Suffering from discount fatigue

Kristina Wong

Tess Vigeland: The latest battle for your dollars comes courtesy of the ever-multiplying number of daily deal sites. Groupon, LivingSocial, Gilt, SocialBuy, Eversave. They offer discount coupons on everything from meals to shoes to massages. And that can drive even the most excited bargain shopper to proclaim....enough is enough! As commentator Kristina Wong has done.

Kristina Wong: I'm a recovering Groupon-aholic. This year, two-thirds of my credit card charges will be for group-buying websites, like Groupon, LivingSocial or one of their copycat competitors. I eat, groom and snorkel all via these discount vouchers that I usually buy in bouts of late night web-surfing insomnia.

I knew my hoarding hit an all-time low when I found myself at a Galaxy game. Apparently, Los Angeles has a professional soccer team. I'm not a soccer fan, but that $15 deal for the sideline ticket, beer and Galaxy hat had me willing to -- ahem -- spend it like Beckham. I wish I could practice consumer monogamy with all the lovely businesses I've met group-buying websites. I feel guilty that small businesses have sacrificed their profits to woo me into a long-lasting commitment. That even the businesses that have impressed me will never know me as more than a one-night stand.

For I'm part of a new subculture of Groupon hussies. I want to commit, but I get my fix from tramping all over town wherever a discount will have me. Can you blame me for strumpeting in and out of desperate businesses in all my cheapskate glory? When the Groupon craze has made it possible to never pay full price again?

You know, though, the explosion of Groupon-esque websites may actually both the impetus and end of my discount-voucher hoarding days. The market is now oversaturated with over 200 Group clones nationwide. The flurry of deals makes it seem like there's a fire sale on every block. And with the evolution of real-time deals? It's too overwhelming for addicts like me to feel the pressure to buy Groupons the way I used to. There's only so much French food, yoga and horseback riding I can consume in a day.

I'm growing numb to high-discount margins and the timer ticking down to the end of a great deal, 'cause I know a simple truth. If I miss out on a great buy, on some other discount site, the discount will come back around.

Vigeland: Kristina Wong is a writer and stand-up comedian living here in Los Angeles.

About the author

Kristina Wong is a nationally presented solo performer, writer, actor, educator, culture jammer, and filmmaker.
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Kristina Wong thinks that companies offering GroupOn-style coupons are trying despererately to woo clients. Quite simply, she is missing the point. Businesses are not desperate. And attracting new customers is not their sole intention.
These businesses are making calculated bets that offering large discounts will lead to profit because 1) the appeal of a bargain leads people to people spend more than they otherwise would ("I spend more so I can save more!"); and because 2) many of the discounts purchased will go unused. Selling nothing for something hardly sounds desperate to me.
The previous commenter blames the marketing industry, and I don't disagree. But we must realize that marketers are successful only to the extent that they convince consumers. Consumers, especially bargain-addicted Americans, need to wisen up.

This whole business reminds me of how the industry of marketing has become parasitic to businesses that actually try to provide a good or service. Marketing is useful if it informs consumers of the existence or relative advantages of one business compared to another. Media oversaturation has made traditional forms of marketing less and less valuable to business. More and more of our economy is dependent on business models that depend on hype, rather than creating value. Real customers will soon come to resent having to subsidize the "hussies" and will avoid business that employ this marketing strategy.

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