What you should know before buying group discount deals

November 9, 2011 4:24:54 PM PST
Group discount sites are gaining in popularity every day as people look for ways to save money. But not all of them operate the same way, especially when it comes to getting your money back if the deal goes bad.

There are so many group discount sites out there now it is hard to keep up with them all. Most require you to sign up to get the deals, but in some cases you may be seeing them come to your email in-box unsolicited.

Retail stores are already rolling out the holiday deals to get your attention, but you can find discounts closer to home by turning to group deal web sites. Jenny Lehman used both Groupon and a different site in an attempt to hire a cleaning service.

She said, "I bought them both and then tried to redeem them."

Lehman says both cleaning services failed to show up, leading her to ask for a refund.

"I let Groupon know and it was the same day, I mean I seriously think it was an hour or two later I got an email from Groupon that they had refunded the money," she recalled..

But Lehman says the other deal site was slow to respond.

"I emailed first, did not hear back, emailed a couple more times and called them a couple of times and did not hear anything," she explained.

Fortunately Lehman's credit card company credited her account after she disputed the charge. Consumer experts say Lehman's troubles serve as warning to all bargain hunters.

Monica Russo with the Houston Better Business Bureau cautioned, "You are going to have a lot of copycat sites out there and that includes sites that are probably not going to be reputable ones."

Russo says deal buyers should always find out refund policies and search the web for complaints before buying.

She added, "A lot of times with a company that has problems you are going to see complaints out there by consumers saying, 'Hey, I did not get my product or it was not what I thought it was.'"

Another potential problem, coupon sites that send you deals out of the blue. Internet security experts say there is a potential for fraud.

"If they are asking you for financial institutions, for your Social Security number, for your date of birth, for anything other than the minimum amount of information they need to make a charge for you, that is a red flag," warned Katherine Cabaniss with Crime Stoppers.

If you get deals sent to you from a site you have never heard of, there are a couple of options -- just delete them without opening them or unsubscribe, by following the links.

Group deals do go bad occasionally, that's why it is important to know the refund policies ahead of time. Remember, if you cannot get in touch with the deal site before buying a discount, it will probably be the same thing when problems crop up. It's also another good reason to use your credit card when paying because you can go back to them and dispute the charge.

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