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Get Your Groupon!

September 23, 2010 - Phyllis Sigal

Have you heard of Groupon?

It's a wonderful thing, if you like bargains. And, anyone who knows me, knows I love a good bargain.

The only problem with Groupon is that it's a little too easy to spend money. With just a click, I can purchase the day's Groupon. Just one little click.

Way too easy.

This is how it works.

You sign up online or you download the Groupon Application to your iPhone (or other smart phone), and just about every day you receive an e-mail touting the day's Groupon. Your Groupon is based on your geographic location. For example, I get offers from the Pittsburgh area — restaurants, hair salons, shops, etc.

Today's Groupon might be a yoga class that would regularly cost $150 for a month. You can buy the Groupon for $50, thereby saving $100. You may be offered $20 worth of bagels for $10. (I got that one.) Or a $50 worth of merchandise at The Gap for jut $25. (Yep, got that one, too. Hey, that's way better than the 20 percent off coupons I get in the mail.)

The reason it's called a Groupon is that a certain number of people, a certain size group if you will, must purchase the bargain offer before it's official.

Today's Groupon is $15 for $30 worth of food at Pluma, a cafe in the Irwin section of Pittsburgh. As I write this, only 75 people want this deal, but 100 must purchase it to make it real. Each deal also tells you how much time is left in which to make your purchase. Some are good just for a day. At this moment, the Pluma Groupon has 3 days, 14 hours and 25 minutes left. 

Most deals limit the number you can buy. Some deals you can buy for a friend. All deals have "the fine print" section. Make sure you read it; it gives you expiration dates and other rules.

According to the Groupon website, $508,195,157 has been saved through the purchase of 12,194,993 Groupons. (And that's as of 11:23 p.m. Sept. 23. Those numbers increased by thousands just in the two hours from when I started to write this blog to when I posted it.)

The founder of Groupon is Andrew Mason, who was born in Pittsburgh, but moved to Chicago in 1999, where he lives today. From his photo on the website page, I'd say he's in his 20s. In 2007, he created The Point, which is a "ground-breaking approach to online collective action and fundraising." A year later, he founded Groupon, "leveraging the collective buying technology of The Point to make it easier (and cheaper) to experience all the great stuff in Chicago,"  according to his bio.

"Unbelievable customer service," "no BS" and "we sell stuff we want to buy" are some of the catch phrases used on the website.

"We want each Groupon purchase to feel too good to be true, from the moment you buy it to the day you use it."

I like that. I feel as if I'm not going to make a mistake in purchasing a Groupon. The only way you lose money, it appears,  is if you let your Groupon expire. My son bought that yoga class deal, mentioned above, but then moved out of the neighborhood before he got to use it. But, he also bought a Zip Car membership for a steal, and has put that to good use.

Of course, as with anything, there are lots of jabs at Groupon on various websites. Some have had less than positive results.

I'm pretty excited, however, to use my very first Groupon this weekend when I take my daughter out to dinner at the Sewickley Cafe.

I do look forward each day to see how I can save money with my Groupon! I don't quite feel addicted to it, as some have, but I'm glad to know that the Groupon people say this: "We want Groupon to be an addiction you can feel good about."

But, buyers beware. That addiction thing is out there looming. So approach Groupon with caution. And don't be just clicking away willy-nilly.

P.S. Today's deal is on now at Pluma ... as of right now 128 people clicked to buy. It "tipped" at 10:19 a.m. with 100 purchases. You've got three days, 12 hours and 31 minutes left to buy. ...



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