NWA-PCUG Newsletter Article, June 2007
Find LOCAL Bargains Online
By Ira Wilsker, APCUG Director;
Columnist, The Examiner, Beaumont, TX; Radio & TV Show Host

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Let’s face it; we all like bargains, and like to save a buck or two. Rhetorically, what if there were websites where local companies advertised high value coupons for merchandise and restaurants that we would likely patronize anyway? Do you mind saving some money? There are dozens, if not hundreds of websites that offer common coupons, such as “cents off” grocery coupons. A quick search on Yahoo! or Google will list many to choose from. What I personally find more interesting is coupons that offer dollars off rather then cents off. There are an abundance of web sites around the country offering high value coupons for local businesses.

One of my personal favorites is the discount gift certificates available from http://www.restaurant.com. The website is easy to use and offers a variety of coupons, most commonly $25 gift certificates for $10. Selected coupons can be ordered and paid for online, and then printed for immediate use. As an example, I entered the zip code for my local shopping mall, and set the radius of travel at 5 miles. Several notable restaurants were displayed, including a very popular locally owned steak house. There are some “strings” attached to these coupons, such as a $50 minimum purchase at this particular steak house (not including alcohol), which would not be a problem for a complete dinner for a couple or a small group such as a family. Two other popular mall area restaurants offered the $25 dining certificates for $10, but require a $35 minimum purchase (excluding alcohol). If a larger area is selected, such as the “South Eastern Texas” region from the Texas statewide list, 97 restaurants were displayed. The list of 97 can be refined by narrowing the selection by city or by type of cuisine.

http://www.restaurant.com is an easy to use website that can be used locally, or while traveling. The extensive database of restaurant coupons is readily searchable by state and city, zip code, and type of cuisine. While this site can be used to find restaurants near to home, it can also be used while traveling to save money on meals. I was recently in Galveston for a professional meeting, and the ubiquitous question came up, “Where are we going for dinner?” A quick look at the website revealed that one of the top restaurants in town, just a short distance from our hotel, was listed. The offer online was for a “50% off” coupon for $6.25, good for up to $50 off of dinner. If I wanted to select that particular coupon, I could have paid for it online, and had the coupon printed at our hotel’s business center. Similarly, I could have used the service to find restaurants during my recent visit to the Atlanta area, which presented a list of 318 dining certificate options.

While the initial deals on Restaurant.com are quite reasonable, with most dining certificates having a $25 face value and selling online for $10, an apparent savings of up to 60% on meals, there are even better deals available from that web site. Users who register (free) at the site, and opt-in to receive an email about once per week with extra mailings at holiday times, can receive substantially greater savings. The recent Memorial Day promotion from Restaurant.com offered an additional 60% off on dining certificates, lowering the price of a typical $25 dining certificate to just $4, a potential dining savings of 84% ! Most of the time, the emailed savings are typically an additional 50%, making the $25 certificate cost just $5, an 80% discount off of the face value. With savings like these, we can afford to eat out at some of the finer restaurants in town.

Another such example is http://halfpricetexas.com, which is administered by ClearChannel (the same company that hosts my Saturday radio show on KLVI). As I type this, there is an assortment of half-price coupons for sale, including four for golf and related activities. Two major local golf courses are offering $30 rounds of golf for $15, and another is offering a $25 round of golf for $12.50. A company that rents golf carts is offering $50 gift certificates good for golf cart rentals for $25. All of these certificates have an expiration date of 12/31/07. Another offer is for $10 gift certificates good for dinner at an upscale restaurant for $5 each, with a limit of 5 certificates per order, and more than one certificate can be used at a time, effectively cutting the price of a $50 gourmet diner in half. Personally, I recently purchased a quantity of similar gift certificates for one of my favorite restaurants, which my wife and I use on a weekly basis, making our weekly night out that much more affordable. Other coupons listed include a $25 gift certificate for gourmet cookies and cakes from a particular seller at the mall for $12.50. New items are added to this list on a periodic basis, so it should be checked often to locate any newly posted bargains before they sell out.

Many of our local brick-and-mortar stores have websites where inventory can be checked, and sometimes merchandise can be ordered online for almost immediate pickup at the local store. This service can be both a time and money saver. What many may not be aware of is that many of these same stores publish a variety of discount codes or promotions for ordering online, even if the merchandise is ordered out of local inventory, and picked up almost immediately at the local store. Some of the local stores occasionally offering online promotions include Circuit City (typically offers guaranteed in-store pickup availability within 24 minutes of placing the order online), Best Buy, Barnes and Noble, Books-A-Million, and Office Depot. There are many websites that list the online promotional codes, but my personal favorite is a website with a “naughty” name, but it is really quite innocent, at http://naughtycodes.com. Naughtycodes has a simple pull-down menu that alphabetically lists the name of the store which is linked to the current promotions. It should be noted that not all of the listed stores have promotions all the time.

Money is often tight for me, and if I can ethically and easily save a few dollars on my normal purchases from local restaurants and merchants, I will do it. I also like the idea of maybe trying a new restaurant, without the risk of paying full price. Online coupons and gift certificates may be a good way to both save money, and try something new.

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