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Web coupons: Are they for real?

Online coupons bombard our inboxes daily and promise us the world. But what’s the deal with these coupons? Do they really work?

Website: Groupon.com
The deal: You get half off on anything from restaurants to yoga classes to frozen yogurt. You have to pay for the deal the day it’s offered, but you have four to six months to use it. You'll get a prepaid online coupon stating the deal you bought, and all you need to do is present the printout to the vendor.
The lowdown: This one’s a winner. With the help of Groupon, we got half-off grub at Baja Fresh and a month-long membership to the YMCA gym for $20. The only downside is that unless a pre-determined number of people sign up for each discount, the offer will be canceled (hence the name Groupon, short from "group coupon"). If a deal is called off, your credit card won't be charged.

Website: Restaurant.com
The deal: You can buy $25 restaurant gift cards for $2 to $10. When you buy the coupon online, you have a year to use it.
The lowdown: The gift card failed to work at Il Nido’s, though it was listed as a participating restaurant on the site. and it took two e-mails and four days to transfer the gift card to another restaurant. At 10 Downing, the coupon worked fine. But you have to buy at least $35 worth of food, and leave a tip based on the pre-discount total. It may not be worth the hassle.

Website: Blackboardeats.com
The deal: A weekly deal is e-mailed to you, usually offering 30-50 percent off your meal at a high-end eatery. Once you click on “Get this special!,” you’ll get a discount code that you can use at the restaurant within a month.
The lowdown: A sweet, commitment-free deal as no payment is needed online. The code worked flawlessly at I Sodi. With the purchase of an entrée, you got a free lasagna (worth $17).

Website: 8coupons.com
The deal: You get eight coupons e-mailed to you weekly (for free), with deals dubbed “Ocho Loco, ” that usually involve the number 8: from 8-cent ice cream to $8 concert tickets at Lincoln Center.
The lowdown: Offerings are pretty random and some of the discounts are in fact just regular prices (such as the $13.95 all-you-can-eat lunch at Daioh Sushi). The site serves as an aggregator, directing you to outside websites that will then sell you the deal online or tell you where to go to get it in person. If you aren't looking for anything specific, 8coupons.com is a great way to stay on top of various deals.

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