The Good and Evil of discount vouchers

There is a practice that is gaining increasing dominance in financial website circles recently owing to broke recession-suffering online shoppers looking for ways of saving money – discount vouchers.

We’ve all seen the boxes at the checkout step that tell you to put in a discount code. After putting in the appropriate code, the fee of the item drops by 10% or further. When they initially appeared, the discounts seemed genuine, but with voucher code websites everywhere, one has to wonder whether these discounts are just marketing gimmicks. There are some email marketing services that send out regular emails with good discount vouchers.

Lots of websites now publicise these promotional discount codes, allowing users to save on a plethora of branded goods and services, including fashion, financial services, books, CDs, DVDs, gifts, gadgets, travel, hotels, and restaurants. The offers range from a specific price to scaled percentage reductions to free delivery. Most websites also provide vouchers that you can print off and use to get discounts in high street shops, such as £20 in a popular clothing chain when you spend over a certain amount.

Most of the codes on the sites have been arranged directly with the retailers but some are meant for specific special customers and have somehow leaked on the internet. These are often surprisingly valuable. If you are buying online and are presented with the chance to put in a code, a good trick is to open up a new browser window and use a search engine to try and find a code. Then it’s something you were going to buy anyway, so it’s a real saving.

Recently, consumer aggregate ‘Which?’ investigated the five biggest voucher sites, and discovered that multitudes of discount codes were out of date or just didn’t work. And scarily, they found out that sometimes standard price comparison sites or personal finance software sites can offer better deals than the discounts you get from the voucher codes. Some sites do put up a disclaimer saying that codes may expire, and invite you to register for email updates. Try registering with additional sites, because each negotiates its own “exclusive deals” that you (allegedly) won’t see anywhere else.

Most of the chief players now subscribe to a new code of conduct introduced by the Internet Advertising Bureau (the internet marketing industries trade association) from 1 January this year, which has shrunk the fake discount problem. Some sites encourage users to click on a retailer’s name and are then linked to their website, only to start that no discount code exists. The new honor code introduced by the IAB has banned the use of “click to reveal” features, when there isn’t a real or up-to-date offer.

Over all, discount vouchers are a magnificent opportunity to save cash, but don’t forget to scan the net to see if you can find a better deal somewhere else.