While online daily deals websites flood consumers’ inboxes with deals and bargains galore, experts say, be careful before jumping on the opportunity to buy.
“We look at it from our standpoint,” said Royalyn Reid, who runs a Dallas-based market research firm called Consumer & Market Insights. “We’re looking to get a deal but that’s not what it’s about. You have two companies trying to make money.”
First, there are the businesses working to build a reputation and bring in more customers. Then there are the daily deal websites that are trying to make money by getting the most people to buy into the discount of the day, while competing with other daily dealers. So consumers have to look at the big picture before pressing the ever so tempting buy button, said Reid.
Garland resident Camille Paul said she bit into the temptation of a good deal in Jan. 2012 through Dealfind, just one of many online websites offering bargains on everything from spa services to restaurants to dental care and everything in between.
“This promotional deal was for laser hair removal,” said Paul.
The company making the offer was Total Med Solutions, she said, with locations in Dallas and Plano.
“For $169 you can get three small areas done for an unlimited period of time for between a year’s time span,” she explained.
The ad said she’d be saving 96 percent and more than $3,800 dollars off the regular price of the service.
“It was a good deal,” she said.
When she tried to make an appointment a few weeks later, she said she was told the first available appointment was eight months later. Then she needed to reschedule, which pushed her appointment forward three months. In total, she waited 11 months.
On appointment day, as she walked through the door she was hit with some surprising news from an employee who told her the laser wouldn’t work for Paul since her skin was dark.
“The machines that they have cannot do the laser on darker skin, only on the very light skin. This shocked me,” Paul said, especially since she’s had the procedure twice before at other businesses.
Here’s the catch: The ad never mentioned this limitation, not even in the fine print.
“I checked the original ad, my emails, there’s nothing there,” she said.
NBC 5 Investigates Consumer Unit called Total Med Solutions and spoke with the owner. He said he has asked Dealfind, and other companies like it, to add that disclaimer in his ads. But he said in most cases, the company can’t control the fine print.
NBC 5 also reached out to Dealfind, which never responded after nine emails and two phone calls. There’s no mention on its website of how the ads are approved. But it does say “the Merchant is solely responsible for supplying such goods and/or services and redeeming the Voucher in accordance with its terms.”
“I did kick up some fuss,” Paul said.
Total Med Solutions did issue Paul a total refund.
Total Med Solutions also told NBC 5 it offered other patrons with darker skins other services at discounted rates or refunds. And it has recently purchased a laser that can treat darker skin.
Here’s some advice for navigating the daily deal world:
- Take time to research the merchant before buying
- Read the fine print
- Look at the expiration date
- Call and ask questions, and when possible, try to get answers in writing via email
- Check out the company’s reputation with online reviews or ask around about any company
- Price shop similar goods and services
Remember many consumers are jumping on the same deal, and some businesses may not be able to handle the sudden burst of business, Reid told NBC 5. She also said that the businesses have no idea what kind of response they may or may not get and that’s when things can go wrong for both the business and the consumer.
“Don’t get caught up in the frenzy,” she said. “When you go in remember that this is an opportunity to try a service at a good price. It may or may not work.”
For now, Paul has decided to stop shopping for daily deals and she no longer has them flooding her email inbox everyday.
“I unsubscribed to all of them, every one of them. I’m not doing this again,” said Paul.