The Emerging Secondary Market for Unused Groupons

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I have a confession to make: I've never purchased a Groupon. That puts me in the minority -- or at least it feels like it. The deal-of-the-day website, which has been profiled everywhere from Fast Company to Chicago magazine over the past year, brought in an estimated $800 million in revenue over 2010. And then CEO Andrew Mason and his board turned down a $5-plus billion acquisition offer from Google. All that to say, Everyone is buying Groupons. Too many of them, maybe.

Is there ever a deal that's really too good to pass up?

This morning, the Boston Globe's Beth Teitell told the story of Laurie MacDougall, a Groupon user who has $250 worth of coupons that need to be redeemed over the next two months. If MacDougall is unable to eat 10 pizzas, get one picture framed, drop off $30 worth of dry cleaning, take two beading classes, have her car washed twice, eat at Johnny's Luncheonette, buy used books at the (where else?) Used Book Superstore and bring three friends to the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, then her coupons will be wasted. By the time May's flowers start to bloom, MacDougall may have spent more money purchasing unused coupons than she saved with her supposedly smart shopping.

"There just isn't enough time in the day to do it all," MacDougall told the Globe. "I made a spreadsheet, and it's so sad, they're all coming due." MacDougall's predicament raises an interesting question: Is there ever a deal that's really too good to pass up?

An emerging secondary market is hoping that you'll think of them before you start asking yourself that question too seriously. Sites like CoupRecoup, Lifesta and DealsGoRound, the Globe points out, "give consumers a place to sell those deals they couldn't pass up but also couldn't manage to use." Who's behind these new sites and how do they work?

LIFESTA

Founded in 2009 by Eran Davidov and Yael Gavish, two 2005 business school graduates who have both managed big engineering divisions at Sun Microsystems, Lifesta grew out of one wasted coupon. Gavish, entertaining a visiting friend in New York, went to a restaurant with a Groupon in hand only to find that the restaurant was closed for renovations, according to a story on CNN. "Her friend was out the money, but an idea was born," CNN reported. Lifesta can't help you once a coupon has expired, but perhaps you bought a deal from one of 150+ sites and find that you no longer have any personal need for it. Someone else out there might. Lifesta attempts to pair the two parties by allowing sellers to post any active coupons or vouchers to the site. The seller sets the price and Lifesta takes 99 cents per listing plus 8 percent of the sale price; the listing stays active until the coupon is sold or the deal expires.

COUPRECOUP

Described as a Craigslist for reselling Groupons by TechCrunch, CoupRecoup launched in June of 2010. The site is very basic: It doesn't charge anything for a listing and it doesn't handle transactions. If you're looking to unload a coupon that you bought and no longer have any need for, visit the site and, without even signing up for an account, post your asking price, your e-mail address and the original URL of what you're selling. For the larger sites, like Groupon, CoupRecoup will automatically scrape data and populate all of the relevant fields of your new listing. Once somebody bites, though, it's up to you to figure out how to carry out the exchange. It's easy to send a payment through PayPal, but you'll have to decide if you trust the other party enough to do that.

DEALSGOROUND

DealsGoRound calls itself "the first marketplace/exchange for the re-selling, buying and trading of past daily deals," but it's only been around for about a year now, having been founded in March of 2010 by Kris Petersen. That said, the site is more secure than CoupRecoup and other players in this secondary space; it requires all sellers to have their PayPal accounts verified before posting to the marketplace and advertises a purchase guarantee. Once you have a verified account, posting to DealsGoRound is free -- the site takes a 10 percent transaction fee only when a deal is sold -- but a bit complicated: You must provide the unique certificate number of your deal, the fine print and restrictions and a PDF or image file of the coupon or voucher. Listings are promoted on the site for 60 days from the date of creation.

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Nicholas Jackson is a former associate editor at The Atlantic.

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