Online Deal-Hunting

No more clipping coupons; the best deals these days are on the Internet.

When it came time to plan a girls’ night out recently, UH Manoa student Olga Moulton went online. After visiting and another group deals site, she was able to find $4 movie tickets for Eat Pray Love at Ward Theatres, and half-off coupons for nearby restaurant Buca di Beppo. “The tickets were so cheap, and then we ended up spending $20 for five different meals. It wasn’t like $1 off an entrée,” Moulton says. “Everyone was asking me, how do you get all these great deals?”

As it turns out, online coupon sites—and the discounts they’re offering—are bigger than ever. Several locally based sites are following the lead of national sites such as Groupon and Tippr in offering juicy coupons to online shoppers. launched in October 2009; this spring; even the shuttered Smart Magazine reincarnated itself as last month. Click around any of the sites for a minute, and you can find everything from food to spa services to dental care being offered for half off, or more. (HONOLULU Magazine offered subscriptions at 50 percent of the normal rate during a Play Hawaii promotion.)

Each site offers its own twist, but the basic concept for most combines the age-old idea of coupons with the new requirement that a certain number of people sign up for the promotion. A recent deal on Play Hawaii, for example, offered a $40 Formaggio gift certificate for $20, if 250 people committed to buy. If enough people hadn’t signed up?

No deal.

Andrew Roth, the co-founder of Play Hawaii, says the format encourages people to spread the word about a deal. “They’ll forward that e-mail to their co-workers, friends and family, they’ll post it on Twitter,” he says. “More than 300 people shared that Formaggio promotion on their Facebook wall.”

All that free publicity, in turn, encourages businesses to keep offering huge deals.

As always, caveat emptor. Significant savings often come with significant restrictions: coupons may not cover alcohol, may need to be used in one visit and may have a relatively quick expiration date. But group bargain sites can be an easy way to experience new things in Honolulu, for cheap. Moulton says that, in the year she’s been deal-hunting online, she’s been eating out a lot more. “It’s so much more affordable, and it makes you feel good not to be paying the full price.”