Facebook, Jump On It, LivingSocial, your Uncle Rick with his crazy business ideas. Everyone's getting in on online coupons now. But what's the proper method in using them? Are you committing cheapo faux pas left and right? The High Low instructs.Maybe Groupon's pending IPO doesn't reflect their profits (or lack thereof). Or it's possible daily deals sites aren't as appealing to consumers as they once were. And even former employees are foretelling doom for some voucher sites. We've heard it all. That said, do we think daily deals are about to evaporate? Of course not! So while Jump On It, LivingSocial and their ilk are all alive and kicking, let's talk about how to be a responsible coupon user, by which we mean, a polite one. Think of this as an Emily Post-style guide to daily deals manners, if Ms Post was alive today and interested in half-off bikini waxes.
Special Occasions and Vouchers Don't Mix
Call us sentimental -- or high maintenance! -- but if you're going out for an anniversary, celebrating a birthday, or goodness gracious, proposing at a restaurant, you should be paying full price. Really, just imagine it: "Happy 29th birthday, babe, now let me just have that awkward conversation about this coupon for spending $20 for $40 worth of food with our server who didn't know about the offer." Cool experience, right?
If you're using a coupon, then, well, you're using a coupon. Don't be afraid to succinctly and straightforwardly mention it to your server, salon receptionist or salesperson at the start of your experience. "I'm using a voucher you offered on [insert daily deals site here] . Do you need the form or anything else from me?" Not to sound like a grandma, or Ben Franklin over there, but an ounce of prevention is worth… you know the rest. And that's all it takes to preempt any potential payment confusion after you've eaten or had your knitting lesson.
It's Not OK to Give a Voucher as a Gift, Except in Certain Cases
What about just up and giving someone a voucher for a gift? We're issuing a hesitant… yes… on this one, so long as it's done with extremely careful consideration of the recipient and the item or service in question. Oh, and keep in mind the nature of how daily deals operate means your giftee will likely know how much your present cost. So it's probably best to stick with people you know really well, and whom you're sure will appreciate the experience above all else, if you're venturing into this territory.
An Exception to the Gift Rule: When the Voucher is for a Shared Experience
We'd hate for this to be a list of all no's, so here's a discount-manners-approved yes: buying two vouchers, and using one as a gift for a shared experience with a friend or boyfriend or cousin or whatever, is totally OK. Say you and your bestie aren't usually "spa types", but you're planning a hangout and there's a discount on a combined mani-pedi at some fancy salon? Great, buy two! That sounds like a nice time, and a fun way to do something different on a budget.
Respect Professionals -- Even Discounted Ones
Acupuncture, botox injections, skydiving instruction -- certification for all those things requires real education, no? Sure, this is a discount experience for you, and maybe one you're trying on a whim because of the light overhead, but the person injecting or instructing you has made a career out of it and has funded said career. Besides tipping accordingly, treat them with the respect you would if you were more heavily invested in the class or procedure. Or at least do so because acupuncture, Botox, and jumping out of a plane can all go horribly wrong, and you should (hopefully) both have and show faith in the person in charge of those activities.
If Something Goes Awry, Do Your Research on Why
Should you experience some kind of irretrievable snafu as a result of mis-coordination between a business and the daily deals site with which it partnered, do your research to find out on which end things went wrong. (Call us biased, but we'd be more inclined to wonder if something misfired on the part of the quick-growing start-up than, say, an established restaurant).
No matter what, we'd be willing to try out the seemingly offending business on a full-priced basis to find out definitively if, on their own, they indeed had their act together.
For Servers, Tip Tip Tip
Just tip at least 15 per cent of the original cost of the service you paid for with a coupon. Just do it. You already got a deal, don't nickel and dime your server/aesthetician/bartender -- especially because they likely had no say whatsoever in their place of employment's choice to offer a special. (Oz editor note: obviously, this is a US-centric focus on tipping, but it still will be appropriate in some cases.)
If Vouchers Just Aren't For You, Don't Use Them
If it gives you anxiety to figure out how to tip on a discounted total, you just can't wrap your mind around two-for-one waxing sessions, or if it sounds like a potential minefield to have to negotiate a little with a server whose manager forgot to tell the staff they were offering a deal, don't buy these things in the first place! Honestly, if the potential hassle means you'll just get a coupon only to leave it sitting, unredeemed, in a drawer (or your inbox), then wouldn't it save you more money -- and stress -- to forgo the purchase altogether?
Republished with permission from The HighLow.