The Virtual Life: The Art of the Deal with So Many Offers and So Little Time

The proliferation of online deals through providers such as Groupon and Living Social has "Patch" Regional Editor Holly Edgell taking solace in clipping coupons.

Confessions of a digital journalist: First, I still get the newspaper delivered to my doorstep. Second, I clip coupons each Saturday morning.

With regard to reading the paper version of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch each morning:

  1. Reading the actual paper section by section allows me to find things I miss online at STLToday.com (which I follow via Twitter).
  2. There is something to be said for the ritual of newspaper, coffee and either watching either the Today Show or listening to Morning Edition. And, of course, checking on my Twitter feed. That something is comfort.

With regard to clipping actual coupons:

  1. I pick and choose the products and services I like out of the glossy coupon inserts: shampoo, lotion, an oil change or a dollar off of a salad somewhere.
  2. No pressure. The coupons are usually good for several months at a time at any store that takes coupons. I slip the little bits of paper into a special section of my wallet and use at will.

The art (and science) of the deal

There's a method to the madness of group-buying online coupon websites. They harness the power of social networking with good old-fashioned buying in bulk. 

And there's more!

  • Not to be outdone, Google is getting in on the act. Go to GoogleOffers and you'll see a message saying it's coming soon to St. Louis.
  • For one-stop shopping on deals, there's DealNews, a site boasting, "Where every day is Black Friday."
  • You may have noticed Patch has its own art of the deal. The Patch "Deal of Day" tends to be a product or service you take advantage of online; otherwise, it might be in or very near to the Patch community where it's advertised. The Patch Deal of the Day is often good for several days.

Pet peeves v. cashing in

Critics of deal dealers point to a few pet peeves, which ring true for me:

  1. There are time limits on when you can take advantage of the deals. Usually you have one day to cash-in.
  2. Many sites require you to "buy" the deal before the offer runs out. 
  3. Many deals may not exactly be in your neck of the woods, leaving consumers like me to wonder if getting the deal is worth the drive.

Still, if you have the flexibility, it's hard to pass up offers of up to 75 percent off of a classy meal, skydiving outing, spa day or dance lesson.

Although I have yet to take advantage of any online coupon or offer, I have not written off the art of the the online deal. As Groupon, LivingSocial and Amazon emails continue to hit my inbox, I will remain optimistic that there will be something that's just too good to pass up.


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