Are you a fan of those “daily deals” that arrive in your inbox every morning from Groupon and other discount websites?
You're not alone.
But buyer beware: some Southern California residents who bought discounted round-trip bus tickets through Groupon and Voice Daily Deals for trips to Las Vegas were left stranded when the buses never showed up, broke down or were hours late.
The offer, which was available for trips throughout the summer and was advertised through multiple news and shopping websites, left many passengers feeling frustrated and cheated.
Shermetria Maddox bought her deal on Groupon for $55. “You can’t beat that,” Maddox said.
I caught up with Maddox outside the Bally’s Casino in Las Vegas. She was sitting with a pile of luggage waiting to be picked up from her trip home to Anaheim.
Her trip was provided by LUX Ground Transportation and promised a round trip ticket on a “luxury bus” with free Wi-Fi, premium movies, snacks and an “unlimited drinks” option.
Getting to Las Vegas from her home in Anaheim was uneventful. The bus was an hour late, which she could live with. Getting home was another story.
The LUX bus never showed up. Two shuttle buses finally arrived from another company that had been hired by LUX to rescue the stranded passengers waiting to go home to California.
The passengers reached their drop-off locations in Los Angeles, Anaheim and San Diego after 1 a.m. -- five hours late.
Markelle Gray and her friends bought 15 coupons for the same deal. It was featured through Voice Daily Deals, which operates under the Village Voice moniker and is distributed on multiple outlets including the LA Weekly and OC Weekly.
“I thought I found a deal," Gray said. "Forty-five bucks round-trip to Vegas.”
But Gray had second thoughts about trusting the deal after reading bad reviews on Yelp. She canceled her trip.
On a recent morning Alex Cassidy of Huntington Beach waited for his bus, which was scheduled to depart for Las Vegas at 8:30 a.m. from the Marriott Hotel near Los Angeles International Airport.
He had purchased a discounted ticket from Voice Daily Deals.
“We waited and waited,” he said.
At 1 p.m. Cassidy received a call. The bus was canceled.
Cassidy went home, picked up his car and drove himself to Las Vegas.
Eventually he got his money back.
Groupon says it screened LUX before offering the promotion, and the bus company met their “high quality standards.”
A month later “we determined that the merchant was not providing satisfactory service” said Julie Mossler of Groupon. Groupon canceled the deal and refunded the passengers' money.
But how thorough is that screening process? A check of LUX’s motor carrier permit number on the U.S. Department of Transportation website indicates that the company does not appear to have a valid license.
Lux now appears to be out of business. The doors of their San Jacinto office are locked and the windows papered.
Voice Daily Deals said they do their best to vet every deal. “We’ve done a lot of deals and 99% of them are really good,” said Beth Sestanovich, group publisher of the LA Weekly and Orange Weekly.
How to protect yourself? Contact the business to make sure they will honor the web deal. If you can’t get them on the phone, how are you going to collect on your coupon?
And check Yelp.com for reviews. I know some Vegas travelers who wish they did.