published Saturday, May 21st, 2011

Phillips: Deal sites require fast action

COLUMN


by Ellen Phillips

Lots of readers have expressed interest in other columns about freebies or low-cost merchandise.

The Internet is, as you know, a great place to start, though some sites are better than others. Some of the best, in my opinion, are those that give us a deal-of-the-day (or week), whereby they negotiate special group rates with local service providers and restaurants and then sell vouchers to the public. I’ve enjoyed fine and eatery dining, massages, DVD services, classes, and several other great experiences — all for far less than what you might normally pay.

By and large, folks who live in or near major cities get the most benefit, but Chattanooga and its surrounding area get this bang for its residents’ buck, too. I’ve signed up for other cities to where I’ll travel this year, especially to save money at local restaurants.

• Chattadealz.com—A service of the Chattanooga Times Free Press, Chattadealz.com offers highly discounted merchandise every day for those who sign up to participate via email. Chattadealz is part of the Times Free Press website, which is the most-viewed news site in the region. Winners can print out an online gift card within 24 hours of the deal closing that day and redeem it at the local retailer’s location.

• Groupon.com—The largest of all these sites, all one must do is sign up to receive grand offers. Usually, their deals offer 50 percent to 90 percent off. The catch is to be quick; each deal hangs around for only one day and enough buyers have to sign up to make the deal for everyone.

• LivingSocial.com—While topics of interest resemble Groupon, restaurants, spas and theaters are most often featured and, again, available for just one day. On the other hand, the buyer doesn’t need

to worry if enough others sign up, you can still purchase the voucher regardless. In fact, if just three others agree to buy that day’s deal, you get yours free.

• BuyWithMe.com—This site isn’t available in as many regions as the first two. However, the deal hangs around for a full week.

• Restaurant.com—To me, this site isn’t necessarily as first-rate a deal as Groupon and Living Social, and one must be careful to read the fine print.

The site restricts which days of the week to use the coupons, and places a dollar amount of what you must spend to receive the voucher.

(For example, I bought a $50 voucher for $5. I thought I had a fine deal but later read where I must spend $100 to use the $50 voucher. Boy, was my face red.)

about Ellen Phillips...

Ellen Phillips is a retired English teacher who has written two consumer-oriented books. Her Consumer Watch column appears on Saturdays in the Business section of the paper. An expanded version is at www.timesfreepress.com under Local Business.

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