By Quentin Fottrell
Moving house? Or fancy a little spring cleaning? When buying a daily deal service to help around the home, take warning: the extra charges could end up costing even more than the actual offer.
A recent offer from Living Social and A-Z Moving offered a discount of 60% by paying $63 for “Two Hours of Moving Services with Two Men and One Truck.” But according to the fine print: “Additional services, travel time/fuel, tolls and packing materials not included and will be billed at regular price.” The “travel time/fuel” alone costs an extra $79 — bringing the total to $142. A spokesman for A-Z Moving says moving services costs can vary, depending on the service; Brendan P. Lewis, a spokesman for Living Social, says the site will waive its five-day refund policy on this deal. “Always read the fine print,” he says.
Experts say such hidden fees are a growing trend among online daily deals — particularly among offers for household services. To avoid overpaying, they say consumers should call the retailer before buying a deal to check the dollar value of those extras. Other home services almost always carry conditions such as “paint not included,” says Dan Hess CEO and co-founder of deal-tracking site Dealradar.com, which can run an extra $100 a gallon. “We’re seeing a lot more of these kinds of deals,” says Chris Treadaway, founder and CEO of Notice Technologies, which creates social media and online marketing strategies for local businesses.
Like Living Social, other daily deal sites also offer moving services — but include all the extra services in the headline price. It’s a simpler approach, Hess says, but it doesn’t seem like such an eye-catching bargain at first glance. This deal by Groupon and Meathead Movers in LA works out at around $150 for two hours, slightly more than the total cost of Living Social’s $142 deal, but a spokeswoman for Groupon says the typical charges for fuel, boxes and travel time are included.
Still, experts see more daily deal sites offering more of these services with charges that vary dramatically — primarily because an increasing number of daily deal sites are all vying for the same business. To be fair, Treadaway says daily deal sites and service providers face a difficult challenge: they must offer headline-grabbing deals on home improvement and moving services without wallpapering over what can sometimes be extremely high hidden charges. “It’s why we’re more or less exiting the daily deal business,” he says.