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How to turn your unused Groupons into cold, hard cash

When he bought a package of massages for half price ($245) from Groupon, Nathan Barusch of Phoenix, Ariz., had every intention of going. But things got busy at work, he couldn’t schedule an appointment and the expiration date was getting close. He decided the smart thing to do was sell it.

Barusch didn’t have any luck on Craigslist, so he searched the web and found a site called CoupFlip, which offered to buy it for $60.

“It was certainly better than getting nothing, so I was happy,” he said.

Barusch told me he would use the site again if he ever found himself in a similar situation. And it seems a lot of people who buy daily deals don’t use them for one reason or another.

According to a study by Uptal Dholakia, an associate professor of management at Rice University, two out of 10 daily deals (21.7 percent) are unredeemed when the promotion period ends. CoupFlip estimates that as much as 30 percent of the $5 billion in annual deals sold last year may go unused.

Some sites, like MyCabbage (formerly DealsGoRound), are a marketplace where buyers and sellers can do business. It offers a mobile app for the iPhone that lets you organize, share and redeem daily deals with friends via Facebook.

CoupFlip is different. It actually buys unwanted deals from Groupon, Living Social and similar sites and resells them. Your transaction is with the CoupFlip, not some third-party.

“We create a marketplace where you can actually sell your daily deal today,” said CEO Phil McDonnell. “You don’t just list it and wait around to see if somebody will take it, because these things expire. You can go on and in less than 30 seconds upload it, sell it and be done with it.”

The site, which went national in October, uses a complex algorithm to come up with the purchase price. It’s based on expiration date, how many were sold and the Yelp! score of the merchant.

“The idea is to give you a fair price,” McDonnell told me. “If your deal has a pretty good expiration time on it and also was a popular deal to being with, we’ll generally pay up to 70 percent.”

Payment is made through PayPal in 10 business days. This gives the site time to validate the voucher.

Shop for deals on deals
Of course, CoupFlip doesn’t make any money unless it resells these vouchers. So it offer deals on these deals for spas, entertainment, vacations, even clothing. It’s also a great place to look for last-minute restaurant discounts.

Most of the coupons on CoupFlip are 10 percent less than what they sold for on Groupon or Living Social. But as the expiration date gets closer, the discounts get bigger.

“We actually have some deals that are 98 percent off the face price,” McDonnell said.

Audrey Brown, a teacher in San Francisco, used the site when her glasses broke. She remembered seeing a Groupon for an eye exam and $150 toward new frames. She went to Groupon, but the deal had expired. CoupFlip had it.

“It was fantastic,” she said. “It was really fast and easy. I would definitely use them again.”

There’s always a risk when you buy a deal voucher that was sold to someone else. It could be fake or already used. Some are not transferrable. That’s the benefit of using CoupFlip. The site guarantees the voucher is authentic, is still good and is transferrable. If there’s a problem, you’ll get your money back.

By the way, maybe you got gift cards for the holidays that you don’t want or can’t use. You can turn that plastic into cash at a number of sites that buy and resell them. Here are a few you might want to visit: Plastic Jungle, Gift Card Granny, Card Hub, Cardpool, CardCash, GiftCards.com

Herb Weisbaum is The ConsumerMan. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter or visit The ConsumerMan website.