5 Things You Should Never Buy on Groupon or LivingSocial

Groupon and LivingSocial can save you a bundle on a lot of things — from restaurants to gifts to vacations. But these daily-deals sites aren't always the best bargain around. Check out these items you should steer clear of when shopping on these super-savings behemoths.

1. Makeup

I don't wear or buy makeup (okay, maybe a dab of concealer here and there; no shame in my fleek game), but I know well enough that you shouldn't buy makeup from third-party vendors. You don't know where it's been or possibly even what's in it, which can be very problematic when you're putting it on your face or generally have sensitive skin. It's just a good habit to practice buying your makeup directly from the source in safety-sealed packaging.

Jenn Haskins, who writes popular fashion and beauty blog hellorigby.com, recently had an unfortunate experience with makeup she purchased on LivingSocial.

"I purchased makeup on LivingSocial that appeared to be an expensive makeup brand, but what I received instead was an unlabeled counterfeit product," she says. "Luckily LivingSocial refunded me, but I definitely won't be making that mistake again."

2. Hotel Rooms

We all want to save as much as we can when we travel — myself included — so deeply discounted hotels on Groupon and LivingSocial are quite attractive. Sometimes they're a great buy, while other times you could be paying more for the room than if you had made a reservation directly through the hotel. Mike Catania, consumer savings blogger and co-founder of PromotionCode.org, provides more detail into the dynamics of renting hotels on daily deal sites.

"Because hotels only offer a limited number of rooms to a certain provider, Groupon/LivingSocial can offer them near cost because they're making the commission from the hotel for running the offer," he explains. "If demand surges and you've already booked the hotel, you very well could save up to 40% off the available rate. Alternatively, if demand lags and the booking dates are approaching quickly, the hotel will drop the price beneath what they offered it to Groupon/LivingSocial and you could end up having paid a 20% premium for buying the Groupon/LivingSocial offer when they released it instead of waiting for the best time to buy."

3. Generic Gadgets and Tech

As a general rule, I tend to regard high-priced electronics and gadgets as higher quality than their less expensive counterparts. That's perhaps not true 100% of time, but I'd give it a solid 98% accuracy rating considering that I've typically had great experiences with tech that cost a pretty penny opposed to bargain buys. My philosophy gets a bit iffy, however, when Groupon and LivingSocial get into the mix. In fact, if the tech deal seems too good to be true on these sites, it probably is, says Kristin Cook, managing editor for BensBargains.com.

"Groupon and LivingSocial are notorious for rebranding generic items and giving them ridiculously high "retail" prices," she reveals. "Before buying anything, do a quick Google Shopping search. If the only site selling the brand is Groupon, odds are high you can find the same item under its more generic name on eBay or Amazon."

4. Store Vouchers With Lots of Restrictions

When it comes to Groupon and LivingSocial vouchers with a long list of restrictions, buyer beware.

I had an experience once with a carpet-cleaning service whose Groupon deal promised a $70 cleaning. What I didn't recognize until after the fact (because some of the details weren't even listed) was that there were additional charges for the type rug, size of the rug, and more. What I thought would save me money cost me way more than I anticipated — hundreds of dollars more, in fact, which was nearly the cost of a brand new rug — plus the service itself wasn't that great.

"Many stores include rules and restrictions making the voucher almost useless," Cook says. "Specifically avoid vouchers that can't be used for items on sale or can't be applied to shipping/handling costs."

In other words, read through all the restrictions before you buy the deal, and try not to let that low, low price suck you in without being fully informed.

5. Things That You Can Get for Cheaper — Or Even Free

It seems like a no-brainer to not pay for something you can get for free, but it's easy to overlook that fact when Groupon and LivingSocial are waving "unbeatable" deals in your face. Ultimately, however, your eagerness and laziness could cost you.

Stefanie O'Connell, Millennial finance expert and author of The Broke and Beautiful Life, talks about the time she found an awesome deal for a museum — except it wasn't really a deal at all.

"I live in New York City and love using Groupon as a resource for low cost activities, but I found one particular "deal" I stumbled across to be incredibly off-putting," she says. "Groupon was advertising a deal for $18 admission to The Metropolitan Museum of Art. The MET admission, however, is a suggested donation. The full suggested donation amount is $25, more than the $18 Groupon price — but it's still suggested donation, meaning you could just as easily give $18 directly to the MET, without Groupon taking any part of that cut."

O'Connell's tip is probably the best tip when browsing Groupon or LivingSocial for deals — compare other existing prices to the advertised daily "deal" to ensure you're getting the best discount. Online coupon codes, discounts from direct-marketing emails, and other savings may work out better for you than the one-and-done approach you take when purchasing from Groupon or LivingSocial.

What are some things you'd never buy on Groupon or LivingSocial? Have you ever been burned by these deal sites? Let's talk about it in the comments below.

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Guest's picture

I purchased a car detailing package. I got a better interior cleaning at the car wash I usually go to. There were still crumbs in the cup holders, seats weren't even wiped down let alone washed. What a joke.