Ever buy a Groupon or Daily Deal that’s all the rage? Read this.

Ever buy a Groupon or Daily Deal that’s all the rage? Read this.

Here’s a story I think a lot of economy-minded folks can learn a bit from.  At least I did.

Every now and then, I get emails for a Groupon offer, or from some other companies now offering deals and calling them “Daily Deals” or some such name.  And a few times, I’ve purchased the deal.  Seemed like a good value, was something I would normally buy or want to spurge on, and in these tighter economic times, I saw the point.

For instance, a few months ago a deal came in from a company called “Travelzoo” that offered a dinner for 2 at a nice restaurant here in Las Vegas for a $49 purchase price.  The package was valued at $107.

I figured some night when Michael and I were down at the Strip and wanted to eat someplace nice we would use it.  It had a four month time limit before it expired.

Now here’s the interesting part of the story.  On September 24th – literally the day after it expired – I remembered it.  Darn it!  Expired!  Shoot!  Doh!

I figured, well, “don’t tell Michael because you just threw away $49.”  I hate to waste anything.

But then I got to reading the fine print and here’s something I think a LOT of people don’t know: even if expired, most companies like Groupon, and in this case Travelzoo, require the merchant to honor at least the amount you ACTUALLY PAID  for the voucher!

I called the restaurant, and both the hostess and the manager who got on the phone said “yeah, those deals are expired – we’re not taking those anymore.”

I wrote Travelzoo and they wrote me within a day and said “the Travelzoo terms that the merchant signed that govern the merchant’s obligations explicitly state that the paid portion of the voucher never expires. That means that merchants must accept the vouchers, even after the promotional period has expired, to the full extent of the amount you paid for the voucher.”

When I called the restaurant back to relay this info, the manager basically played a bit dumb and said “well, that’s up to interpretation of the law, and I’m not a lawyer.”

Sooooooo, being married to a publicist, what did I do next? Because Michael has contacts at every news station in town, I mentioned this to one of the leading news anchors and “consumer advocates” whom we know, Tricia Kean. Tricia is THE person to call when you think your rights as a consumer are being abused.

Tricia immediately took the details from me, saw that I was being ripped off and said “this would make a great story!”

Needless to say, this morning I received a call from the general manager of the restaurant saying he had “done some investigating” and “of course, we would be happy to honor the face value of the voucher you have” – which was all I was looking for. I wasn’t looking to have the expiration of the “promotion” extended, but just have the fine print of the deal honored.

It turns out from some internet research I did that the Obama ‘Credit Card Accountability, Responsibility and Disclosure Act (or Credit Card Act) of 2009′ states that “gift cards” have an expiration date 5 years from the initial purchase date regardless of what a vendor states. Well, this means that a Groupon coupon (or similar instrument) is considered a “gift card”! If you read the fine print at the bottom of each Groupon coupon, it will state that a vendor can honor the value of the Groupon deal (their choice) or they must at least honor the price you paid for the Groupon coupon (or similar kind of deal).

So it’s a happy ending here.  And more importantly I wanted folks to know this just in case you, too, have an expired “daily deal” voucher laying around.  At the very least you haven’t lost the money you paid.

In the end, it actually kind of makes the deals better.  Even if the promotion expires, you still have 5 years to use the money you actually spent.

Just wanted to share…