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Giving daily-deal sites a second chance

Boston is one of 10 cities where Groupon Reserve offers free dining reservations and discounts of up to 40 percent.

Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images

Boston is one of 10 cities where Groupon Reserve offers free dining reservations and discounts of up to 40 percent.

I gave up on daily-deal sites about a year ago. The last straw was a $45 pizza-making class I bought, but didn’t show up for. Before that, there was a long list of deals I never used, including a $149 wine-tasting tour, a $20 monthly gym pass, and a $50 boot camp class.

Paying in advance for a deal doesn’t work for my busy lifestyle.

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Daily-deal sites, known for blasting e-mail offers for limited-time discounts at restaurants, spas, and gyms, were one of the hottest things on the Internet in 2011. But as more and more websites entered the market, people grew immune to their clogged inboxes and stopped buying as many daily deals.

But the sites have recently changed their businesses to lure back customers.

Groupon, LivingSocial, and Google Offers are going beyond the prepaid deals and vouchers they began with and are now selling items such as TV sets and iPhone chargers or offering free coupons from local and national retailers.

The changes have gotten my attention. I’ve found myself downloading the apps again and scrolling through my e-mail’s spam folder to see what kind of deals I may be missing. I’ve managed to save a few bucks at Toys “R” Us and a local grocery store.

The offerings are diverse enough that they might rate a look —even if you long ago unsubscribed from the e-mail lists. Here’s a look at how daily-deal sites have changed:

Groupon

The company started the deal-of-the-day craze when the site was launched in 2008. It still sells prepaid deals, but it wants to be a one-stop destination for bargain hunters. Its Groupon Goods business sells everything from perfumes to toothbrushes to TVs at a discounted price. Groupon Goods are available on the Groupon app and at Groupon.com/goods.

Another service, Groupon Reserve, lets users reserve a table at a restaurant for free and offers up to 40 percent off the total bill. No vouchers or printouts are required. The server will know to apply the discount.

Groupon Reserve, which you can find on Groupon’s app and at Groupon.com/reserve, is currently available in 10 big cities, including Boston, New York, Chicago, Denver and San Francisco.

The company also offers over 26,000 free online coupons on its site. Recent discounts include Old Navy, Macy’s, and GameStop. You can find the coupons at Groupon.com/coupons.

LivingSocial

Like Groupon, LivingSocial has started selling goods and offering free coupons. Recent items up for sale include magazine subscriptions, mattresses, and jewelry.

The difference between LivingSocial and Groupon is that when you buy something on LivingSocial you are given a code to redeem the item from another merchant’s website. I bought a $6 iPhone charger this way, which saved me about $20. Groupon’s items don’t require a code.

LivingSocial sells goods through its app and its website. The company has more than 20,000 free online coupons for retailers, including ones from Best Buy, Express, and Guess, at LivingSocial.com/coupons.

Google Offers

Last year, Google Offers stopped selling prepaid vouchers altogether. It now only offers free coupons for restaurants, gyms, and clothing stores.

I once found a $5 coupon for $30 worth of groceries and a nearby Fairway supermarket. I’ve also used a 15 percent-off coupon from Google Offers at Toys ‘R’ Us.

Recent discounts include ones from Jamba Juice in New York and Dunkin’ Donuts in Chicago.

The coupons can be found at Google.com/Offers, on the Google Offers smartphone app, or on Google Inc.’s other products, including Google Maps.

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