Why “Great Deals” Aren’t So Great For Your Bank Account
Restaurant vouchers, special offers on hotel stays, grocery coupons, and just generally saving money through hot internet deals… It seems to be all the rage at the moment. Extreme couponing is covered in the news, sites like Groupon have a huge buzz around them, and with the dire economic state at the moment, every business seems to be promoting one deal after another. 3-for-2! Buy one, get one free! 10% off!!! It’s all tempting, and the potential savings to be made can be huge, no doubt about it. 2-for-1 on my favorite fruit bars? I think I will have a dozen please!
The holy grail seems to be where you can actually get store credit (the money off is more than the actual cost of the product) through a strategic use of coupons. Who wouldn’t want to be a modern day consumerist Sun Tzu and outwit a big supermarket by getting them to give you money?
Recently I decided to wise up when it comes to vouchers and special offers. My weekly shop is getting more and more expensive, and with all these stories of super savings I don’t want to miss out. The internet should be a great tool for this sort of thing so, out of curiosity I signed up to Groupon and Livingsocial… and subsequently unsubscribed a week later.
There were some nice deals to be had, certainly. 51% off a stay at an hotel with a free spa treatment thrown in? Nice. But, when was I actually going to go on this holiday? Not when they wanted me to, that was for sure. And for all that I might save it would have still been £100+ that I wouldn’t otherwise have spent.
And that is the problem with any special offer, no matter how good it might sound. A business doesn’t do it for their own satisfaction. There are any number of reasons why a company might offer 50% off their products, but it will almost certainly have little to do with being charitable and almost all to do with trying to grab your custom. If an hotel wants to ensure its rooms are filled during a quiet period, offering a “special deal” is a surefire way to do it. Making a saving is always a big buzz, and they know it.
If they are incentives to buy something you’d usually get anyway then great, but if you are buying something purely because there is money to be saved, that’s not so great. Half-price cookery classes, a third off bungee jumping, huge savings on tango lessons… are you doing them because you genuinely want to or because they are going cheap?
There are examples that have been reported about how people can knock hundreds of pounds off their grocery shopping through obsessive voucher collecting, but it doesn’t give the full picture. They often have to buy more than they otherwise would in order to qualify for the special offers, purchase brands and goods they might not otherwise consider, and even purchase inferior quality or less healthy options. What’s better? Buying £100 of (any) groceries and getting 50% off, or buying £50 of groceries you will actually eat and not waste?
Yes, that’s a convenient example, but it does emphasize the fact the sums behind these offers often don’t add up, particularly when you consider issues like sell-by dates. And isn’t it annoying how you never get coupons for the stuff you genuinely like, or regularly buy? Should I compromise buying my usual favorite pizza for a less tasty (and less healthy) one that happens to have a half-price sticker on it? And don’t get me started on the amount of time spent toiling around the internet to find any coupon that you might genuinely use.
Regardless of the savings to be made on the surface, there is nothing cheaper than not buying something. Wouldn’t it be refreshing, particularly in this current climate, if businesses ditched this obsession with flashy special deals that might last a week or a month, and look at knocking down the prices of their products generally?