I have been booking hotels and restaurants using Groupon and Living Social with their promotion deals and here is some advice, especially on hotel booking, since almost all require a purchase first.
What you do is get ready to purchase and then call the hotel, lodge, resort, et al you wish to use. Ask for the dates you are planning on using and if they are available tell them you are using a coupon. They need the codes so all you do is click purchase and in less than a minute it is available on your account. Did it today and it took a grand total of 45 seconds.
I see far too many reviews of folks buying a stay somewhere and then getting ticked when the dates they want are sold out. Some will purchase the coupon and then wait a few days or weeks before attempting to book. This is promotion items! They sell out fast. Use your noodle, people, and do the above.
The place I purchased had some negative reviews on Trip Advisor (great site) and all were over a reservation issue. They buy and then can’t book. IMHO it is not even a worthy complaint. With a stay you have limited flexibility, but with a restaurant or other activities you can choose when you wish to go. Some places sell thousands of coupons on Living Social, Groupon and the other similar sites that have sprung up.
The coupons for hotels (I use that term as a generality) are often based on rack rate - traditionally the highest rate a hotel will charge. So when a promotion is run the savings is based on that rate and not the discounted rate(s) that vary extensively. So, to me, it is a bit misleading when a savings of say 75% or so is stated. Example. On a recent rip I had the chance to use a Groupon to save 70%. I checked the hotel reservation site and saw I could get the same rate with a ten day advanced purchase. So it is not always what it seems to be, but most times I find the discount sites give you a healthy savings.
The various discount sites have ended my use of the Entertainment Book. You can get similar savings, especially dining, by using the web sellers. Maybe not the same places, but very similar. Morton Steak House can easily go $100 for a dinner for two - and that is without adult beverages. When I can get a two-for-one that is exceptional savings. I have also found that restaurant.com is an excellent site since their coupon has spending requirements and that allows you to purchase adult beverages that will certainly get you to that magical spending number. Have used one for LeBaron Hills several times. Pay $37.50 and must spend $75. Half price of your normal expense.
Tipping is always an issue with the various coupons. To this day a far too large portion tend to pay on the discounted bill and not the original. We do not have the Japanese model in this country. Tipping is actually a social requirement.
While on the topic of tipping. Should you leave a 50% tip? Or even a 100%? We went to Persy’s Place for breakfast and the total bill was about $24 including tax. I left $10. Those who know me realize I am not exactly the magnanimous type but the waitperson (formerly waitress) did as much if not more work than some five star meals I’ve had.
Now back to Trip Advisor. I’ve been on that site since it started and it has changed significantly. I don’t book on TA. The only thing I do is read reviews and write the occasional review. I generally examine how many reviews fall in the middle up or down range and I’ll stick to hotels for the most part. I’ll look at see how a place rates in that particular area. What is the value compared to other places. Examine folks suggestions on things to do in the area. Very basic stuff and the site has been a wonderful source.