Saturday, January 23, 2010

Do You Groupon?

I LOVE Groupon! Groupon is a daily discounted offer that is available based on a large number of people purchasing it. If they don't reach the daily minimum purchasers, the deal doesn't happen (but that's really rare). The offers change daily and range from half-price haircuts to discounted fresh lobster from Maine to half-price stays at the Intercontinental Chicago Hotel. See the article below for all the details. There's no cost to receive the daily emails, so sign up to receive the emails and begin saving today!

You can sign up to receive Groupons for Chicago or 47 other cities, so if you're planning a trip, it's a great way to save money. Plus, Groupons don't typically expire for a 4-6 months, so you don't have to use them immediately.

I got hooked on Groupon last fall, when I found a great deal for a carriage ride in the city for up to for people for $20 (regular price $40). I purchased it (as did thousands of other people) and immediately made reservations for my family over Christmas. We'd never gone on a carriage ride before and after a great dinner at The Walnut Room and seeing all the decorated windows on State Street, we headed over to Michigan Avenue to pick up our carriage. For 30 minutes we strolled all around Michigan Avenue and the Gold Coast and Streeterville seeing all the beautiful holiday decorations. Kinda cheesy and touristy, absolutely. But we loved it and had a marvelous time. Trust me, seeing the Gold Coast and Streeterville all decorated for Christmas via an enclosed carriage under blankets was simply delightful and warm.

I've purchased a couple of other Groupons, but I'm pretty particular and only buy them when I have a need or know I will use them. The other day, I had planned to purchase the Chicago Hauntings Groupon because I'm planning a weekend in the city in the next couple of months and thought it would be fun. Unfortunately, I forgot and when I remembered, it was after midnight and the offer was off the table.

Bargain Hunters Find New Way to Save
by Kara McGuire McClatchy/Tribune Services
January 21, 2010

In the day of the ubiquitous coupon — they are everywhere from your newspaper and in-box, to Facebook and your cell phone — the last thing we seem to need is a coupon Web site.

But the site puts a new spin on saving that's caught the attention of venture capitalists and users alike. It boasts nearly 2 million subscribers nationwide.

Here's how it works: offers a single deal per day that becomes valid only when enough people buy in. Consumers drum up support for the deals using Facebook and Twitter to make sure the magic number is met. If the deal goes through, and the vast majority do, your credit card is charged, and you're e-mailed a print-out coupon to use. If the deal fails, as about one in 50 do, your card is not charged.

Since its launch 15 months ago, the company has sold 1.2 million Groupons, saving users more than $60 million. Daily deals are featured in 30 U.S. cities, with plans to add 20 more U.S. cities and locations in Canada and Europe by year-end.

Most of the businesses featured are small and locally owned. Offers tend to have a social component — dining with friends, working out, trying a new activity such as in-line skating or singing lessons.

And if you're planning a trip, you can head to Groupon for discounts as well as research on where to eat and hang out in your destination.

Founder Andrew Mason, who dropped out of graduate school at the University of Chicago to nurture the company, says Groupon is about more than saving money.

"The idea for Groupon came as a way to cut through all the noise, focus on one really interesting thing to do every day and then using a great deal through the power of collective buying to nudge consumers toward trying something," Mason said.

Michael Vanden Oever, 24, is not a coupon clipper. But he and his wife have been trying new restaurants on the cheap using the printed offers. He likes that most Groupons don't expire for months or longer and that they tend to have fewer catches.

Still, there are some. For example, the entire Groupon must be used on one visit. Taxes and gratuity aren't typically included and you usually can't buy an unlimited amount of one deal for yourself. Merchants work with Groupon to design unique deals, so details vary, and reading the fine print, as usual, is recommended.

Vanden Oever's only complaint: "I would like more offers."

But Mason is convinced that the limited nature of the deals cinch Groupon's success. Too many options, he says, and finding discounts almost becomes work. "Make it too hard and when the economy takes off, so will coupon users."

Groupon takes 30 percent to 50 percent of each deal sold. Merchants get the rest of the cash earned from the deal, new customers and a lot of exposure.

The company is on track to make more than $100 million in revenue this year. It's been profitable since June. Groupon caught the eye of venture capitalists; much of the $35 million the company has raised comes from Facebook angel investor Accel Partners.

Other entrepreneurs are launching similar concepts, including Eden Prairie, Minn.,-based, which is focused on the Twin Cities market.

Katie Greeman, owner of Spill the Wine, sold 860 Groupons on Dec. 30 for her restaurant two blocks from the Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis. For merchants, Groupons have the same appeal as gift cards — she gets the cash right away and some people never redeem them.

"For me it was just a really quick way to spread the word about who we are in a really short amount of time, with no upfront cost," Greeman said.

Think about it: E-mails go out to 43,000 people announcing the deal, friends share it on Facebook, followers retweet it on Twitter. Even if people didn't buy the Groupon, "there was potentially 100,000 people inside of one day that had Spill the Wine come across their inbox," Greeman said. And the restaurant received a $12,000 cut on top of that free advertising.

The downside? She's comping a lot of food. The deal was to spend $30 for $65 worth of food and wine. The restaurant has already given $4,550 worth of food away with only a fraction of the Groupons redeemed. But the average check has been higher. "People are ordering up … ordering maybe a nicer bottle of wine that they would normally or saying 'I'm going to get the tenderloin instead of the chicken,' " she said. She's been on the other side of the transaction too, having recently purchased dental exams for herself and her husband.

Jodi Garber of Minneapolis has Groupon to thank for a massage, a girls' night out and a spray tan for her work Christmas party. Such splurges had been sidelined after Garber, 32, became a mom, but Groupons have "made some of the perks in life a little more affordable," she said.

Garber takes advantage of a deal two to three times a week. "I would hate to see that total bill, but I love getting that bargain."


  1. That is such a great idea! I'm so glad you posted this. My husband had never been to Chicago until he met me and we got married there. And since I lived in the Chicagoland area when I was young, then attended Lake Forest College . . . and later on, lived in Arlington Heights, he knows I like visiting the area whenever we get the chance. Plus, he is now a fan of Chicago, ever since his first visit for our wedding.

    We will definitely have to check out Groupons for the Chicago area before our next trip out there! I'm sure Groupons will come in handy.

  2. Thanks Sonya!

    Sign up for the daily Groupon email. It comes 6 days a week (I think) and if I'm not interested, I just delete it. But they're always really good deals and usually don't expire for months. Each Groupon has the FAQs and terms/conditions on the Groupon page so you know exactly what you're getting yourself into before you buy the Groupon. As I said, I've got a few that I've bought that I'm just holding onto for a weekend I'm planning in the next couple of months.

    Have a great weekend!

  3. By the way, where in Arlington Heights did you live? I think you know I live in AH now, but I also grew up here.

  4. I lived in the northern part of Arlington Heights, just south of Buffalo Grove and Lake Cook Road, and just west of Arlington Heights Road. There was a park/golf course near my apartment complex, and I'd go for a run on the path around the golf course.

    I used to shop at the Dominick's right there in Buffalo Grove, since it was just a few short minutes away. And when my brother was a student at Loyola in Chicago, he'd come up to visit me sometimes and I'd take him to the Giordano's in Buffalo Grove (just off of Lake Cook Rd, if I remember correctly - it's been over a decade now!).

    I loved going to the Arlington Heights Library, heading straight down Arlington Heights Rd, and then making a right hand turn on . . . hmm, I don't remember the street name now, but it was easy to get there. Just head south from my apartment and then west.

    I worked in Deerfield, so I'd spend most of my drive to and from work on Lake Cook Rd. It was just about 8-9 miles away, and if I timed it right, would only take 15 or so minutes.

    Ahh, I have such good memories of that area!

  5. I live between where you did and the library near Palatine Road.


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