9 Tips: How to save on restaurant and travel flash sales

Published on: May 22, 2012 | Last Updated on February 11, 2016
Flash sale tips for restaurant and travel
Flash sale tips for restaurant and travel

Restaurant and travel flash sales can be enticing.

Everyone loves a good deal, especially when it comes to luxuries such as vacations and eating out.

Online marketers know that too. That’s why you’re seeing seductive invitations for online flash sales for travel and restaurant meals.

The Cornell University Center for Hospitality Research, in a research snapshot from August, reported that flash-sale travel deals generated an estimated $19.9 million in revenue, 11 percent of the revenue across the entire flash-sale industry.

Flash sales advertise a hotel stay, restaurant meal or other product or service for a limited time at deep discounts (ranging from 15 to 75 percent).

The deals have gained popularity because they offer advantages to everyone: consumers, businesses and e-marketers (the deal makers).

Typically, the buyer purchases an online voucher or coupon to try out new hotel or dining experiences they might not ordinarily be able to afford or may not have known about.

Many sites display enticing countdown clocks showing the hours and minutes left to take advantage of the offer.

Hotels are able to offload rooms at times when beds would otherwise remain empty. Similarly, restaurant deals usually are limited to slow sales periods.

The biggest advantage to advertisers: The publicity exposes hotels or restaurants to a wide audience, beyond those who actually click and purchase during the sale period.

The deal-makers get a cut of the profits.

Flash sales can yield substantial savings, but as always, buyers need to be savvy consumers. Here are 10 tips to avoid the land mines:

1. Resist impulse purchases. These ads are designed to connect with your inner shopper, and they do it well. Beautiful photography, rock-bottom prices and effusive recommendations on social media make it easy to buy something you don’t need or can’t use.

2. Don’t believe everything you read. Check out the actual website of the hotel or resort, and compare prices before you make a purchase. Glance at the restaurant menu online to see how the deal compares with usual pricing. Check out actual user reviews.

3. Read the fine print. Many deals are nonrefundable, so read all terms and conditions carefully, especially involving cancellations and refunds. Determine whether the offer is for a fixed date or flexible period and whether taxes, fees, gratuities, parking and/or other incidental expenses are included.

4. Note the expiration date. Make sure you are able to use the voucher before it expires. (Applicable state laws vary, but many vouchers purchased online retain their cash value for as long as five years, even if the deal that inspired the purchase has expired.)

5. See what forms of payment are accepted. Most sites accept credit cards or Paypal. Make sure you are shopping on a trustworthy site using an encrypted network connection.

6. Determine how to contact the vendor with questions or complaints. Make sure there is a convenient way to report and resolve problems in obtaining or redeeming your purchase. Many sites have “concierges” available by phone or email for troubleshooting.

7. Read the privacy policy. Flash-sale sites have access to your personal data. Make sure you know how it may be used.

8. Understand redemption policies. Carefully read the redemption instructions. For example, restaurants may require you to show the voucher to your server before ordering. Keep a print copy and electronic backup in case you need it.

9. If you can’t go, check whether the offer is refundable or transferable. Stuff happens.

Some travel-specific websites for flash sales

  • Jetsetter
  • Groupon Getaways
  • Groupenture
  • Voyage Prive
  • TripAlertz
  • The Vacationist
  • Spire
  • SniqueAway
  • Travelzoo
[This article was previously published in the Chicago Tribune on May 21, 2012]
  • Reply
    May 23, 2012 at 9:21 pm

    Thanks for these tips – I’ve always been intrigued – but wary of – these sales.

  • Reply
    May 25, 2012 at 1:27 am

    I have been so busy innkeeping that I had never heard of a flash sale before. Will look out for them. For now our town is busy organizing Restaurant Week.

  • Reply
    May 25, 2012 at 1:40 am

    I’m with Sheryl–I’ve always been nervous about using this kind of service. How do these differ or compare to the auction sites? I’ve noticed a couple of auction travel sites pop up of late.

  • Reply
    Vera Marie Badertscher
    May 31, 2012 at 1:29 pm

    While some of the travel flash sale sites specialize in luxury properties that I can’t afford even at the discount rate, I am totally addicted to Groupon’s daily sales. I don’t buy any Groupon that I wouldn’t be using anyhow, and it has meant that we go out to eat more often than usual, not to mention some good home service deals. Amazon and Google have both gotten into the daily special deals.
    To answer My Kids Eat Squid’s question, you know exactly what you’re getting and what it is going to cost with the flash sales. With auction sites you sometimes don’t know what exact property you’re bidding on, and of course don’t know until it is over how much you’ll pay. In a town with a limited number of 4 and 5 star hotels you can sometimes score a real bargain, because it is pretty easy to figure out what you’ll wind up with.

  • Reply
    Irene S. Levine
    May 31, 2012 at 1:38 pm

    I guess Nirvana is finding a flash sale for something you really need or want—for example, finding a hotel or restaurant flash sale for a place you already want to go:-)

  • Reply
    June 3, 2012 at 11:40 am

    I have been taken in so many times by flash sales that I am on a self-enforced ban at the moment. I have coupons for meals and even a 2 night stay in a NYC hotel that were bad impulse buys.

    • Reply
      Irene S. Levine
      June 3, 2012 at 12:52 pm

      Judy, I can’t even bring myself to stop them coming. That reminds that I bought a coupon deal for a photography book that I have to find in my in-box 🙂

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