Live Rich for Less

Test-driving the discount–coupon sites

by Linda Yellin
woman at computer image
Photograph: Illustration: Jonathan Carlson

Let’s say somebody (OK, me) wanted to pamper herself but felt hesitant to rob a bank. One lower-risk alternative: searching online for sites that offer discount coupons. Groupon is the big kahuna, but the other sites work basically the same way: Choose your city (in my case, New York), category (beauty! escapes!), find a deal and click to prepay. My first stop was, natch, Groupon. Immediately, up popped an offerfor half-price admission to the Museum of Sex. I passed (not the type of pampering I had in mind); ditto thecolonic for 68 percent off. Next up:                  

Btreated.com offers last-minute deals on luxury treatments; I purchased a $150 next-day facial for $90. One disappointment: Clarins facialist Nicole gave me a creamy, swirly massage rather than a dig-in-and-get-those-blackheads overhaul. Nonetheless, my blackheads and I left feeling relaxed.

Sparahrah.com promised“90 minutes of delightful decadence” in Setai Spa’s “Tour of Asia,” a $285 value for $199. Before starting, I also had access to the spa’s gym and an aromatherapy session in which I was the only client. At least I think I was the only one. The room was so steamed up, I couldn’t have seen a marching band. My “Asia” tour included a Vietnam mud bath, Japanese bamboo body scrub, Calcutta poultices and Thai massage. Korea was also in there somewhere. Only once was I lost in translation: When handed a sponge-shaped dumpling, I used it to exfoliate. Apparently it was a dumpling-shaped dessert, and I was supposed to eat it.

Yipit.com is the Travelocity of daily online deals, an aggregation site with more than 800 sources, including Groupon.It led me to AtHomeStars .com, where you can “instantly book services offered by local stars.” I chose a $35 wine-and-chocolate-tasting event, corralling my friend Diane to join me. Our local star, Suzy Mae, an adorable former restaurant hostess with a Southern accent, was younger than a good wine. Although we were the only two in the class (being her first online-coupon clients), she opened four high-end bottles, at which point we told her to rethink her business plan. Buzzed from the wine, we later grew even more protective, advising Suzy Mae that her online offer to show up at private homes might be a bad idea.

Kgbdeals.com flashed a $99 chance to drive a Lamborghini at 100 mph, but I’m not an insured driver (a requirement). So how about pursuing a self-improvement fantasy? I headed off to a two-hour boot camp at American Bartenders School with my $29 coupon (value: $70) from Livingsocial​.com. In a class of 19, I was the only student taking notes. And the only one over age 25. I now know that the cooler, collins and chimney are all served in the same type of glass; peppermint schnapps is 100 proof; and a scooper left in the ice is a $500 health-department fine. I can also mix a mean martini.

Goldstar.com offers deals on entertainment like con-certs, theater and the swing class I chose at Zack’s Dance Loft (value: $67; cost:

$32). I no sooner arrived than Zack announced we’d be tangoing instead. About 20 of us mowed through several bottles of Argentine wine and platters of cheese before Zack had us happily stepping and sliding.

I tangoed my way back to Yipit, where I bought a “skintightening” treatment at Bio-SkinErgy Laser Center (value: $350; deal: $99). The receptionist-technician (first she answers phones, and then she heats up the laser) informed me I’d need four to six treatments, and they were conveniently on sale for $200 each. Midtreatment, she told me if I signed up today, they’d cost $100 each. It’s difficult to feel pampered while somebody with a hot object in her hand is wheeling and dealing.

If you decide to check out the Groupons of the world, I suggest you set up an alter-native e-mail address so your inbox won’t be clogged with offers. Also good to know: Some deals require a minimum number of participants. And you’re expected to tip on the full value of the service. But after all that coupon-enabled dancing, drinking and spa-ing, my personal pamper meter is way up, and I saved more than $500. I could have saved more, but I’m still not opting for that colonic. 

 

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First Published Fri, 2012-03-02 12:28

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