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How Daily Deal Sites Make You Buy (And How to Resist)

Find out how to reject the enticing pull of coupon e-mails.
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It's 8 a.m. and your inbox is swamped with daily deals from websites like Groupon, LivingSocial and Gilt. But as attractive as 50% off may sound, let's be honest: You're not really saving money by springing for something you didn't even want. Here, learn the sneaky, smart ways marketers make you click:

Urgency: It's no accident the discounts are available for only a day. By limiting the time offered—some sites even show an hourglass emptying—companies pressure consumers, says Dan Norris, a senior associate with Influence at Work, a company that specializes in the science of persuasion. They want you to believe that if you don't buy right away you'll miss out on a great opportunity.

Exclusivity: Whatever deal Groupon is hawking is offered only to "members." (Never mind that it's free to join.) Couple that with finite availability ("Just 200 left!"), and consumers feel they're getting something even more exclusive, says Regina Novickis, consumer savings expert for PromotionalCodes.com.

Consensus: Marketers know that we're more likely to purchase a product or service if others are buying too, Norris says. That's why deal sites often tell you how many subscribers have already signed up. For example, if 500 people snagged a discounted laser hair removal treatment, the thinking goes, it must be a great bargain! Or someone might buy a monthlong membership to a yoga studio simply because her friend shared the deal.

Convenience: Daily deal websites make buying and using a voucher so darn easy. There's no clipping, cutting or storing—just click on a link and the discount is yours. And you don't even have to print the voucher (or possibly forget it at home); have it delivered to your smartphone and it's always handy.

Daily Deal Management

Simply knowing how coupon sites try to influence you isn't enough to provide immunity from their pitches. Even Dan Norris of Influence at Work and his wife recently bought a horseback-riding trip, although it had been a year since they'd discussed getting back in the saddle. He suggests buying only products and services you were already planning to try. Some of his additional tips:

  • Opt out. That's right, unsubscribe—or just choose your favorite service. If you still want to peruse deals occasionally, visit a site's Facebook page or Twitter feed to scan the offers. Or sign up for its mobile application to get access to the info without a flooded inbox.
  • Try an aggregator. Dealradar.com and TheDealmap.com collect your daily offers in one place. (Either visit the website or have an e-mail sent to you.)
  • Read the fine print. Some offers may expire after a period of time. Citypockets.com and Couptivate.com track expiration dates and send reminder e-mails when a deal is about to end. Limited availability can also be a problem if you buy something popular—think Swedish massage—and the spa runs out of appointments.
  • Shop around. Some deals aren't as exclusive as they seem. Small businesses may offer the same discount to their regular customers, says Novickis. So do a little online snooping before you buy.
  • Resell. More than 20% of daily deal vouchers go unused. If you have buyer's remorse, try to sell your discount on sites like Lifesta or DealsGoRound. Even if you have to pay a fee or lower the price, you won't lose all your money.

Originally published in the March 2012 issue of Family Circle magazine.

 

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