If Groupon isn't as ubiquitous as, say, Facebook, it's getting there.
The website, which offers daily coupons to local restaurants, bars and other businesses, has 60 million members worldwide, about half of whom live in North America. Its Super Bowl ads surely introduced it to some new customers, too.
Groupon's business model is simple: It posts one deal a day, such as $10 for $20 worth of food at a local café, or 75 percent off a package of salsa lessons. Visitors have 24 hours to sign up for the deal.
I tested Groupon along with some copycat services. I came away with a handful of coupons to restaurants - and a temptation to splurge on things I didn't know I needed, like back massages.
(Two of the sites, Groupon and LivingSocial, are available in Tucson. While the writer tested three others, Scoutmob, DailyCandyDeals and Gilt City, they're available, for now, only in a handful of major cities mainly on the East and West coasts.)
• What I like: Groupon sometimes offers deals at national chains - say, $25 for $50 worth of clothes at The Gap. The site also offers the best variety of deals, mixing things like restaurants, yoga classes and bowling. Many of the deals are good for a year, while others expire after six months or so. Each deal needs buy-in from a certain number of visitors to take effect, but because Groupon is well known, it usually does. Groupon has apps for the iPhone, Android and BlackBerrys.
• What I don't: Because Groupon has so many members, deals sometimes sell out. People can only buy one coupon for themselves, though they can e-mail others as gifts to include friends in an outing. Other sites, such as Gilt City, let each person purchase up to 5 coupons.
• What I like: True to its name, many of LivingSocial's deals were tailor-made for groups and couples. Buying a prix fixe dinner for two is easier than buying one coupon and giving the other away, as Groupon would have you do. Perhaps because the deals are so activity-focused, you'll see some that you won't on other sites, such as a six-week foreign-language class. Its "Escapes" section sells hotel stays in locations as diverse as Cozumel, Mexico, and Cape Cod, Mass. The coupons last for six months to a year. In my testing, I also appreciated that LivingSocial's stores and restaurant deals were specific to my neighborhood in Brooklyn, as opposed to more remote parts of New York City.
• What I don't: The only available phone app is for the iPhone. The service could use more restaurant deals. Because of this, I wouldn't subscribe to LivingSocial alone.