Historically, I’ve always used RetailMeNot for my coupon code needs, as I knew of no viable alternatives. When Coupon Chief contacted me to know if I would review their site, I was glad to agree – after all, competition always tends to produce better products, overall. Before I continue, I want to be clear about the fact that Coupon Chief is paying me to write the review below. Despite their sponsorship, rest assured – the review represents my own honest, unbiased opinion.
My first impression of their website was a positive one, thanks to a very clean design, and no visible ads. The content featured on the main page is well placed, and represents what I think will be the most practical shortcuts for users. The search feature is also prominent, and instead of using a proprietary search engine, it utilizes the Google Custom Search. Google’s prowess in the search market is widely known, so I have no doubt in the effectiveness of the search feature.
While Coupon Chief does not currently have ads on the front page, they do feature them on store, coupon, and search result pages. Largely text-based, these ads all seem to be respectfully placed, and currently do not obstruct the user experience. As necessary as advertisements are, I feel caution is necessary to ensure they don’t end up harming the user experience. I’m glad to see that Coupon Chief did this tastefully.
Considering the simple nature of copying a coupon and using it towards a purchase, I approached Coupon Chief expecting to do just that. Sure enough, using the site can be as simple as that – but I was happy to see that they also made a few unique additions.
A feature called Coupon Pulse provides users with a statistical breakdown of the coupon’s success. The color coding makes it easy to quickly determine the general health of the coupon, while also offering specific details should the user be interested. I really appreciated this feature, and felt it was a definite improvement over having just a percentage success rate.
There is also a way for users to get e-mail notifications whenever a coupon is added for a particular store, or a particular tag. I like that this is completely customizable, with fairly generous alert limits (12 stores, 12 tags). I wasn’t able to find a similar feature on the RetailMeNot side – all they offer is a global newsletter that showcases the most popular coupons, which Coupon Chief does also.
For those looking to for extra income, Coupon Chief offers an intriguing feature known as “Pays-2-Share“, which rewards users when the coupons they uploaded are used by others. According to the description, every time someone uses a coupon you’ve uploaded, 2% of the sales are awarded – up to a max of 25$ per store, per month. I was unfortunately unable to try the “Pay-2-Share” feature, as I am not a U.S. resident; however, I really like the idea of paying users, as it could potentially drive merchants to make their coupons easily accessible. Also, the efforts of regular, every day individuals would be rewarded.
“Coupons-4-Causes” is another promising feature, allowing users to contribute to charities whenever they use Coupon Chief coupons. Coupon Chief states that they’ll donate up to 20% of the purchase price to the charity, school, or church of the user’s choosing.
In the future, I’d like to see them release power tools, further facilitating the process of exploiting online coupons. For example, a browser extension that is able to automatically look up websites, as RetailMeNot currently offers.
Given the simplicity behind the concept of copying coupon codes, one would expect that using such a website would be obvious, and it usually is. Yet, in the top right corner of their menu, Coupon Chief has a helpful “How it works” page. When visited, the user is presented with a video tutorial that explains how to use the site efficiently. For further detail, there is a clear list of steps right below that video, further explaining how it all works. I really like it when sites do this, as what is obvious for one user may not be for another.
In general, I found that Coupon Chief was pretty good in terms of usability. I only spotted one problem throughout my review: When reviewing coupon entries, I noticed that the name of the user was preceded with an image that included a color code in the top left corner. At first glance, I wasn’t sure what this image meant; however, when I hovered over it, the tool tip revealed that it was a user trust score of sorts. That explained it to me, but I still felt like it could have been represented in a better way. Perhaps the avatar and trust score would be better if kept separate, as in some cases, the color code might blend too well with the avatar, making it difficult to see.
Whenever I encounter a new website, I typically lookup the domain on Web of Trust, to get a sense of what the public already thinks about it. In this case, Coupon Chief has a fairly negative reputation, but I think I understand why. The problem seems to be that users can submit coupons, and along with them, links to other websites (domains). The submitted websites could potentially be malicious by nature, or simply have shady practices. There needs to be some sort of a system in place to ensure that such domains are rejected.
As a test of my theory, I tried to see if I could create a completely bogus (and harmless) coupon, associated with mattrefghi.com. Sure enough, I was able to do so – and it immediately was allowed to show up in the search results. I feel that there should be a validation procedure, automated or not. Otherwise, I can see users potentially getting spyware, or even viruses by clicking links submitted by certain malicious users. Now, users do have a “Trust score” on Coupon Chief, and that’s a good step; however, I feel it needs to be exploited further. For example, if the trust score is bad enough, maybe coupons from that user should require validation before appearing on the site.
Coupon Chief also currently has problems with comment spam, as it allows any users to post comments under coupons, without a CAPTCHA, or any detectable form of moderation. I feel they need to implement some counter-measures here, to ensure the quality of their service isn’t compromised.
In general, Coupon Chief runs pretty smoothly – I only encountered two minor issues when reviewing it, and felt only one was worth mentioning here.
I found certain cases where the coupon code itself is partially obstructed by the scissors icon, preventing users from reading it fully. Clicking on the coupon will still launch another window, and will apply the right code. However, if a user tries to do it manually, he may think the code doesn’t work, when in reality, he likely just didn’t see the last letter.
I found this issue while using Google Chrome 10.0.648.204, so it may not be reproducible in other browsers. Also, it seems that it doesn’t always occur – sometimes the scissors don’t overlap, and you see the code properly.
Coupon Chief is a welcome addition to the world of coupon codes, introducing unique new features, and an attractive way to get paid for submitting content. The security problems I noted earlier are my only concern at the moment, so until they correct those issues – I suggest sticking to well known stores and coupons within the site.