Double Check those Daily Deals

October 19, 2011

If you are among the legion enamored with the ‘great deals’ delivered to your inbox every morning, pay attention: Those deals may be inflated to look better than they really are.

A story on Thumbtack.com found that 80% of the daily deals quoted ‘standard’ prices that were higher than what you’d get by visiting or calling the stores to inflate the sense of getting a good deal.
While the sample size was small – 5 from Living Social and 5 from Groupon – the false spin on the discounted rate should raise eyebrows; and maybe a lawsuit or two for misleading advertising.

 

The urge to inflate is understandable, but not acceptable. In order to promote your services on daily deal sites, a company has to offer a steep discount. If the discount is too steep, and there isn’t a cap on the number of users accepted, a company may not recover from their generosity.

This tale makes for an excellent lesson in digital literacy and savvy shopping for teens and tweens just getting into online shopping – and maybe a remedial lesson for a few who have been shopping online for some time.

Just because a site offers a ‘deal’, doesn’t mean it is a good deal. Do your homework. Is the price really the best price? Is the offer from a company with a great reputation? Are you so excited by the ‘deal’ that you purchase something you don’t actually want? In cases, where you end up working directly with the company, do you end up giving more information to the company than they should have about you? Beyond the terms and conditions of their ‘offer’ do you know their terms and conditions for maintaining your privacy?

There is nothing wrong with using daily deal sites, in fact I’ve made several purchases from these sites myself. The problem comes if you assume that the offer is as good as the deal says it is. Take a few moments to check it out before you click that link. Because not all things that glitter are gold.

Linda

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Kudos to Groupon for Notifying Consumers of Privacy Changes – and Doing so in Advance of Rollout

July 17, 2011

Defying the prevailing practice of steadily eroding user’s privacy and doing so without so much as a warning, Groupon has sent users a clear advance notice of pending changes and encourages users to read them.

And (Gasp!) Groupon is actually strengthening their privacy commitment to consumers, giving users more control over their privacy settings, and making their policy easier to understand.

It is a sad reflection on the internet industry that the respect Groupon shows their consumers is noteworthy, and it highlights a very clear gap that consumers generally have failed to appreciate.

There are two types of internet companies – those that respect you, and those that don’t.

Companies that respect their consumers work hard to give you full control over the information they collect and store about you. They are respectful of how they share any information about you and selective in choosing the companies with whom they share your information.

Respectful companies make it easy to understand their privacy policies and terms of use, notify you in advance of any significant changes to their terms or services, make it easy for you to remove your information from their sites and put strong measures in place to secure your data. Learn more about how respectful companies behave in my blogs Your Internet Safety and Privacy Rights – Standards for Respectful Companies, and Privacy Policy Changes – Some Companies Get Notification Right.

Conversely, companies that change their terms of use and privacy policies without notice, add features that impact your privacy, security or safety without notice, that default (or later change) your settings to public, or are careless in their protection of your information, show their true colors[i].  These companies often find themselves in the crosshairs by privacy advocates, the FTC, and even Congress.  These companies knowingly exploit you and your information for their next buck.

Why use a company or service that doesn’t respect you?

Figuring out which companies respect your privacy, security, and safety isn’t rocket science – my bet is you’ll know within 5 seconds of apply some basic criteria to sort the companies you use into respectful vs. disrespectful buckets.

Why use a company that doesn’t put you, the customer, first when respectful companies can be found in every category of online service? Though they may not be the most popular choice today, you have the power to change that.

If enough people ask themselves why they’re staying in an abusive relationship with a company that doesn’t put them first two things will happen. The most popular companies will quickly become the ones that put users first, and disrespectful companies will quickly change their tune and show greater respect in order to avoid collapse.

Understand the power you command in the internet economy.

What value does a social network, a search engine, a dating site, a shopping site, a gaming site, etc., have if it has no users? None, zip, zero, nada.  To understand this, look at the fate of MySpace. The once “unbeatable” social network bought by News Corp. for $580 million in 2005, was dumped last week for $35 million because most users left.

In no other venue do consumers wield as much power as on the internet because in the internet’s business model you, the consumer, are the core commodity. Without consumers there are no advertisers. No shoppers. No information exchanges. No matter the current size of an internet company, if users leave the company is effectively dead.

Right now, the public remains a sleeping giant, but naptime is over.

If you want a better internet experience, if you want to be respected, protected, secure and in control online it will only come by rewarding companies that do the right thing. Make a commitment to only use companies that treat you as the valuable commodity you are, with the respect you deserve, with the controls in your hands (not theirs), and shun sites that fail to measure up.

Make companies earn your business. If even 5% of internet users demanded respect, the internet world would stand on its head to provide it.  The power is in your hands, which sites will you use?

Linda


[i] Note: Not all companies who are hacked have been careless with your information, but when a company like Sony stores information like your passwords in clear text (unencrypted) it represents a shoddy disregard for consumer safety.