There are several companies emerging in the direct email local deal market. Some of these companies have really good buzz and in general they get new users because someone forwards a deal to friends and family. This post is to list as many of these living local direct email deal companies as I know about. I started this post before the Superbowl, but there were a couple of these companies that bought ads during the Superbowl: Groupon, and Living Social. Since they spent the big bucks I’ll start with them.
Groupon: Besides the poor taste in humor they showed during the Superbowl, I think Groupon recently showed more bad judgement. They turned down a 6 billion dollar offer from Google. What I think they fail to realize is that, what they do is not that difficult to reproduce, and that people will take a good deal from wherever it comes. So they will face competition, lot’s of it. That being said Groupon was the second local living deal email that I signed up for and one of only three that I’ve made a purchase from. I’ve bought a deal for a rock climbing class (lot’s of fun) and a half priced coupon for a local sporting goods store. Both coupons saved me money. In the first case, it convinced me to try something I may not have thought to try, in the second it saved me lots of money on a nice pair of convertible hiking pants that I would have bought anyway. The idea with Groupon is that the deal isn’t good until a certain number of people buy it, and it expires in a reasonably short period of time, so it encourages you to pass the deal email on to your friends. I learned about Groupon when a friend forwarded a deal. You almost always save at least half off, and it is almost always a local deal, although there have been a few internet site deals, and a few national deals. It started as one deal a day, but some emails now have more than one deal listed, and they occasionally send more than one email a day. I would recommend signing up for this email.
Living Social: This was the third living local email that I signed up for. I believe I clicked an add on Facebook to learn about this site. As far as I can tell it works just like Groupon. In fact I’ve seen many of the same deals. So far I have not bought a deal from Living Social, but I’m sure I will eventually. One other thing I didn’t know about but saw while looking up a good link for this blog, was that when you sign up for a deal you’re given a link to share with friends. If 3 friends buy the deal, yours is free! Can’t beat that for a reason to share the deal. Living Social has received a large infusion of cash, reportedly 175 million from Amazon, so they are for real. I recommend signing up for this email.
Goldstar: This was the first living local email that I signed up for. I’ve bought several deals from Goldstar, mostly plays so far, but they have other deals. I also got a really good deal on Padres tickets. One nice thing about Goldstar is that they usually have a large selection of deals in each email and these deals persist until they are sold out. They don’t have time limits like Groupon and Living Social. The downside of Goldstar is they aren’t available in as many local areas. I have addtional information on Goldstar in this post: Goldstar – San Diego Offerings
Theatermania: This is the first living local email that I made a purchase from. I bought half priced theater tickets in LA. They only have deals for theater tickets and advertise all the upcoming shows, not just the ones that they have deals for. If you enjoy plays and are near an area that they have listings for, I recommend this email.
Restaurant.com: Unless a deal is not available for a particular restaurant on Restaurant.com, don’t buy a restaurant deal from anywhere else. You can usually get a 25 dollar gift certificate for 2 dollars if you are patient. Don’t pay the 10 dollars, sign-up for their email and wait for the 80% off sale for the 2 dollar deal. Regardless of how much you pay for the gift certificate, they come with a few restaurant specific strings attached, the most common being you have to spend at least 35 dollars. The certificates never expire, but ask if they still take the deal when you make reservations. It has never happened to me, but I’ve heard that some restaurants stop taking the deal. I’ve bought and used several of these and they have always saved me money. Be sure to look for an 18% gratuity being added to your check that is another common requirement. Paying double tip usually wipes out a big portion of the deal, I’ve only done that once, but that was enough so I’ll never forget it again.
Travel Zoo: Travel Zoo has great travel deals, and they just recently, in the last month for San Diego, jumped into the local living deal email game. I haven’t bought any of their deals yet, but I keep an eye on them for a good deal I’m interested in. The have lots of teaser ads in their travel emails (almost spam-like), so I don’t give them as high a rating and don’t recommend them unless you are hungary for deals.
Once you have access to all these local deals and you’ve gone crazy buying more deals than you could possibly ever use you may want to check out Lifesta.com (Update 8/3/2013 Lifesta.com shut down its website in January 2012. But never fear the internet is here! CoupRecoup and CoupFlip and probably others have filled that void.). This site provides a place to resale deals you are no longer interested in or that you won’t be able to use before they expire. It is also a good place to look for deals you missed. I haven’t tried out the resale market, but it might be worth a try if you decide early not to use the deal.
I’m sure there will be a shakeout in this type of deal email at some point, but in today’s economy people are looking for a bargain, and businesses are looking for customers, so this type of deal email is definitely in a period of growth.
Update: Add Yelp, yes the local business review site, to the list of sites posting and emailing local deals. Then there’s Facebook Deals, at least for limited markets at this point, which includes San Diego. Everyone wants a deal, and it appears that everyone wants you to have one! Could it have anything to do with a very profitable, highly valued Groupon? Of course it does, and that competition is good for us. My prediction, these will continue to be successful until we get fat and happy again. As long as we are worried about the economy, saving money, and hunting for bargains, these offers will be popular and the number of sites getting into this game will increase. Groupon has now decided to go public with an intial offering. There are valuations from 15 to 25 billion being thrown around. In this market that appears to be fiercely competitive, and whose heyday may pass quickly, I recommend caution if you are considering buying this stock. But if they want to stay number 1 they have to expand to more markets, expand internationally, and hope the competition loses interest in trying to keep up.
Update2 (September 2011). Yelp and Facebook pulled out nearly before their offerings got started. It may have been related to the disclosures by the more established offerings like Groupon and Living Social in their public offerings that they have never made money. Google has continued to push it’s effort Google Offers forward. Google’s purchase of Zagat, the older and more established restaurant rating guide (compared to Yelp), today will give their local strategy a large boost. And more… Amazon appears to be moving aggressively into the local deal market. I have an account with Amazon, but I do not remember opting in to this service. I’m not sure I am happy about Amazon sending me local deals that I did not ask for at the same time I’m tiring of the whole local deal concept. It is beginning to clog my inbox beyond the value of the deals!
Update3 (June 2012). If you live in California and your voucher expires, don’t worry the amount you paid for the voucher is protected by California Civil law, even if the site does not tell you. Ask for a refund or credit for future voucher purchase. Groupon settled a lawsuit for 8.5 million based on this law and now lets people know their rights. Other sites are less forthcoming on your rights.
A couple of things I’ve done with these deals.
We have several coupons to do Stand Up Paddleboarding. My goal is to get comfortable enough to do SUP surfing in Waikiki. Have only gone once so far, not ready yet, but it is not as hard as it looks.
Although the title is Local Living Email deals you can sign up for cities you plan to visit on vacation to save money. We did a Sail Boat tour in San Fransisco with a Groupon deal. I just added that city to my deal mailings for a few months before our trip and watched for things that looked fun. This was one of the highlights or our short visit to San Fransisco.