Introducing the $10,000 Coupon

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Online group coupons from the likes of LivingSocial and Groupon generally come in the form of discounts for maybe $20 off, and occasionally for markdowns in the neighborhood of $50 or $100. But $10K?

Toward the end of February, LivingSocial upped the ante in a big way, offering a coupon granting 50% off a $20,000 penthouse-suite package at the San Francisco Fairmont. Anyone buying the coupon was entitled to the package for a mere $10,000. What a deal, right?

Bloomberg News reports that LivingSocial isn’t the only coupon specialist going big, and going upscale. Groupon, whose owner granted a Q&A with this blog in the summer of 2009 (long before he turned down Google’s $6 billion buyout offer), has been selling coupons for $499 Dutch bicycles and $2,000 Lasik surgeries.

The idea of hefty limited time discounts is known to get shoppers worked up into a frenzy. But the prudent consumer understands that these discounts are often hype—tricks cooked up to manipulate consumers into buying stuff they don’t need.

Discounts and coupons are ubiquitous nowadays. We’re living at a time when there’s rarely ever reason to pay full price for anything. And if no one pays full price, does “full price” mean anything? Are the discounts really as impressive as they seem?

If no one ever pays $20,000 for that penthouse hotel package, paying $10,000 for it doesn’t equate to a 50% discount. Even if it did, the bigger question is: Do you really think a $10K is a deal for a hotel room? Even a really really nice hotel room?

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