Do Daily Deals Make Good Gifts?

By Andrea Karim on 19 August 2011 (Updated 6 June 2013) 7 comments
Photo: Steven Depolo

Gift giving is never easy, especially on obligatory occasions like holidays and birthdays. Because I never know for sure what to get for anyone, unless someone has expressed interest in something specific, I am increasingly inclined to give gifts of experience. You know, tickets to a concert or a gift certificate to a nice restaurant, rather than just another THING that will collect dust in someone's attic or basement.

With the advent of daily deals coupon sites like Groupon, Tippr, and Living Social, you can get pretty good bargains delivered to your inbox every morning. And you've probably already bought one or two of these dealy-bobs for yourself — but can you give them as gifts? (See also: To Groupon or Not to Groupon)

Yes! Gift a coupon gift when...

There are situations in which a daily deal coupon is a great idea for a gift, such as when...

...the recipient has asked for it.

Your recipient has expressed interest in this exact Groupon, and you're buying it for them. That's pretty straightforward, right? Easy-peasy.

...the recipient loves a good deal.

I have a friend who lives for coupons — she gets seriously excited when she gets the chance to save money. Whether it's Restaurants.com, Living Social, or consignment store shopping, I have never met anyone else who was so delighted by the opportunity to spend less than full price for something. Friends like this are excellent recipients for deals gifts, because they are usually excited on your behalf that you paid less than full price for their gift. Trust me, these people exist. That said, the coupon still has to be a good deal, not just for the sake of having saved some dough.

...you're going to share the gift (and they don't have to know you got a discount).

Somehow, saying "I got us tickets to see Pearl Jam!" is so much classier than saying, "I bought you discounted tickets to see Pearl Jam!" Not that your recipient should be looking a gift horse in the mouth, but if you are going to be attending the concert/museum exhibit/yoga class with someone else, it's easier to get away with making a covert discounted purchase. I personally think that using a coupon on a date is perfectly reasonable, but I am always right upfront about that kind of thing ("I have a coupon to Nijo Sushi! Want to go stuff our faces of raw fish for cheap?")

No, don't give a coupon gift if...

OK, there are many more instances in which a daily deal a gift is not such a hot idea, like when...

...the deal expires sooner rather than later.

Some deals have more unreasonable timelines than others. Check to see that the deal doesn't expire before the year is out. In fact, read all of the fine print to be sure that your recipient won't get screwed over in some way.

...it's an out-of-town deal.

When planning a trip to a city that is served by one or more of the social coupon sites, it behooves you to sign up for that city's daily deals to see if you can score tickets to a game or a nice dinner at a hefty discount. But there's sort of a trick to buying a coupon for an out-of-town experience or business, and that is that you are more or less locking yourself into using it during your travels. It's even more complicated if you are buying the coupon for someone else who is visiting another city, or even your own city, because unless the coupon is for something that the travelers were already intent on doing/visiting/eating, such a gift dictates part of their plans.

...your recipient is uber-busy.

The catch with many daily deals, like gift certificates or VISA gift cards, is that they do expire, usually within a year. This makes them less-than-ideal gifts for busy people, or harried people who believe that they are busy. A gift that will expire is simply one more item to weigh heavily upon their minds, so save them the stress (self-imposed or not) of trying to find the time to redeem the gift.

Legitimately busy people may love a daily deal coupon, but choose carefully — $50 off of dinner at a good steak house might be a smarter pick than a month of heated yoga classes for your cousin Jamie, who runs a busy marketing agency.

...your recipient is not tech-savvy.

My mother is not bad at technology, but she doesn't enjoy it as a rule. Cell phones annoy her, and while she does email, she checks into Facebook once every couple of months only to find that she still hates everything about it. My mom is NOT the ideal recipient for a daily deal gift, because the very act of having to download and print out the requisite barcode is enough to erase any joy she might receive from the actual gift itself. Of course, I can always print out the deal and mail it with a card, but those deals aren't very pretty when printed, are they?

...it's going to cost more than what you paid.

As a rule, a gift is really only a gift if it is fully paid for. Quite often, when you buy a daily deal, you're getting a significant discount off of goods or services, but the allotted number of coupons might not always cover the entire cost for your recipient.

This past Christmas, I bought what seemed like a good deal for my parents — a coupon for the transfer of old media, like photos and reel-to-reel film, to DVD. My family had boxes of old 16mm home movies, and we weren't watching them at all because our old projector was broken. I thought that this would be a great opportunity to help my parents enjoy some fond memories, so I bought two coupons (this was the maximum allowed). The coupons weren't cheap, but I figured that they would help get the ball rolling.

Well, it DID get the ball rolling, but unfortunately the ball rolled upwards of an additional $700 to get all of the old movie footage transferred to DVD. In addition, my parents weren't even particularly impressed. Like everyone else, their attention spans have shortened over the years, so now watching five to ten minutes of video of my sister and me as infants doesn't thrill them the way it did back in the 1980s.

So much for nostalgia! Oh, well. At least I can upload some of the old videos of my sister running around naked as a baby to YouTube.

Can you think of other situations that you can think of in which giving a coupon is a great idea, or a terrible one? Tell us in the comments!

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Guest's picture

These are some helpful things to think about. For Christmas a couple of years ago, my wife and I bought Restaurant.com coupons for some of our in-laws, and most of them went unused. While they are a good deal, we think the fact that they cost more that we paid (like your note above) gave our family members pause.

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Guest

My parents gave my husband a "deal" as part of his Christmas gift last year. It was a one-night stay and two rounds of golf at a resort about four hours from our house. The deal expired in May 2011, so he had about 5 months to use it after Christmas. He thought it was a great gift, and I didn't mind tagging along for the getaway. He used both rounds of golf, while I enjoyed my time relaxing at the resort's pool.

Andrea Karim's picture

Glad you got to use it! That sounds like a nice little vacay.

Guest's picture

I love savings daily deals provide. I've bought a lot of items from places like Newegg and TigerDirec through their daily deals. Definitely worth it.

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Yazmin

I think it depends who you are giving the deals to. I would much rather buy the deal and then take someone out. I'd hate to buy the deals for them to go unused.

Guest's picture
Guest4527

I received a Living Social deal from my boyfriend as a birthday gift last month. Now, he makes a great deal of money every year- he's living VERY comfortably - though he's not very good at giving 'nice' gifts but still will spend a great deal of his money on other expensive things, such as lavish vacations with friends, for himself. He rarely if ever takes me out to eat (a girl just likes to be taken out every now and then) so when my birthday rolled around I thought "Okay, maybe for my birthday this year he'll do something different. Something a little more grandiose." When I learned he got me a majorly discounted gift I was a little disappointed. I don't need him to spend a lot of money on me, I just wish he wasn't so cheap! Granted, the gift was for a chocolate making class, and I do love chocolate, my excitement dropped a few notches when I found out it was a Living Social deal. On top of that, we called to add our names to an upcoming class and they didn't have any availability until 6 months later because the deal was such a hit. Oh well. I guess there's always next year. My advice, don't get these kinds of deals for your significant other as a birthday gift unless you are in college and have no money. I would've totally loved this as a surprise, but as a birthday gift - no. I spend way more than he does on gifts for him...I think I will have to change that after this past birthday.

Andrea Karim's picture

Oh, gosh, I hadn't even thought of that. My husband and I don't exchange gifts for birthdays or holidays, so I hadn't considered the implications of equality in gift giving.