prefer to see group buying sites take additional fees and charges into account before calculating their discount. If it means the difference between a deal being 30% cheaper instead of 50% cheaper, I wouldn’t care, as it will still be cheaper than anywhere else, right?
Our research also found that sometimes it’s possible to buy some goods and services offered by these sites, particularly household products and theatre tickets, cheaper elsewhere.
For example, on KGBdeals a black Vivitar DVR508 HD camcorder was listed at a discounted £24.99, plus £5.29 postage and packaging, down from £59.99. We found the same model in red on Amazon for £16.99 while black was £25, both including postage and packaging. It just goes to show you should always shop around.
A slap on the wrist
In March 2012, the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) reprimanded Groupon for issues with its pricing, advertising, unfair terms and conditions as well as refunds. While the OFT says it’s been encouraged by the changes Groupon has made over the last few months, the regulator has now turned its gaze to 35 other group buying websites in the UK by telling them to raise their standards.
This can only be a good thing, as I think most of these sites need only make a few small tweaks to turn a good concept into a brilliant one. In fact, more than 60% of people we asked said they were happy with group buying sites. Still, many said they’d had trouble with delayed deliveries, disappointment with the quality of goods or services and difficulties booking appointments.
These sites could also help people by showing how they calculate their discounts. Offers are often based on the maximum you could pay rather than what you might realistically expect to pay if you shopped around or booked in advance. Having that information available is vital for people to work out whether a discount is as good as it first looks.
Do you think group buying sites need to up their game?