Here I am, calling myself a slave to group purchasing. You know, the phenomenon in which the online shopping masses pool their purchasing power to get special deals from one company or another. But actually, I haven’t bought anything from these websites for more than two and a half months after realizing how much money I have wasted on them.
My online shopping addiction didn’t start with group purchasing. As a Taobao lover, I was quick to embrace the convenience of online shopping. I found out about group purchasing last March, a couple of weeks after it popped up in China. It seemed easier and more cost-effective than shopping on Taobao. All I needed to do was to sign in, browse the deals of the day and click the “purchase” button. The deals were so attractive – some items were 90 percent off – I felt like I could save a lot of money.
Back then, the first thing I did in the morning was to turn on my computer to check out my 20 favorite group purchase sites. Over the next 10 months, I bought movie tickets, coupons for restaurants, spas and hair salons, necklaces, T-shirts, shampoo, cosmetics and so on. I couldn’t help boasting about my experience to friends, some of whom soon developed their own addiction.
It was fun for the first few months, until I noticed how much I was spending. In the past, I would mostly shop when I needed something. The genius of the group purchasing sites is that they get you to buy stuff you didn’t even know you wanted.
The first thing I bought through these websites was a deeply discounted dinner at a fancy Western restaurant on Dongping Road, something like a 300 yuan ($45.71) meal for only 68 yuan. The experience was what got me hooked on group purchasing. But later, I realized I had purchased more coupons for dinners than I could possibly use before they expired. Usually, a coupon is only good for one or two months. I usually only eat out with friends on weekends, so how was I supposed to use 10 coupons in a month? It wasn’t something that I considered when I was repeatedly clicking the buy button.
Another problem is that sometimes you’re not buying what you think they are. Many of the deals are unbelievably cheap, and for good reason. For example, I once purchased a coupon for a two-hour spa treatment at a spa in Pudong New Area. The place looked nice on the Internet, but turned out to be just some run-down spa in an apartment building. Even though the coupon was valid for two visits, I never went back.
It made me question the whole notion of group purchasing. How does one know if the original price listed on group purchasing websites is real? Are they just inflating the price to make the deals look more attractive? It’s hard to say because so many of the businesses providing the services are unknown.
For them, group purchasing seems like a good way to promote their businesses and make some quick money. But I haven’t gone back to any of those shops or restaurant. In my experience, most of them aren’t worth a second visit.
My 10-month experience as a group shopping slave has taught me that these sites actually have very little to offer, so I have since deleted these sites from my web browser. I have found that my mornings, as well as myself, are far freer.