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Get Savvy with the Plum deals out there

By Priya Raman on 21 December 2010 | Topics - Personal Finance

While I consider myself a savvy shopper, I do not fall into the coupon obsession crowd. As I mentioned in my earlier post on frugality, my strategies are different – buy un-seasonally, plan purchases ahead of time. So to begin with, I was a skeptic on the whole group buying phenomenon – GroupOn, SavvySource and Plum District. I needed some more proof of the concept working.

All of these websites, offer a “group deal” usually valid for purchase for a limited time, anywhere between a few hours to a few days. The price that you pay is at a discount of the original price. I would always take the original price with a pinch of salt. You will be forgiven if you thought the price was jacked up only to discount it later. My husband signed me up for Group On email newsletter a while ago – but the nearest location for their deals was San Francisco which is an hour away from where we live. Then I read an article in the East Bay Parent magazine that was hugely complementary of the great benefits that some of these websites offered. I decided to try them out for myself. I joined Plum District and Savvy Source.

For a couple of weeks I casually browsed the deals offered by both these websites, but nothing tempted me enough. But in October, I saw a deal that was too good to be true. It was for an dental exam, cleaning and x-ray for $49. That was less than half the price that my regular dentist charged me. Dental exams are not the first thing you would go about trying at a new place. Dental exams are never fun so I thought why not. I checked with a few more local dentists who could not match the price offered on Plum Deal. I wondered why the deal was being offered by the dentist on Plum Deal. Turns out, they were offering this deal to publicize the opening of their new location. I Yelp-ed them and found out that they had a favorable reputation. Then I went ahead and bought the “deal”. (I have my appointment next week – will definitely update my experience with them then)

Soon after the above experience, I saw one on Savvy Source. It was a for a Annual Family Membership to the Oakland Zoo for the price of $40. The regular price for the family membership to the Zoo is $95. This was a great deal and I was quick to purchase it and also to recommend it to a friend.

While I will be a little wary of any website that touts to offer the best deals in town, I will also be checking these websites’ offers to local museums, activities.

So if you are enthused about this group buying concept and want to give it a try here are some tips to keep in mind

  1. Read the fine print – the expiration, gotchas etc.
  2. If your deal is valid for a extended period of time, go ahead and set up a calendar reminder so you do not lose track of it.
  3. Call the vendor and confirm.
  4. Remember that most of the deals are Non-Refundable. So if you are not able to use it – gift it before they expire.
  5. If you are buying long term services (annual Spa membership), please make sure that you have means to avail of services or get money back if the vendor closes shop.

If you have had any experiences with any of these group buying services, please do share with me.

Update: I had my dentist appointment yesterday. The dentist clinic was state-of-the-art compared to the me-too dentist clinics I had been going to before. All hi-tech equipment and clinic with TVs in the ceiling while I am on the dentist’s chair. I have to say it a men’s paradise. They will not miss a minute of NFL on Sundays even while they are on the dentist’s chair. The dentist looked at my teeth and x-rays of my teeth, finished the cleaning and I was out in under 30 minutes.  Just out of curiosity and now with the taste of extremely subsidized (“deal”), I asked the dentist what the regular price of the same appointment would be without the Plum Deal. It turns out the price was 3 times more. Needless to say, it would be the last time we would be visiting them.

About the Author Priya is a working mom of two. Besides her steady load of work at home taking care of her kids, she finds time to work for her husband's company, help her childrens' school and conduct summer camps. She created the site Little Respite to share some of her ideas/thoughts with other fellow parents, friends.