"I never lack for new discounted places to go, food to eat or planes to jump out of."
Last month, for fun, I considered joining Cardinal Fitness in Westerville, eating at Bernard’s Tavern in the Short North, taking five dance classes at Arthur Murray and getting a salt glow pedicure at Simply Elegant Nails on Morse Road.
I’m not naturally inclined to such eclectic interests and whims. These offers come to my e-mail inbox.
There are many daily coupon websites (Groupon, most famously) that offer everything from teeth whitening to tandem skydiving. Subscription is free and most deals start around 50 percent off. I never lack for new discounted places to go, food to eat or planes to jump out of.
Websites that use the collective power of Internet shoppers are the latest spending fad. They likely are the only thing Glenn Beck and Melissa Rivers have in common besides a penchant for shouting. Rivers, daughter of Joan, introduced shoparatti.com in May, featuring everything from bikinis to Bulova watches. Beck followed a few days later with markdown.com through his Mercury Radio Arts company. Sample deal: a NASCAR racing experience.
But while both of these sites offer deals to the visitor, the Groupon free subscription model provides a kind of couch potato tourism, bringing the offer to you.
It would be easy to take buying the daily coupons to extremes, however. I know someone who won’t let her spouse sign up because of that person’s weakness for “one-click” shopping. The deals are an endless bargain buffet; if you bought every site’s offer for laser hair removal (a popular featured deal), you’d have to be a yeti to make use of them all.
There are two main approaches to coupon tourism: only buy deals for places you already go or purchase them as an excuse to try new things.
Some people seem to live for the thrill of going to unknown places just because they’re priced under the retail cost. I sat next to a woman in a nail salon recently who had all of her Groupons printed out and secured in a small photo album, like a flipbook of frugality. She was raving about a restaurant in Granville she’d eaten at with a coupon that she never would have visited otherwise. After getting her pedicure—purchased with a Groupon, naturally—she was off to dinner with friends to use another.
As long as you don’t mind your social calendar being dictated by your discounts, this seems like an adventurous way to shop. But each deal also comes with an expiration date, and the thought of racing to get a massage on a tight deadline might suck the relaxation out of it. I recently let a $20 Groupon to an Indian restaurant expire because the mood for curry never struck, but I hated to waste dough (and naan).
I’ve also purchased a couple of deals as a way to nag myself: Kurtz Bros. landscaping through Living Social so I’d get around to mulching, and auto detailing through Groupon so I’d have to get my car cleaned. I also fully intend to use the discounted hot yoga classes I purchased from a Worthington studio, in the hopes that I turn out to be less lazy than I am cheap. (I’d rather exercise than lose money. I hope.)
Generally, I enjoy that the sites introduce me to things and places around town I might not otherwise know about. Most offers have a broad appeal and there are very few duds.
In case I doubted the hipness of the sites, as I was finishing this column I checked my Groupon for the day: It was for a half-off subscription to this magazine.