Groupon. LivingSocial. Yipit. Plum District. SlickDeals. HotDeals. Google Offers…

The internet seems to be increasingly littered with deal sites offering everything from BOGO (buy one, get one) deals at restaurants to discounts on teeth whitening. I’ve bought a few offers from some of these sites before, but only for restaurants or services I was planning on trying anyway.

The thing is this…you need to be very careful when making these types of purchases. Not all deals are good deals. I once saw a Groupon for a restaurant offering $30 worth of food for $15. Pretty decent right? Well, when I went to the restaurant website to check out their menu, I found out that they were going out of business, and all of their entrees were half off. On top of that, they had very poor reviews on Yelp! It seemed like the restaurant made a last ditch effort to bring in some business.

Another time, I wanted to buy a hotel package for a quick trip to Monterey. Good thing I called the hotel first, because when I asked them about their Groupon offer, they told me they had a bunch of black-out dates. None of the dates I wanted were available. The representative wasn’t very friendly either.

Have you ever noticed that when you try to redeem deals, it seems like the service you get is worse than if you were to just pay full price? On more than one occasion, people have seemed annoyed when I told them I had an online offer. I don’t know about you, but service is important to me, so that aspect is a bit irritating. Don’t offer a deal if you don’t want people to use it! Anyway, I seldom buy deals online anymore, and even when I find a good one, I usually have to ignore it because I know I probably won’t have time to use it.

Coincidentally, I have a friend who obsessively checks the deal sites and buys at least one offer per week. Over time, she’s accumulated so many deals that she can no longer keep track of what she’s already bought. Because of that, many of her coupons expire before she can redeem them. She admits that she hasn’t saved much money this way. Yet, she continues to buy…

She rationalizes her purchases by saying she can explore new restaurants and try new things. That’s fine, but when is too much, too much? My friend now has vouchers to 2 gyms, 2 yoga studios and 1 kickboxing class – but she’s lucky if she even makes it to 2 yoga sessions per week. For the cumulative price she paid for all those offers, she could have bought a full membership to Equinox!

Anyway, the point is this – when you buy deals online, make sure that it is for something you will actually use. Do a little bit of research to see whether the “deal” is a legitimate deal. Otherwise, you might be throwing cash down the online money drain.