It’s no secret that I love a bargain. I don’t see why anyone would be averse to saving money on something when the discount is there for the taking. The advent of sites such as Groupon and Wowcher and nCrowd means we’re now overwhelmed with opportunities to experience places at much cheapness. I like cheapness.
My husband used to get really cringey about vouchers; often going to the toilet at the point of me handing one over, ha! Then I explained it to him in real terms (saving money in one place = more money to spend on beer) and he was very much converted (although the voucher transaction is still very much my domain).
I love a good voucher deal! It’s a great opportunity to try somewhere new or different, or even revisit somewhere you’ve been before at a much reduced price. We’ve had good ones, bad ones, and indifferent ones.
Here are my top tips:
Research the venue
I can’t stress this highly enough. I’ve seen some deals that look great then you Google them and the good folk of Tripadvisor tell you to avoid at all costs. Have a look at a cross section of reviews – I read somewhere that you should generally ignore the top and bottom 10% as they won’t be truly indicative, but you can generally get a feel for whether a place is a gem or a doghole. Remember, some establishments are resorting to special offers on voucher sites just to be able to make some money, because they can’t get people through the doors by other means. If there’s an overwhelming consensus that a hotel is dirty or the food is cold, step away.
Check the validity
If you can only use it for lunch Monday to Friday, or a Sunday to Thursday overnight stay then it might not be right for you. Make sure the timescales fit with your own. If it’s a hotel then it’s a good idea to call and check availability before you buy your voucher and get your hopes up. If it’s a popular one then all weekend rooms may have been booked (plus sometimes there are only a handful of rooms / tables allocated to voucher deals while others are for full paying customers).
Check for menu restrictions
If it’s a set menu then beware, there’s a chance the choices will be low end to make it worthwhile for the venue. We once stayed at a gorgeous hotel which included a 3 course meal but the main menu options were things like pasta or sausage and mash! (which weren’t even on the standard menu). Don’t automatically expect the full menu. Also beware of surcharges for choices like steak or seafood if those are the items you would usually go for.
Book sooner rather than later
Most voucher companies will not refund you if you can’t find a date or time to suit you, so don’t leave it until the last minute to book the deal and then discover they can’t accommodate you. In most cases you only have a 7 day money back window.
Remember to bring your voucher!
Some places will accept a code from your phone or a QR code via an app, but do check the small print and if it says bring a printed voucher with you, then do it. Don’t risk having to pay for a meal or hotel room in full because you forgot the piece of paper.
Remember that, in most cases, these vouchers are being sold as a loss leader to gain new patrons, in the hope that you will return in future. For that to be the case you would expect exactly the same treatment as a full paying customer. If not then they’re not doing their job properly. I had that experience at Purnell’s Bistro when all of the people dining with vouchers were in one side room, while the rest of the restaurant remained empty. We were also in and out – including being seated, ordering and eating 2 courses – within an hour. There was a definite feeling of being rushed. I left a review on TripAdvisor expressing my disappointment.
Follow those tips and there’s no reason why you can’t behaving a great time and saving money!