Wendy likes to peruse Groupon deals to find new and interesting things to try. For those who aren't familiar, Groupon has random deals you can buy into for anything from clothes to floor cleaning to a dinner for two at a restaurant. They are drastically lower in price than normal. Some months ago she bought a Groupon for a dinner at a local italian restaurant for $30. It included an appetizer, two entrees, dessert, and drinks, which is certainly a deal ... isn't it?
Last week we finally got around to cashing our Groupon in and went to Piazza Trattoria to have dinner. We got bruschetta to start, pasta and pizza, a chocolate ice cream dessert, and two glasses of wine for Wendy. Presumably most folks have one glass of wine each but that isn't how we roll. :) Everything was fine though not amazing and because we had to pay tax and tip on the theoretical total instead of the Groupon value it ended up costing us $45 in total. Not a huge amount of money, certainly, but somehow it didn't end up feeling like much of a deal.
Had we not had a Groupon and gone out for dinner we would probably have ended up at Green Papaya instead and ordered two entrees for a total outlay of $26. We wouldn't have gotten a dessert nor any wine but I can't say that the experience would have been worse. Even if we have to account for the wine and dessert we would normally just buy wine at the LCBO and make dessert ourselves for practically nothing - tacking that on certainly would not raise the cost above $35. So here we are having spend $10 extra for a dinner that was slightly more convenient but not really any better... not much of a deal at all.
I think the trouble with Groupons is that you so rarely get exactly what you want. Of course the restaurants want to tack on dessert and appetizers to the Groupon - those are items that they have enormous margin on. It sure looks like you are saving a lot of money but unless you really wanted to spend $7 on a small (but very fancy!) ice cream you really shouldn't count that into the Groupon at full value. Anyone who knows me knows how I feel about spending $7 on ice cream you could go home and eat for less than a buck... without the fancy chocolate sauce sprayed all over the plate at random, mind.
There is some small benefit in getting us out to new places since we tend to get ourselves in a rut but I don't think that is worth it. Strange that the benefit of a Groupon isn't the price but rather the random direction it points us in; that isn't exactly their marketing pitch. I am perfectly content to just eat pineapple fried rice at Green Papaya and/or prato at Grazie every single time though so I don't think I am eager to try random Groupons for restaurants again.