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Are Those Online Deals Really Deals?

I’ve had enough of the polar weather parking its ass and overstaying its welcome in the Detroit area. My gentleman friend suggested a trip to California where it’s experiencing warmer than usual weather.

Sure, let’s go.

I was thrilled when he found a round-trip ticket, non-stop both ways for $420 on Travelocity.

Holy $#!+ … I’ve never seen a price like that! Hell yeah, let’s go!

After he booked the flight, he got a follow-up email from Travelocity offering hotel deals. The offer looked pretty urgent … book by 1/27/14 and get up to 55% off on select hotels. He booked a room at a boutique hotel where I really wanted to stay. It seemed like a decent price, at least by California standards … $169 a night.

Then we checked Groupon for deals for things to do and place to eat. He picked up a deal at a cocktail lounge that offered $20 worth of drinks and appetizers for $11.

I knew going in that this really wasn’t a half-off deal, but when I checked out the bar menu, it wanted $12 for a Tanqueray 10 martini. Times that by three, add another $10-$15 for an appetizer, and we probably could find that same kind of deal at any number of bars that have a legitimate happy hour.

The second Groupon coupon we bought was for a restaurant that offered $30 worth of food for $15. Again, I checked the menu. The dinners we were likely to order would be $32 each, not including wine or cocktails and coffee. So basically, we’ll only be saving 15% on the bill. Was it really worth the time and effort searching for and purchasing that deal? Eh.

Then I started thinking if we really got such a great deal booking a flight through Travelocity.

I compared the price of the ticket we bought to the one on the airline’s website. It turned out the airline offered the same great deal. The same went for the hotel. The hotel’s rack rate was the same rate offered by Travelocity. Apparently, 0% off falls under the parameters of “up to 55% off.”

In some ways I can’t totally knock Travelocity or Groupon for non-deals. Travelocity did come up with the best fare of competing airlines without having to search several sites. However, I felt a bit mislead by the sense of urgency in its claim to give us a great deal if we booked a hotel through them right away.

I also compared our hotel room rate on other travel sites … booking.com, expedia.com, hotels.com. They were all the same.

Over the years, I’ve heard retailers complain that they didn’t think Groupon was that great of a deal. They saw it as offering discounts to customers that would only come in once for the discount and never come back.

The way I see it, Groupon put a couple of places in front of our faces that we probably would have missed. If they’re that good, we might be tempted to do what lots of people do … rave about it to our friends and family in person and on Facebook or Twitter.

Nothing like free, or at least break-even, advertising, right?

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