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Living Stupid

Groupon, you better hold that IPO soon, because the world is full of people like me. And someday we're gonna catch on to your evil plans.
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My name is Jamie and I'm a Daily Deal of the Day Addict.

Prior to last year, I liked a deal as much as the next guy. Now, I like it more than him and more than the guy next to the next guy.

Groupon, Living Social and now Scoutmob (WTF?) flood my inbox every day with emails. I look forward to their arrival with the same enthusiasm I once had for letters from home when I was stationed overseas in the Army, defending America from nations that would never permit basic freedoms like daily deals of the day.

I rarely buy the offer. But sometimes I see one that gives me a tingle where my bathing suit covers. I am literally losing money if I do not accept this deal! That mindset is losing me money.

Y'know how some people have wanted to do something for, like, their whole lives? I'm not one of those people. Take hang gliding, for example. As a Manhattan Beach resident for nearly 11 years, I've driven past the hang-gliding school on Dockweiler Beach thousands of times. Quite often I think, "That'd be pretty cool." Then I get distracted by something shiny and forget all about willfully launching myself off a cliff while attached to a big kite.

But then in February I received the Groupon for hang gliding lessons. $75 for an introductory lesson, which normally costs $150. Fate! That is the only logical explanation for this meeting of half-ass desire and opportunity. By passing that up I would not only be missing out on learning a vital life skill, I'd be losing $75 in the process.

I did not think again about the purchase until Groupon nicely sent me a reminder that the expiration date was rapidly approaching. I called the place to schedule a lesson that week. Apparently, there are other lazy/forgetful Grouponers out there, because the guy on the phone told me the shop had to extend the deal for another month. At my lesson, the instructor mentioned that Groupon buyers either sign up immediately, or, uh, delay. The latter group is bigger.

How was it? Lemme tell you, I liked hang gliding more than I like cold beer on a hot Saturday. What a rush! I totally pictured myself traveling to Telluride in the summertime where I'd rent a glider and just cruise on the "thermals" for hours. Then Greg explained that hang gliding is not a sport like skiing where you can just show up and rent the equipment. No, you need to buy your own glider ($3000+), and then have: a truck to haul the glider, a garage in which to store the glider, and a pulley-winch system with which to load the glider onto your truck in your garage. Truck-less, garage-less and pulley-winch-less, my dreams of hang gliding crashed into the rocks below. But just think how much money that lesson saved me by talking me out of getting into hang gliding!

Alas, not every dailydealoftheday works out that well. For instance, July Fourth weekend I ate Quizno's six times in order to complete my "$26 for an eight-punchcard" (a $51.92 deal) before it expired. That wasn't my nadir, though.

Today I scraped the bottom of the bargain bin.

I just returned from a sushi lunch. This is a normal occurrence in my life. What isn't normal is my driving 25-minutes to eat lunch by myself. See, I had a Living Social voucher (for god's sake, do not call it a "Groupon!") that got me $20 of food for $10. It expires in a month, so I figured I better use it before the aforementioned deadline rush.

Here's the thing about me that you do not know (well, there are probably a few other things, but this is the only one relevant to this story): I don't eat a lot. Rarely do I finish a mid-day meal. In fact, my buddies like to embarrass me by asking the server for a to-go box immediately after I place my order. (This often causes them embarrassment, though, if English is not the server's native language, as multiple translations are required, thus killing the "joke.") My small stomach helps pad my wallet, since I don't require another big purchase for dinner. Mmmmmm-ching!

Seated at lunch this afternoon, I read the fine print of the Living Social voucher. "No take out." That information would've been useful prior to deciding on the solo venture. Usually, I'd just get a doggy bag for my leftovers. OK, no big deal. I'll just order a lot of food and eat like my friends do.

Here's another thing about me you do not know (wow, this is getting kinda personal): I food coma like it's my J-O-B. Consequently, a pig out session would not be conducive to an afternoon of writing, which is my job job. Looked like I would be taking a bath on this dealio...

Excuse me?! I'd already plunked down my $10 for $20 and, dammit, Mitch McConnell will raise his own taxes before I don't get my money's worth on a voucher!

Accountant's visor squarely atop my head, I ordered the sushi/roll special for (12.95) and a diet Coke (1.95). For the uninitiated, if you spend less than the voucher is worth ... you are a stupid face. The restaurant or massage parlor or cowboy boot store will not give you change. (Come to think of it, this feature would drive my father crazy; he spent years of his life telling his children, "I'm expecting change!" only to be disappointed time and again.) So, you need to spend as much of the voucher's worth as possible -- in this case, twenty bucks -- in order to assure your personal satisfaction.

At that point, I had only reached $15. So, I ordered edamame (2.50) and an extra salmon sushi (at 1.99, this was the restaurant's special of the month; for some reason, that made it taste extra dealicious. Btw, I just googled "dealicious" to see if I'd invented a phrase. I did not. What a world this is.)

The food arrived and, not surprisingly, I struggled to meet the challenge. But I unbuttoned my board shorts and forged ahead in the name of cheapskates everywhere.

Looking at the bill, the line for sales tax jumped out at me. (Cue thunderstorm music.) A rookie mistake, certainly, but with all the higher math I somehow forgot about the dealoftheday's seedy underbelly: "tax and tip not included." The tax on my $19.70 meal amounted to $1.70. I left six dollars and waddled to the exit.

On the way home and fighting slumber, I crunched some numbers. Several months ago I put $10 on my credit card for $20 of food at a sushi place I'd never patronized, let alone heard of. Today, I paid $6 more in cash for tax and tip. The ride clocked 16 miles round trip; considering I get roughly 20 MPH on local roads, let's call that $3.00 for gas. Now, throw in the 50-minutes I spent in the car to-and-fro-ing. I don't know the monetary value of my time, but I'd like to think it's more than $1 per hour.

Which, all totaled, means I spent 10+6+3+2 to get $20 worth of lunch. Which means -- and this is the official economics terminology -- I am an idiot.

Groupon, you better hold that IPO soon, because the world is full of people like me. And someday we're gonna catch on to your evil plans.

That said, I've got a $10 for $20 Groupon to Mickie Finnz Fish Bar in Redondo Beach that expires in September. The establishment is six miles from my house. I've neither been there nor heard of it.

Anybody wanna join me? Maybe we can have an addicts' meeting.