Man holding wad of cash in his handIf you've been thinking about trying out one of the many group buying sites but worry it would be hard to redeem, or you live somewhere the trend has yet to reach, today's deal promises to allay these fears.

Groupon, an originator of the movement, is offering $50 worth of merchandise for $25 at The Gap. It's the first time it's offered a deal with a large national retailer.

For the uninitiated, Group buying sites strike marketing deals with businesses like restaurants, salons, entertainment or service venues to offer reduced prices for those who pay upfront. Some offer a limited number of certificates for each deal while others, including Groupon, use the collective buying power of a large group to trigger the deal. Once a minimum number of people commit, the deal is on.

Groupon began in Chicago and its brand of social buying has spawned numerous similar sites across the country. The popularity has caused some businesses to suffer under the sheer numbers of coupons sold, unable to accommodate customers or honor the deal. Others fret that with so many group buying sites, the value is diluted by bogus deals.

According to Groupon spokeswoman Julie Anne Mossler, the company hasn't abandoned the small local retailers that are the foundation of Groupon's success, but the opportunity to run a national deal lets subscribers in areas not served by Groupon buy into the deal. There's no telling how many have bought into the Gap deal, but at several times today the site was down, presumably due to heavy traffic.

Today's Gap Groupon is good at all Gap stores including Gap Kids and Gap Body, but not online, at outlet stores or in conjunction with other promotions. There's a November 19 expiration date, but if you're unable to redeem the certificate before then, the Gap will issue a $25 gift card, Mossler tells WalletPop.

But hurry, the deal expires at midnight, and there's been such a huge response that the Groupon site servers have been crashing.

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