(WMC TV) - Daily-deal web sites are only as good as their local merchant partners.
What happened with Olive Branch's Nikki Coley, Hammer Photography of Cordova, TN, and Groupon is proof those partners aren't always accountable -- and daily-deal sites don't always have control of their partnerships.
"You should not assume that they've done all the due diligence that is necessary to be sure that you're getting a good deal and that the merchant is going to deliver the deal that you're paying for," said Randy Hutchinson, president of the Better Business Bureau of the Mid-South.
"All of a sudden, they're swamped with requests for product they don't have or appointments they don't have enough time for," Hutchinson added.
The Better Business Bureau's advice on daily-deal sites:
* Check out the daily-deals site with the BBB.
* Check out the merchant offering the deal with the BBB.
* Read the fine print on offers to understand any limitations.
* Check with the merchant to be sure it can accommodate a higher volume of business -- does it have enough product or available appointments?
* Be prepared for a delay in getting an appointment or the product.
* Know the refund policies of both the daily-deals site and the merchant.
* Pay with a credit card so that you'll have some recourse if something goes wrong.
Groupon's Julie Mossler offered this advice for Groupon's customers:
* Examine the fine print. "We clearly list out any restrictions or pertinent information for each one of our deals," Mossler said.
* Have reasonable expectations. "Remember that the merchant is discounting their service to win you as a customer, so as a courtesy it's best to be patient as you may need to wait a few weeks to book an appointment given the influx of new customers," she said.
* Read the return policy. "We have The Groupon Promise, which states that if the experience using your Groupon ever lets you down, we'll make it right or return your purchase."