BuyYourFriendADrink update: It works!
Yes, you really can buy your friends drinks online that they can redeem with text messages.
I'd initially been skeptical about BuyYourFriendADrink.com (BYFAD), the Web site that just opened today (see previous coverage) in which you can remotely order drinks for your friends that they can redeem at participating bars by showing the bartender a code in a text message. It's available at about 40 bars in New York City and the surrounding area, and the company plans to gradually expand to other urban areas over the course of the year.
I'd been pretty confident that the site itself would work, but I hadn't been entirely positive that the bars involved would really have their act together. Rafe Needleman was very kind to use BYFAD to text me a few bucks so that I'd be able to try the service out, but going into it, I was fully expecting that I'd be greeted with a strange look when I tried to pay for libations with a code in a text message.
However, when CNET associate producer Wilson Tang and I rolled into the Mad Hatter Saloon, just a few blocks from our Manhattan bureau, we were pleasantly surprised. The bartender initially wasn't aware that BYFAD codes could be contained in text messages (she'd thought it would be in the form of an e-mail printout) but she was aware of the site and knew what to do. There was a bit of a delay while she entered the code into the bar's credit card system, but I think that's something that most people will be willing to accept.
It basically did work just like a gift certificate or promotional code. Our balance went slightly over the amount Rafe had sent, because there were two of us, but that went through quite smoothly--we just handed over the amount of cash required to settle the check. And I had a darned good apple martini (though not an). Thanks, Rafe!
So, I give BuyYourFriendADrink a thumbs-up. Sure, it's gimmicky, and it's still very limited. But now when I win bets with my West Coast-based colleagues, I don't have to wait until I'm traveling out there for my "you owe me a beer" agreements to be fulfilled.