By Kelsey on October 27, 2011 29

Stupid Tax: My First Groupon Experience

Disclaimer: I don’t think Groupon is a bad company. I think it’s a great service and one that benefits consumers and also the businesses that offer coupons. I know people who have purchased Groupons and have been 100% pleased with their experience. This is my story about my first experience with purchasing a Groupon–one that I would later find out was a bad personal financial decision.

I paid $15 for a $30 coupon to Urban Belly on Aug. 8. I was really excited! I knew I was pregnant, but we hadn’t announced it yet. So this seemed like the perfect opportunity for me to get started with my maternity wardrobe on a budget and also try out Groupon, which I had been wanting to do.

At the time, I knew little about Urban Belly, but I was aware that it was a trendy boutique located in the East Village in downtown Des Moines. I knew that they had once gone out of business but were back in a new location. I had always wanted to check it out.

What Went Wrong

  • It was inconvenient. The store is not one I can get to often or easily…it requires me to get off work and immediately drive downtown (rush hour minute traffic!). Yes, they are open on the weekends, but our weekends are typically booked pretty full. Not to mention the fact that the second time I went down there, the store was closed due to a family emergency (which I can accept, but their temporary hours were not updated on their Facebook page. Grrr!)
  • Their selection is small and high-end. When I went to the store, I was quite disappointed. As Eric would say, they had six things for sale. That’s a little exaggeration, but it is a small store with limited choices. And the prices are ridiculously high.
  • The timing was bad. The coupon expired two months after I purchased it. I’m barely wearing maternity clothing now, at 20 weeks, and have learned that I might not ever need to buy or wear maternity clothing. (The store sells children’s clothing as well, but expired last week, one week before we’ll know what we’re having. The store also sells blankets and kids’ games, but the Groupon was purchased with my clothing money and because I only get $10/week for clothing, I wanted to use it on myself if possible.)
  • I am trying to get by without buying maternity clothing. Most of it is unattractive and expensive! I knew too little when I bought the Groupon about maternity clothing, what I would need or want, and exactly how my body would change.

Of course, when I have a $30 off coupon, I want to find something for $30 and feel like I got a good deal (even if I did pay for the coupon). I could have gotten a plain T-shirt, tank top or belly band and not have to pay out-of-pocket for it at the time of the purchase, but I didn’t really want or need any of those things. I would have gotten a new bra, but they didn’t have my size in stock either time I visited the store.

In the end, I decided to spend some money and get something I will wear. I ended up buying this skirt. I like it, but I don’t like the price tag (and now I’m even more upset by seeing that it’s on sale online for 80% off!). I paid around $57 for it. Luckily, though, I will be able to wear it even if I’m not pregnant.

I accept the fact that this is my fault completely, and that some people wouldn’t care so much about $15 or $57. But I do. The Groupon was a dumb purchase for me because I paid $15 for a piece of paper and then desperately wanted to trade that piece of paper for something I wanted. I wanted to use the coupon because I was already invested and would hate to throw away $15.

I would use Groupon again in the future, but I will make sure it’s a coupon I will be able to use, and I won’t ever shop at Urban Belly again. This experience really turned me off to that store.

Lesson learned: don’t buy a Groupon for a store you aren’t familiar with. We live and learn.

Have you used Groupon? I hope you had a good experience!

 

Kelsey

I love my husband, my daughter and the Internet.

  1. What a bummer! One time I got a Groupon for a massage place, and it seemed like an AMAZING deal, but when I got to the place (which was also highly inconvenient) the door was locked and no one would let me in, even though I had an appointment. I contacted Groupon and got a full refund. A few months later I found out the owner had been arrested for sexually assaulting a client so in the end I was extremely lucky. After I posted my review on Yelp I found out I was not the only one with a very negative experience!

    I still use Groupon, but I’m just highly selective about the ones I get. I turn down probably 95% of the deals they post. One of the ones I’ve purchased more than once is a $15 for $30 at my favorite sushi place. I’ve also learned that business that qualify for the Houston Groupon can sometimes be over 30 miles away so I always Google map anything I’m considering as well.

    The one good thing about your stupid tax I guess was that it was money within the budget, so that’s a lot better than the other stupid taxes you (or me for that matter!) have paid in the past :) Thanks for keeping us updated on the ups and downs of your personal finance journey, it gives me a much more realistic picture to look at.

    Okay, novel over :)

    • Yes, you’re right, I had the money in my account so it wasn’t a TERRIBLE financial decision. It just made me bummed out! I asked Eric to tell me a good story while we were driving home because I was sad ;), and he said I just needed to chalk it up to stupid tax and move on. He was right. I sound bitter in my post, and I was/am, but this happened last week and now I am starting to get over it now :)

      Glad to hear I’m not alone, although I’m sorry you had a bad experience. Glad you got your money back!

  2. I use Groupon all the time! I use it more for restaurants though! And the occasional massage if its a good deal! I just make sure to look at the expiration date, most of which around here tend to be about a year from the purchase date. Also, make sure that if you buy it because you want alcohol, make sure the restaurant will let you use it on alcohol, sometimes they won’t but it will say it in the instructions! (I know Kelsey isn’t wanting alcohol currently, but you know, in the future…)

  3. i’ve never used groupon, but i know people who use it a lot. i think there are some good deals out there, it’s too bad you had a bad experience.
    i think you need to be more open minded about maternity clothes…..not that you have to love them, but accept the fact that you may have to wear them. i, for one, wanted people to know that i was no longer wearing the same clothes i did when i was pregnant (maternity or not!).

    • Perhaps. I have found some maternity clothes I like (Snappy Casual is partnering with a maternity label next month, which I am thrilled about), but personally I haven’t justified spending money on items that I can only wear while pregnant (or right after)–at least not now, when I don’t NEED it yet to cover my belly.

      I have bought a lot of new clothes since I got pregnant in either one size up (that still looks good on my normal body) or in a good cut/length to adjust for my body now. I have found this to be great so far, and we’re doing another shopping trip next weekend so I can get some more stuff. I don’t have a problem spending the money because I know it fits my normal body. However, I know I have 20 weeks to go…and I will grow a lot in that time.

      I have borrowed some maternity clothes and will see how far I can get with those. Lots of people assure me I can go all 9 months without ever wearing maternity jeans (which is NOT a personal goal of mine), although I know everyone’s body is different. I actually think the full-panel jeans are comfy and provide great support, I just haven’t needed them yet, but I plan to invest in a nice skinny pair. I am just waiting to see how my body changes…

      • after i posted my comment, i got to thinking that you can probably get away with wearing a size bigger much better than i could because you are much smaller than i am to begin with. i think i’m pro-maternity clothes because i’ve seen some people try to squeeze into their regular clothes (and jeans with a belt!!….yikes) during their whole pregnancy and they look hideous.

  4. The concept of Groupon/Living Social/Travel Zoo and all those discount services is pretty awesome and a novel idea for the economy we are currently living in. However, as I found out from my first experience with these services, homework needs to be done. Usually when I’m interested in purchasing a coupon I click on the link given for the service/shop/etc. I also go on Yelp and see customer reviews. I base whether or not I purchase on that (now). I had a really bad experience in the past and actually reached out to Groupon about said experience. Apparently I wasn’t the only disgruntled customer. They were nice enough to credit everyone who had a bad experience, whether you used the Groupon or not. It was really generous of them.

    • That is very generous! I never thought to contact them because I figured it was my fault for making the purchase and that they wouldn’t guarantee anything. Interesting!

  5. in the future, check into groupon’s “return” policy. it may be different from livingsocial.com, but i know that you can still use the coupon for the PAID VALUE even after it expires. So, worst case scenario: you can’t find something you like before it expires, or you don’t have time to use it before it expires. You could still at least use it like a $15 gift card if/when you find time or something on sale. so, even if you let a coupon expire, you still haven’t necessarily wasted what you paid, which was $15 in this case. that might make as much sense as mud, and groupon could be different, but it’s worth looking into!

  6. me again :) i borrowed/bought maternity clothes with brady and couldn’t stand the sight of them by the end….holding off is smart, i think! plus, what’s comfortable now may not be at month 8 or 9, so waiting until you are bigger and NEED actual maternity clothing is a great idea.

    and, sadly, you won’t return to pre-preggo size immediately, so having normal clothes that are a size or two up is a smart post-baby body move….

    i vote you start your own maternity line of clothing….something hip, trendy, and CHEAP, which is impossible to find.

    • I really don’t get why it’s so much more expensive. I’m pregnant, not suddenly rich! I was just looking at H&M’s Mama line and saw a dress for $40 that is basically the same as one I got in their non-maternity section for $25. There is not that much more fabric on the maternity dress! It doesn’t make sense!

      • I agree – I think it’s because there are ALWAYS pregnant women who need clothes that fit them, and they think they don’t have a choice but to buy them. It’s the same reason Disney movies never go on sale: always a new crop of kiddos who will want their parents to buy them!

        Thankfully, styles these days allow for non-maternity wear well into the third trimester!

  7. That’s a bummer you had a bad experience with your first Groupon!

    When Groupon first came to our city I bought groupons all the time — it was kind of ridiculous! Now I haven’t bought any in months and months.

    I’ve had some great experiences with Groupon and some not so great ones. One groupon was for a 60-minute facial. The facial was relaxing but afterward I checked and it only lasted about 45 minutes! Of course I was a fan of the groupons for Gap and American Apparel!

    I don’t really buy groupons anymore for a few reasons. One, I’m trying not to spend so much money on extras. Also, I realized that groupons aren’t really good for local businesses. For example, if you bought a $15 groupon for a restaurant that was worth $30 of food — the restaurant would only make $7.50 and give you $30 worth of food. Groupon would take in $7.50 of the profits. This is really only worth it to the restaurant if they’re trying to get new customers who will keep coming back.

    I’m glad I read your post and saw the comment on how the amount you paid doesn’t expire. I had another salon groupon that expired in July — and when I called the day before the salon wouldn’t work with me to book an appointment. The lady complained that everyone was calling to make appointments on the last day. Now I’m going to call back and see if I can use the money I paid to get credit there (rather than the promotional value).

    • We had a similar experience! I went to the store three times and the last time I went was the day the coupon expired. The store was packed! I was the only person in there the first time I went, so it was pretty crazy. We could tell the lady was overwhelmed and frustrated with dealing with so many pregnant women. :) She said numerous times that this was the last day and the coupon would not be extended, as some women had asked and a few other women were frustrated that they didn’t have their size in something.

  8. What a bummer that you had a lousy experience with Urban Belly. Is it under new ownership? When I was pregnant with M, that was one of my first and only stops and, while it was higher priced, most everything I bought was “on sale” (aka still kind of pricey but at least more reasonable than their full-price items). But, I was in there two or three times while pregnant and had a great experience each time!

  9. Urban Belly is a lot different than it was at the old location. It’s TINY and the clothes are not as cute. They have a total of two (ugly) nursing tops so don’t try them out for that either.
    You’ll go a long ways without buying maternity. I still don’t have much for maternity tops and only have the two pants now that it’s too cold for the shorts and capris I bought. You’ll be fine!

  10. Sorry you had a bad experience! I would have been upset too :(
    That is why I never buy Groupons for any store/restaurant I have never been to be before or know of, unless I search reviews or check out the place online first. And yes, always check the expiration first as well. Oh well, you learned!

    I agree with Sarah Marie as well. I heard Groupon really isn’t good for helping restaurants and small business. They don’t make much and if they don’t sell many they can actually lose a lot of money. This is sad to me, since I’m a huge supporter or small and local business.

    As for maternity clothes…I agree (not that I’ve been pregnant, but my sister-in-law just had her first last week!). Borrow or buy cheap. I know my sis-in-law friend’s gave her a lot of stuff to borrow and that was a huge help and she didn’t have to buy much at all!

  11. I’ve had two less than positive experiences with coupons from Living Social (just like Groupon). I bought an auto detailing and massage coupon. Now I only buy coupons from companies that I already do business with or am very familiar with.

  12. I have heard that if you don’t use the groupon by the time it expires, you can also go to the store/restaurant/whatever and get your money back for it. That way you can retain your original investment. I haven’t done this personally but know some people that have.

  13. Groupon does have some great deals, but a lot of times they just seem to be good to be true. I’ve bought two groupons so far – both are/were for kayaking (I haven’t used one of them yet). The first one was for a kayak/yoga trip. We kayaked to an island and did yoga, TOTALLY worth it!

    Bummer that you didn’t get what you really wanted. Definitely a lesson learned.

    (btw. i’m a first time commenter. I forget how I found your blog but I’m very interested/intrigued by your money saving.. We are trying to get a hold of our finances, and I’m looking forward to your posts regarding finances)

  14. We use Groupon or Living Social a lot more than we used to. We find that we can get really good deals on restaurants and events that we would never go spend the full money at. You for sure have to read the fine print! I’m sorry that you had a bad experience. I hope that you don’t let that stop you from trying again. You really can find great deals that help make the budget seem a little more exciting!

  15. Kels…I’m totally with you, and I bought not one, but TWO groupons to Urban Belly. Was excited when I finally took the time to drive down there, only to be left disappointed. I felt bad, but walked out empty-handed, thinking I’d try again once the fall collection is said to arrive, although the thought of going back downtown to force myself to spend more $$ just hurt! So, when I went to the groupon website, they said they’d give you your $$ back, no questions asked…so that’s exactly what I asked for, and I got my groupon account credited back. Not sure if they would do it for you since I think the coupons have expired, but it’s worth a try next time you have any problems with something!

    • i am sad you had a disappointing experience, but glad you got your money back and selfishly also glad to hear that i’m not alone. :) actually, looking back it would have been smarter for me to buy two of them and save $15 more! (that is if, in fact, they can be used for the same purchase?) oh well…it’s over now!

  16. This is a really interesting post because it makes you think about what a Groupon/coupon really entails. Initally it can seem like SUCH a great deal, but it’s not always that simple. For example, we have a similar thing to Groupon in Canada called WagJag (we also have groupon, but WagJag is good because it’s not just major cities). It’s great and as a university student, my boyfriend I buy them for fun things to do for birthdays/christmas on the cheap.

    Anyways, we purchased one to a water park nearby, which we had been meaning to go to. However, it expired at the end of June. It’s Canada so the weather can be variable until July for outdoor swimming. So not only was it tough to find a day that didn’t conflict with our work schedules, we were gambling on the weather! The only day we could end up going called for thunder showers…EEK! Luckily, it turned to be a miraculously sunny day and we were able to do free mini-putting as well, but it could have turned out much worse. I recently bought one for a haircut, but I couldn’t find any reviews on the place, and it’s in an inconvenient location. Oh well, I’ll have to see how it turns out.

  17. Ha. Late to this comment party…but I had the EXACT same experience with the same groupon! I ended up with a tshirt I thought I could wear again…but it shrunk to a middrift top (not belly friendly) after one wash. Glad I’m not the only one who had such a hard time with that store/falling for a groupon I didn’t need.

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