Groupon Etiquette: How To Use A Daily Deal With Panache

11/12/2011 11:19 am ET | Updated Jan 11, 2012

Using a Groupon, Living Social, Lifebooker, Amazon, Scoutmob, or Daily Candy deal is great if it's for an already shameful, solo activity like tanning or lip-waxing. It's not so great when you have to expose your couponing ways to your nearest, dearest and waitress while dining out with friends. This is for two reasons. First, because at some point you have to pull out your phone or smushed deal printout and demand your free hummus. Second, because if you want to use a Groupon for a group activity where everyone is expected to pay together, there’s always that question of how or if the deal gets distributed within the group. Does it go towards the whole bill? Should it only apply to you? Do you apply it to the group, but then someone else tips? Here's a look at how to politely use daily deals when dining, and why sharing is (almost) always the best policy. (From here on out, we will use "Groupon" to refer to any and all daily deals services.)

What To Do When You Have The Groupon
Pretty much the only time it’s okay to keep the deal to yourself is in situations where you’re already paying separately, i.e. dining spots with counter service. In all other situations the discount should be applied to the whole bill and shared equally amongst the diners. This is especially true if you chose this particular sushi spot because you had a Groupon there. You aren’t going to the restaurant because you think it’s going to be good, you're going because you know it’s going to be cheap. While it’s fine to take this risk, it's important to remember that your friend is taking it too. They should have the same safety net (money-off guarantee) as you.

Also, if you invite someone to a certain restaurant specifically because you have a Groupon there, you should tell them that that is why you chose the restaurant. Keeping the Groupon a secret until you whip it out at the end of the meal is like not telling your friend that the only reason you’re going to this bowling party is because you think the guy you like will be there. In both situations everyone eventually finds out and doesn't want to go to bowling parties with you anymore.

If you really don’t want to share the coupon evenly, you can ask your companion to pay a little extra to the tune of whatever half the price of the deal would be. That’s fair, and it confuses them enough that they still might think they’re getting a deal, which maybe they are, but really these Groupon-supported checks get so complicated that no one can really say for sure. If you understand math well enough to have an opinion as to whether it's possible for anyone to come out richer in these daily deal situations please let us know.

What To Do When Your Friend Has A Groupon
The problem with treating your friend’s Groupon like it's a gift certificate is that it isn’t. They paid for it, and even though they probably don’t want to, they will be forced to watch you scarf down half of their free baba ganoush. Acknowledge that in this situation you kind of suck, and proceed accordingly. Due to the way deals are meted out (most must apply to the whole check) and general restaurant etiquette that says you have to split all checks no matter who has what appetizer, you can reasonably expect your Groupon'd companion to share their discount with you.

When this happens you have two jobs. First, say thank you. Do not say, “I can’t believe how cheap this place is!” Second, pay the tip. You must pay the entire tip unless that amount would be more than what the person paid for the deal itself, which honestly if you’re friends with people who use coupons in restaurants, it won’t be. Always tip on the pre-discounted bill. The server did not work half as hard just because you got $80 worth of food for $16. Unless of course you told them about the Groupon before the meal. Don’t do this. Don’t tell Manhattan cabbies that you’re going to Brooklyn before you are in the car, and don’t tell servers that you have a Groupon before the bill arrives. If you plan to tip on the pre-deal amount then whether or not you have a coupon shouldn't matter.

The only time you would pre-warn the server of an incoming Groupon situation would be if you are concerned with discreet couponing. If you don't want to be all "My namebrand coupon! My namebrand coupon!" at the end of a meal, simply hand your deal printout to the hostess when you arrive at the restaurant. Your server will know, and either act (poorly) on this information or not, but at least you won't have to make a scene when the bill arrives.

When Not To Bring A Groupon
If you’re planning on sharing it, a Groupon is appropriate at most any meal. There is almost no one who dislikes saving money, and you shouldn’t be friends with those people anyway. The only situation where I would really like to say you can’t bring a Groupon is on a date, but even that is probably alright. Sure it might come off as cheap and it definitely causes awkwardness when dealing with the bill, but it also shows that you are either truly into deals or truly unselfconscious. When you think about it, neither of these things are the worst qualities in a potential partner So, go ahead, bring a Groupon on a date, but if you do, you must share it no matter what.

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