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Media > Newsletters > Consumer Advocate > August 2012 > Evaluating Online Deal Sites

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Evaluating Online Deal Sites

Purchasing a $20 gift card for just $10, buying a kitchen appliance at half price, and getting your bike tuned up at 40 percent off are some of the many savings that online deal sites offer.
The business model behind many online deals is the power of group buying. In some instances, if enough people sign up to get discount yoga classes at the local studio, then the site will release vouchers for the reduced class price, and everyone benefits. If not enough people sign up for the deal that day, then no one gets the discount. In other instances, businesses offer the discounts no matter how many people sign up. Businesses also may limit the total number of coupons that the site can sell for a particular deal.
The offers usually sound good, and in many cases, consumers are happy with the deals they receive. But there are a few precautions you should take before buying that next coupon.
Do your homework:
  • Read the fine print. Check the deal site’s terms, conditions, and other policies. Find out how it handles problems with businesses. See if you can cancel and get a refund.
  • Research the deal website’s reputation. Check with the Ohio Attorney General’s Office and the Better Business Bureau to see if other consumers have filed complaints.
  • Check the reputation of the business offering the service or deal. Even if the deal website provides reviews of the business, do your own research. Check with the Ohio Attorney General’s Office and the Better Business Bureau for any complaints.
  • Be mindful of any expiration dates or requirements. Many online deals have expiration dates or limitations on when the offer is available. If you have to schedule an appointment to take advantage of the deal, don’t wait until the last minute to book the appointment. Also, make sure you understand the average costs of the business’ products or services. A deal that gives you $50 worth of services for just $25 may not be such a good deal if the business’ basic services start at more than $100.
  • Report problems to the business and the deal website. If you experience a problem, first contact the business that provided the goods or service and try to reach a resolution. If that doesn’t work, contact the deal site. The deal site may agree to give you a refund or an adjustment, and it also may want to know about any problems with the businesses it works with.
  • Report complaints to the Ohio Attorney General’s Office. If you suspect unfair business practices from the deal site or the business, file a complaint with the Ohio Attorney General’s Office.