Why I Never Buy Groupons

Wow. That's an astonishing reduction.
Credit: flickr / Trevor Coultart

I signed up for Groupon (disclaimer: personalized link) and within the week came across this article on Posies cafe. Basically, the Groupon promotion they ran nearly shut them down and they had to raid their savings just to make payroll.

That made me a little wary, and when a restaurant I like came up I deliberately didn’t buy it because I was worried it would damage their business too (Ottawa is obviously smaller, and I asked when I went in, they said the promotion was good for them).

I unsubscribed from Ottawa and subscribed to Kitchener instead shortly before I moved. The only time I tried to buy one it was for a spa package, the week prior to my move when I was completely strung out and feeling a little insane. It wouldn’t accept my British credit card – grr – and so I didn’t get it.

I thought I wasn’t buying the Ottawa ones because I was moving, but I’m not buying the KW ones either. Some observations:

  • I don’t tend to impulse buy. So even when I see something that I might want, I leave it to come back to it later. Usually, I don’t.
  • I’m picky. Things like a hairdresser come up, but I have a recommendation for a hairdresser and I’m nervous about trying a different one – especially since that guy bleached the hell out of my hair.
  • Convenience is important to me. There was a Groupon for personal training. One of the things that I sorted out my first week here, was a trainer. But when I know I can get a trainer at the gym and that will be easier (in terms of routine) I don’t really want to try a trainer elsewhere.
  • Restrictions are annoying. Restaurants often have restrictions, which is another mental overhead – do I want to buy the weekend deal, or the weekday one? Yeah I go to this place, but not normally in the week and if they only have a weekday coupon, is it worth it?
  • Stuff I don’t want is spam. A recent deal of the day is Winemaking. I rarely even drink wine, and no desire to make it. Even if they were giving it away free, I wouldn’t register for one, and yet – it arrives in my inbox.
  • I’m not inclined to buy something because I might want it “at some point”. The biggest thing that stops me buying the Groupons I might well use, is not being able to see myself using it in the next week. I don’t want a trip to that restaurant, or a gift for someone from that shop to become yet another item on my todo list.
  • I can’t commit to an unknown, and don’t want a hard sell. I’m reluctant to buy service products because I’m concerned that they’ll try and push you into a follow up (where they’ll make the money the Groupon cost them back). I’m reluctant to buy something for a shop I haven’t been to, or bought something from before.

Really, what it comes down to is that for me, Groupon does not reflect the way I shop, or choose new restaurants.

For restaurants – plan then deal. I have dinner plans on Thursday. Brunch plans on Sunday. Knowing that, a service can make a recommendation and I’ll be inclined to try it (and it doesn’t have to be as great a deal). But the other way around feels like a bigger decision. I might be more inclined to do that if I had a boyfriend – because in a sense the plan to do something/spend time with someone would already exist.

Shopping. For me, there are two kinds of shopping:

  1. In search of something specific – i.e. to Clinique, or the Apple store for product X (that I’ve run out of). I rarely buy anything additional to what I went in search of. Clinique are good at capitalizing on this, for example, I try to time my trips with their gift, and sometimes I’ll buy a lipgloss or eyeshadow extra in order to have bought enough to get it. Note – the gift won’t get me into the store, that’s a (perceived) need on my part. But it will get me an extra product.
  2. A theme. I.e. I’m looking for clothes for work, or I’m looking for gym clothes. I go into stores that support my theme (i.e. I don’t go to the sports store when my theme is work clothes) and I buy a lot of stuff in one go. A coupon or a discount might get me into an on-theme store, but it’s likely to be saved for later if the store is off-theme (only to be abandoned when I decided I need to get home for tea).

There’s so much more that can be done with shopping, especially if we add social and learn about people’s behaviour. I still don’t know where to shop in Canada, but if a service could look at my shopping habits on foursquare or on my credit card bill, and tell me where I should be going based on other people who shop like me?

That would be really helpful. And a discount would just be a bonus.

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