Facebook Deals is a new service from the social ubernetwork that gives you vouchers and coupons when you check in with its system on your smart phone. Check into Starbucks, for example, and bag a free coffee, or check into a nearby clothes shop and a voucher will give you money off.
Fire up Places on your phone, and you'll see a list of nearby locations. A little yellow square will denote the places that have vouchers available, and when you check into these places, you'll see a voucher pop up on your screen. Show this to someone in the shop, and they'll hand you your muffins, T-shirts or whatever other free swag you've nabbed.
There are different types of voucher codes, including charitable donations, product giveaways or loyalty deals -- check in somewhere enough times and you'll grab a freebie. There are social deals too, which give you a bargain to share with the people you're out and about with.
Partners already signed up to promote their shops with Deals include Yo! Sushi, which is offering complimentary food to the first 1,000 visitors -- you'd best get moving on that one. Mazda is offering a prize draw to win one of five Mazda MX-5 Miyakos for five months free driving, and you can also get 20 per cent off when you buy the car.
O2 is offering 10 per cent off all accessories, and the chance to win an Xbox 360 or PlayStation 3 when you check in at an O2 shop. Argos will generously donate a single pound to the Teenage Cancer Trust for the first 10,000 check-ins at its stores.
Debenhams is offering free mascara to 1,000 people, and best of all, if you check in to Alton Towers Resort on 18 February, you get free entry to the park, which should ensure that for one day, it'll be the nerdiest theme park on the planet.
If you check into the O2 arena you can also nab 20 per cent off Usher's new album so, uh... enjoy that.
Deals has already been announced in the US, but now it's headed to Europe, starting with the UK and a few other countries. At the press announcement this morning Facebook had created a few dummy locations with fake deals (like the one in the photo on the right) so we were able to test the voucher-attaining process.
It all seemed to work really smoothly, and we were also sent a notification email informing us that we'd checked in, and acquired a delicious bargain.
How well the service works beyond these unimpressive first few deals will depend on how many companies decide to make vouchers available at their shops. Places hasn't exactly seen enormous uptake since it launched, but companies will like the idea of people effectively advertising shops to their network of friends -- don't forget you'll see places your friends have checked in popping up in your news feed.
Deals is a bit like voucher site Groupon crossed with Foursquare, and if enough companies get on board, Deals could feasibly help Facebook swallow both services. "I don't think this will kill Groupon," a Facebook spokesperson said, however. A more direct competitor in the UK is Hot UK Deals, which today is flagging up a whole sea bass for £1.80 at Asda.
It's a decent idea, and we'll certainly be doing a quick scan of our nearby establishments next time we go shopping, but what do you guys think? Is Deals a neat way to save some money, or will endless notifications about your friends checking into Starbucks send you on an unfriending rampage? Let us know in the comments, or on our own (very friendly) Facebook page.