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Wednesday, July 20, 2011

On-line Coupons: Buyer Beware

As you are probably aware, online coupon sites like Groupon and have proliferated in the past year or so. It's easy to see why - there are some great deals to be had out there. And if a restaurant that you frequent is advertised, why not save some money on your next visit?
Be warned, though. I recently purchased a $25 coupon from my local pizzeria, for a price of $15. Not until I went to pick up our order of a sheet pizza and two dozen wings on a Sunday afternoon did I discover that the pizzeria does not honor these coupons on weekends.
Nowhere on the coupon is there any mention of a no-weekends policy. And while we neglected to mention the coupon when ordering, there is no mention of a policy about that either. The only restrictions noted on the coupon were the $35 minimum purchase requirement (which we met) and that it is valid for dine-in only. Now this was a takeout order, but that was not the reason given us for refusing to honor the coupon. The stated reason was that it was a Sunday, so even if we'd ordered it for dine-in, they would not have honored the coupon.
I later spoke to the owner, who told me, in effect, that he didn't know what he was signing up for when he agreed to this deal, and that he's cancelling his participation in this service (which apparently hasn't taken effect yet, since his pizzeria is still listed on their site). Although he assured me that he understood my being upset (gee thanks), his only substantive response was to say that he would honor the coupon on a weekday (which means we'd have to put in another $35 order), and to suggest that I contact the online service to seek a refund (yeah, good luck with that).
In short, I'm screwed. And while I don't blame the online service for what happened - it's not their fault if this guy didn't read his contract closely, or if he refuses to honor his own coupons - I'm not too inclined to buy any more of these things. If the business owner refuses to honor it, there's not much you can do about it. At the very least, I'd advise you to check with the business itself before you go shelling out money for one of these coupons.
Pizza Guy Update, July 29, 2011: I contacted and told them what happened and they did give me a credit good for a new $25 certificate. That's good customer service.


  1. I'm guessing you mean I've had no problems with Groupon but have run into similar issues with

    In addition, I've definitely noticed lousier or more cautious service from places when I'm using a coupon. Usually the server will cater to other tables before ours because they know we have to tip a mandatory 18%, as stipulated in's "coupons".

  2. I'm sorry, that's just poor customer service. It's not your fault that he didn't know what he was getting himself into. You should see if you could get your money back from the coupon place. Most coupon places (like Groupon) pay the establishments in three payments -- they say it's in case people ask for a refund. I personally think you should also print the name of the pizza place that did this, to forewarn other potential buyers of that coupon.

  3. Both good comments. I guess it can't hurt to contact the coupon site but I'm not going to get my hopes up.
    Tracy, I am really torn about naming the place. I understand about warning people, but I'm not trying to stick it to the guy and I like to help local pizzerias, not hurt them. I think if you see an offer online, you should be OK if you check with the establishment before you purchase the coupon to make sure there aren't any hidden restrictions.

  4. I have had similar issues with certs in the past and have learned that MOST are weekday only. As a safeguard I always call the restaurant to ask prior to purchasing and only buy them when the site has 70%-80% off deals. I have exchanged certs before with no problem because of restaurants backing out of the contract. It has been my experience that a lot of places sign up for this service and then change their minds when they lose money on the deals. I usually don't frequent the places that change their minds and do not warn customers though, because it's a kind of bait and switch.

  5. I recently ran into a problem with a newer sight I found on the democrat and chronicle called DealChicken. They charged me twice for the coupon and just like your good customer service story, they refunded my money and gave me a $50 American Express gift card on top.