The good, the bad & the ugly of social buying

I first discovered social/group buying two years ago and my debit card has not been the same ever since! The concept is simple. A deal on a restaurant/spa/hotel/lifestyle experience is offered at a discount if there are enough buyers that purchase the deal (there generally is always enough buyers and some websites don’t require a minimum amount of buyers for the deal to go through). The idea is that the savings are as a result of collective buying power if enough people buy the deal. The purchase is done online via credit/debit card or EFT and you are emailed a copy of a voucher to use. You usually need to make a booking beforehand and print your voucher to hand over to the store.

I have bought ALOT from these sites. There are a wide range of goods and services on offer. Food, massages, spa days, accommodation, beauty treatments, furniture, electronics, kitchenware and lifestyle shows just to name a few. You can easily spend a lot of money, though that is a general problem with online shopping if you don’t keep track of your spending.

My personal overall experience is that it while you get to purchase a product or service for cheaper it often involves a lot of admin and stress that is not worth the trouble.

– Allows you to experience something new.

– Purchase an experience that you would have purchased at full price at a cheaper rate.

– Draw your attention to a new company.

– Buy vouchers in locations where you are going on holiday – this doesn’t need to be limited to South Africa as there are international social buying sites as well. A friend’s sister planned her entire American trip using overseas social buying websites!

* Sometimes the deal price is not really discounted by the percentage advertised and is quite close to the normal price. I have learnt to always do my research before buying to determine if a deal is really worth it and is truly a discounted offer. With the exception of relatively new businesses trying to get exposure, it’s not a good sign that an established business is on a group buying site.

* I have found that with spa packages, you get shortened treatments to what is offered and at a sub-standard experience. Rather purchase an individual spa massages which is good value for money. For deals where hundreds of customers buy in you have to book early (as in immediately!) otherwise you will not get a convenient time especially over the weekend.

* Often when phoning to make a booking and you mention you have a voucher then suddenly there is no space available over the weekend or all the voucher slots on weekends are booked up. I get extremely irate over this especially if the fine print says redeemable over the weekend. I don’t have time to use vouchers over the weekday and have had to change many vouchers into credit due to this.

* The admin of printing vouchers, making a booking and using them before they expire.

– Some businesses ask you to give them the security code when doing a booking, don’t ever do this! You have no recourse should you wish to cancel. I have learnt this lesson the hard way.

– Getting credit back for unredeemed/expired coupons – this can be an arduous process with some social buying sites.

– Photo shoots/spas at converted houses are so not ideal. Again, always do research before buying. Use Google street view and check out the company’s website before purchasing.

– Buying goods is never a good idea especially if it’s for a special occasion- it could take 5 months to get delivered despite the delivery time mentioned.

– Some social buying sites have been accused of falsely indicating the number of buyers to tip the scales on the deal/make a deal seem popular and encourage other buyers.

From a company point of view:
I don’t see the merit in offering services via social buying. Firstly the social buying site takes a chunk of the already discounted price. Sometimes if the deal is oversold due to limits not placed the company can make a loss and have to still honour the deal. This generally leads to bad service when you do show up as the owners simply cannot wait to be done with all the vouchers sold. When customers cannot get bookings or experience bad service it does more harm to the brand. People who buy on social buying sites are always looking for a deal and most of the times do not return to purchase at full price.

While I have had some good experiences I definitely think the bad outweigh the good. If you visit the Facebook pages of some of these sites they are filled with complaints. The admin of keeping track of vouchers, using them before they expire, substandard experience has made it not worth the time or money for me. I for one cannot wait to use all my credit and vouchers and be done with social buying.

Let me know your thoughts on social buying. Is it worth the effort?

Shopping and vouchers,


One thought on “The good, the bad & the ugly of social buying

  1. Great post! I recently unsubscribed from all social buying (and aggregator) sites. Such a relief. Another thing – chatting to small business owners, they’re often “bullied” by these sites and can’t negotiate their cut. It was fun at the beginning but that’s another reason I’m out…

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