Today, I’ve been offered a chance to buy $25 worth of restaurant food for just $11, and a month’s membership to a fitness club for $28. (The fact that it would probably take me a month to exercise off that much food is just a coincidence – I think.)
The offers came from a couple of companies that specialize in tuangou, or group buying. When this method of bargain shopping began in Mainland China, it worked very simply: A group of buyers would approach a seller and offer to buy a certain number of items — if they got a large discount. The seller often agreed, at the prospect of moving so much merchandise and maybe hooking some new customers.
In the past year or so, tuangou has gone online. After all, the Internet provides a quick and easy way to gather a group of people interested in the same product or service — even if it’s limited to one city. Companies like Groupon and SwarmJam see a chance to make money bringing together businesses and bargain hunters.
Typically, membership in an online tuangou group is free, and there’s no minimum purchase. Each day, you’re notified of a possible discount, usually from a business in your area. The discount will be offered only if enough people sign up for it. (In some groups, the more people who sign up, the larger the discount.) If this happens by the deadline, the deal is on. If you’re signed up, your credit card is charged, and you can print out your discount coupon.
This is probably the best way yet to find out about possible bargains and unadvertised specials in your town.
The restaurant discount I mentioned “tipped” before 7:30 this morning. The fitness offer still needs three more buyers, for some reason.
Deals like these can come your way, too.