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Once upon a time, a Chicago cocktail lounge called Motel Bar ran a half-price offer on pizza. The special offer was launched on a site called Groupon, an online platform dedicated to advertising independent businesses by featuring their deals for a limited time.


After Motel Bar launched the world’s very first Groupon, restaurants, shops, and other businesses around the country followed suit. Today, Groupon serves 500 markets in 48 countries, in North America, South America, Europe, Asia, and beyond. Groupon hooks users up with deals on activities, services, travel, products, and more from businesses of all kinds. The e-commerce marketplace currently has nearly 50 million subscribers who actively purchase and redeem Groupon deals.



As a current subscriber or a curious potential customer, you can learn everything you need to know about Groupon in this review. Below, our savings specialists reveal how Groupon works, how to use the site, the best and worst things to buy on Groupon, and more.


How Groupon Works

On a mission to connect consumers with their local businesses, Groupon offers savings on things to taste, explore, try, and buy. The e-commerce marketplace brings consumers digital super coupons, launching deals of up to a staggering 90% off regular price. Groupon features three primary divisions of deals:


Local Deals. Before branching out to travel and shopping, Groupon began as a platform for Local Deals. These types of Groupons include deals on restaurants, classes, fitness centers, salons, services, and other businesses in your area. Local Deals also incorporate special offers on tickets to concerts, shows, and other events.


Getaways. In 2011, Groupon launched a travel deal platform called Groupon Getaways. Getaways feature thousands of deals on hotels, tours, and vacation packages to destinations around the world, including the U.S., Latin America, Europe, and Asia. Groupon Getaways are broken into two primary categories:

  • Flash Deals. These include discounts of 15% to 70% on three- to five-star hotels. Flash Deals are typically only available for 10 to 16 days.
  • Market Picks. These are hotels, tours, and vacation packages offered at a particularly good value. Market Picks are competitive with other travel sites and come with 5% Groupon Bucks to sweeten the offer. The Groupon Bucks can be used to purchase anything on, including deals on restaurants, activities, and attractions around your vacation destination.


Groupon Goods. Groupon released Groupon Goods in 2011. Goods include deep discounts on electronics, apparel, home goods, groceries, and other products you can purchase online. Many tech products are certified refurbished from top brands.


How to use Groupon


With its intuitive interface and user-friendly features, navigating Groupon can be straightforward. Here’s how to unlock the secrets of the site and discover the best deals:


1. Create an account. Though you may browse deals without registering, you must create a Groupon account in order to purchase and redeem a deal. To sign up for Groupon, you need only provide your name and email address and create a password.


2. Personalize your profile. After registering, you have the option to personalize your profile with your local cities and interests. You can even provide your work address and frequently visited cities to get more personalized results. You will also be asked to enter a gender and home address and pick your favorite types of deals from a variety of categories, including:

  • Foodie
  • Fresh Air
  • Home Improvement
  • Good for Kids
  • Pampered
  • Pet Lover
  • Healthy Living
  • Adrenaline
  • Road trip
  • Will Call
  • New Car Smell


At any point, you may revisit your account to add new interests and cities.


3. Link your credit card. In addition to traditional deals, Groupon offers Cash Back Deals that you can claim for free to earn cash back at restaurants. To start earning, link an eligible Visa credit card to your Groupon account. When you stumble upon a cash back deal that interests you, you can claim the deal without having to put down any money upfront. When you dine at the restaurant associated with the deal, pay with your linked Visa card to activate cash back rewards. Depending on the terms of the deal, anywhere from 10% to 40% of your check will be credited to your card within a few days.


4. Look for Groupon promo codes. After signing up for Groupon, keep an eye on your inbox. Not only will you regularly receive new deals based on your area and interests, you’ll also get emails with sales and limited-time promo codes throughout the week. Groupon promo codes are available for a specified time—typically a day or two—and can be applied sitewide or to a specific category of Groupons, such as spa deals or Goods. In the past, we’ve seen promo codes good for anywhere from 25% – 95% off.


5. Download the Groupon app. You can download the Groupon app for free to purchase and redeem Groupons on the go. The app will alert you when new sales and promo codes are released.


6. Refer a friend. Let your friends in on the savings by sharing your personalized link. You will get $10 in groupon bucks when they sign up and buy their first deal!


7. Keep an eye on expiration dates. Before you buy a deal, make sure you find the expiration date so you know how long you have to use it. Often times activity or service packages only last a short time, so it can be easy to put off an activity until it’s too late. However, if you find yourself with an unused expired groupon there are a few things you can do:


  1. Resell Your Groupon Coupon
  2. Swap Your Groupon
  3. Contact the Business Where the Deal Is Being Offered
  4. Ask Groupon to Intervene on Your Behalf
    If you have exhausted all of your other options and have come up empty-handed, try calling Groupon to see if they will intervene on your behalf. A friend of mine had purchased a Groupon deal that allowed her to get her carpets cleaned for a fraction of what the service would cost otherwise. She procrastinated to the point where she had just a few days to either use her deal or lose the promotional value. The carpet cleaning company refused to extend the expiration date of her deal, so she called Groupon and asked them if they would help her work with the carpet cleaning company. Groupon obliged her request and were able to negotiate extended terms with the carpet cleaners.


How Much You Can Save with Groupon


As a Groupon user, you can purchase experiences, meals, goods, and more at deep discounts. According to the site, you can save “hundreds on stuff you do every week” CHECK.


We wanted to find out how much you can save with Groupon for ourselves. Our savings specialists examined Local, Goods, and Getaways deals across all categories in different markets, and found that your average Groupon will save you 50% off regular price. Below, we’ve shared some of our findings, outlining the Groupon and non-Groupon cost of several typical activities, services, and products:


60 days of unlimited yoga classes

  • Merchant: Modo Yoga Austin
  • Deal type: Local
  • Regular price: $280
  • Groupon price: $61.50
  • Discount: 78%
    Total savings with Groupon: $218.50


One haircut with blow-dry

  • Merchant: Ringolevio Salon
  • Deal type: Local
  • Regular price: $75
  • Groupon price: $41
  • Discount: 45%
    Total savings with Groupon: $34


New York City sightseeing tour on double-decker bus

  • Merchant: TopView Sightseeing
  • Deal type: Local
  • Regular price: $64 for one person
  • Groupon price: $30 for one person
  • Discount. 53%
    Total savings with Groupon: $34


60-minute Swedish massage


General admission to ID10T Fest, Saturday only

  • Merchant: ID10T Fest
  • Deal type: Local
  • Regular price: $81.65
  • Groupon price: $30
  • Discount: 63%
    Total savings with Groupon: $51.65


Stay for two in deluxe studio at beach resort

  • Merchant: Villa del Palmar Puerto Vallarta
  • Deal type: Getaways
  • Regular price: $262+ per night
  • Groupon price: $76+ per night
  • Discount: 71%
    Total savings with Groupon: $186


Stay for up to four in a one-bedroom villa

  • Merchant: Oak Plantation Resort
  • Deal type: Getaways
  • Regular price: $109+ per night
  • Groupon price: $49+ per night
  • Discount: 55% 
    Total savings with Groupon: $60


Eight-day guided China tour with hotel and airfare

  • Merchant: Rewards Travel China
  • Deal type: Getaways
  • Regular price: $2,099 per person
  • Groupon price: $799 per person
  • Discount: 62% 
    Total savings with Groupon: $1,300


Proscan 55" HDTV


Apple MacBook Air 11.6-inch laptop (refurbished)

  • Merchant: Apple
  • Deal type: Goods
  • Regular price: $929
  • Groupon price: $749.99
  • Amazon price: $649.99
  • Discount: 19% 
    Total savings with Groupon: $179.01
    Total savings with Amazon: $279.01



What to Buy (and Not to Buy) on Groupon



Offering an average of 50% off regular price in savings, many Groupons are a great deal. However, certain types of Groupon offers should be purchased with caution. To help you snatch up the sweetest savings while avoiding the duds, we’ve included recommendations on what to buy and skip on Groupon below:

  • Buy: Experience deals. Groupon is king when it comes to deals on experiences like dining, fitness, classes, and tours. With millions of users, Groupon can offer restaurants, gyms, and other businesses huge exposure in exchange for humongous discounts. Using a Groupon, you can enjoy meals, activities, and more for as much as 90% off, while getting a chance to check out new businesses in your area.
  • Skip: Goods. As we demonstrated in the cost comparison above, Groupon does not always have the lowest prices when it comes to products purchased online. Although Groupon offers electronics, home items, and other goods for less than their retail value, you may find superior deals on competitor sites. When we compared Groupon prices to Amazon rates, we found Amazon often offered products at a significantly lower cost. For instance, Groupon offered the Twin AC Pacific 8-inch memory foam mattress with aloe vera cover for $149.99, while Amazon offered the same product for $135.
  • Buy: Services. Groupon is a treasure trove of special offers on personal services, including grooming, house cleaning, dry cleaning, and auto. Because of Groupon’s wide reach, many local businesses are willing to offer dramatic discounts in the hopes of gaining exposure to potential repeat customers.
  • Skip: Hotels. Though the site does provide significant discounts on hotel stays, Groupon doesn’t always have the best deals. Before booking a vacation on Groupon, be sure to check sites like ExpediaTravelocity, or Hotwire where you could find lower prices, more convenient dates, or more perks.


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