Group buying websites seem to be taking over the internet, bombarding us with offers of 90%-off laser exfoliation and half-price sushi if enough of us get on board. But are they actually as good as they make out?
The internet has an uncanny habit of making you feel like you’re out of touch, and I’ve just had my bubble burst, again.
Once I clambered out from under my proverbial rock and deleted my MySpace account, I hit the web to see what all the fuss was about.
Group buying sites operate much like traditional voucher sites, offering a significant discount on a luxury item you didn’t know you needed.
The difference is group buying vouchers are typically only on offer for one day, and need a group of people to sign up for them to be activated. Why? A group of people buying supposedly make the deals better for everyone.
Group buying sounds good
It’s big business too. In America, Google tried to buy the biggest such site, Groupon, and was turned down. Copy-cat sites have sprung up everywhere, with Time Out and eBay starting their own group buying sites. Even Google itself has launched ‘Google Offers’ – so if you can’t join them, beat them.
So, discounted products, a free subscription, and all the big players are on board – what’s the catch? Well, some critics have pointed out the nature of the products being offered. First of all they’re ‘luxury’ items.
Secondly, and perhaps more importantly, they’re often products whose true value is hard to ascertain – that discount may not be all it’s cracked up to be. Then there’s the trickier issues found buried in the terms and conditions around price, availability, and whether you can get your money back if something goes wrong.
Glorified voucher codes?
Personally I’m quite happy to be out of touch on this occasion. To me group buying sites are roughly similar to any other deal website out there, like a voucher code site, or promotions on a company’s own site.
A stopwatch counting down the seconds before a deal expires and a counter ticking away the number of people who’ve bought the deal just seems like a recipe for me to buy things I don’t need, and I don’t need a website to help me do that.
There’s also the issue of these sites offering cosmetic treatments, as highlighted by my colleague Joanna Pearl. Just today I found one offering a teeth whitening pen and laser hair removal. Such time limited cosmetic deals could make you buy a treatment without having he time to weigh up the medical implications.
So what do you make of group buying sites like Groupon? Are they really the deal they’re cracked up to be?
Do you use group buying websites, like Groupon?
No (38%, 378 Votes)
Yes (35%, 355 Votes)
Never heard of them (27%, 270 Votes)
Total Voters: 1,003