Ask me what a group buying website was a few months ago and I'd have a hazy idea that it's something about "buying... in a group... on a website" but wouldn't be able to say a lot more.
A couple of my colleagues however, would go on about the wonders that are Groupon.co.uk, Livingsocial.com, groupola.com and so on. Cupcake making classes, mini breaks to Berlin and that weird 'therapy' where small fish eat away at the dead skin on your feet were all bought by my savvy colleagues with huge percentages slashed off the original retail value.
The fish-feet thing sounded like the embodiment of torture to my fish-phobic self but cakes and holidays were much easier to get my head around. Then I found out that Groupon were offering heavily discounted gym passes and before you could say 'get me on the cross trainer' I'd signed up. Groupon was offering 10 gym passes at LA Fitness for £18, which is apparently a 70% reduction on the original £150 price.
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I duly placed my order but when the same display screen appeared again, I mistakenly thought I hadn't confirmed payment for the gym passes and clicked again. The same screen showed up once more and before I bought myself yet more gym passes I twigged my first – and subsequent – purchase had been successful and logged off.
Feeling slightly irked with Groupon I consoled myself with the fact that 20 gym passes for £36 was still a pretty good deal and provided I was reasonably disciplined, it wouldn't be a problem to use them all up before the deadline date.
A day later and I'd also purchased an afternoon tea and spa day for two, priced at £99 in total. I didn't need this – but one look at the original price – £348 was all the evidence I needed to permit my second Groupon buy in as many days.
So in two days I've saved £513: cue cheers of 'fantastic bargain'. The other way of looking at it is I've spent £135 in two days I wasn't planning on spending: cue awkward coughing.
And with at least a couple of emails dropping into my inbox each morning who knows what other 'steals' I'll be tempted by? Perhaps a spot of plastic surgery; in a month and a half I've received 93 emails – and a huge proportion are centred around botox treatments, teeth whitening and hair removal. There's something slightly disturbing about the ease with which shoppers can buy these types of procedures online.
Printing off my vouchers to redeem my gym passes was something of a challenge too, with the necessary bar codes not initially displaying. I also foolishly downloaded both gym vouchers at the same time – and under the terms and conditions therefore only have six weeks to use up all my passes.
On the plus side that's a lot of gym visits pre-holiday season – no bad thing – but as far as groupon deals go I'd say the savings are significantly offset by the barrage of emails I've since received, sneaky terms and conditions and a buying and redeeming process seemingly designed for Mensa members only.