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Coupon clipping through Kansas City

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Gene Thorp/ The Washington Post
By Nancy Trejos
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, November 12, 2010; 6:36 PM

I didn't want dessert. But I'd already paid for it - sort of.

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I'd bought a $20 Groupon to Anthony's Restaurant and Lounge in downtown Kansas City, Mo., that entitled me to $40 worth of food and drink. My eggplant parmesan and the vegetable lasagna that my friend Rebecca had ordered left us almost $10 short of taking full advantage of our deal. The waitress pointed out that we weren't required to order $40 worth of food. But I just couldn't bring myself to pass up anything free.

"Let's just order dessert later and only take a few bites," Rebecca suggested.

It seemed like a reasonable idea. Never mind that our bargain-hunting had turned us into gluttons. After leaving half of our entrees untouched, we ordered cannoli. Then the waitress handed us our check: We had gone $2.29 over the $40, and we still had to leave a tip. I grudgingly pulled a $10 bill from my wallet.

I had miscalculated.

How had this happened? Well, maybe because I'm a sucker for a great deal. I carry grocery store coupons in my wallet. I never buy a dress or a pair of shoes unless they're on sale. A friend once joked that my life is an ongoing episode of "The Price Is Right."

When Groupon, the group coupon-buying Web site, launched a couple of years ago, coupon-lovers like me rejoiced. No longer were coupons limited to a dozen eggs or a tube of toothpaste. Now, I could use one for a meal or a massage or a yoga class. Coupon-clipping had suddenly become chic.

As a frequent traveler, I wondered whether I could take it to another level. Could I finance an entire trip with coupons?

In the wake of Groupon's success, similar Web sites such as Living Social, Home Run and Social Buy have sprung up. Julie Mossler, a spokeswoman for Groupon, said that many subscribers have signed up for deals in multiple cities, making travel the second biggest reason they buy Groupons.

So it's no wonder that sites are specifically targeting travelers. Last week, Living Social launched Living Social Escapes, a site offering savings on day trips and weekend excursions. TripAlertz.com, meanwhile, aims to be the Groupon for hotels. The more people who book rooms at a featured hotel, the lower the price goes. When you join SniqueAway.com and Jetsetter.com, you get access to limited-time-only sales on hotel rooms. And SavingsonArrival.com, launched in September, offers coupons in a number of destinations, including Miami, Chicago and New York.

For my own destination, I went off the beaten path and chose Kansas City, where a number of coupon sites offer deals. A month before my scheduled visit, I joined several sites, for free, and clicked on Kansas City as my location.

Each morning, I'd eagerly check my BlackBerry for an e-mail with my daily deals. Some made no sense for a visitor: half off a $129 teeth-whitening session, $100 off one month of unlimited yoga classes, $99 for eight laser hair-removal sessions worth almost $700 (tempting!).


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