What's the deal with Facebook Deals?

Facebook Deals sounds like an easy way to snag cool offers. But don't get comfortable. You may check in, but your data may never check out.

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The location-based services gold rush is now officially underway.

Ever since smart phones arrived on the scene, people have been predicting that the McDonalds and Starbucks and Wal-Marts of the world would beat a path to our pockets, beaming deals and discounts to our phones in an effort to lure us inside.

It took Facebook to figure out how to make it happen.  Facebook Deals is the first major service that marries your location to your wallet. It won’t be the last. 

How Deals works couldn’t be simpler: Say you check into your local Farbucks Café via Facebook Places on your mobile phone. There might be a coupon you can redeem for a free cruller. Who could turn down a free cruller? Show the coupon to the barista to redeem your coupon and you’re halfway to pastry heaven.

[ See also: This ad has been brought to you by you, part I ]

Better yet, you could stroll down the street and find out if any of the shops you’re passing by are offering freebies or discounts. Simple, fast, easy, and dangerously addictive. (I can think of a few schnorrers who would kill for this kind of service.)

Personally, I carry a dozen loyalty cards in my wallet entitling me to a free burrito or latte or oil change after X number of purchases. All of those go away once these businesses convert to Facebook Deals. That alone could make the service worth it.

The good news about Deals is that it’s opt in. You have to actively choose to use Facebook Places and check in (though it’s still possible for your friends to check you into places even if you don’t, unless you disable this in your privacy settings). For once, Facebook doesn’t assume you want to be checked in and make you opt out.

So what’s the catch? That is the 64 billion dollar question.

As far as I can determine, right now there is no catch.  Facebook Deals sounds as close as you can get to getting something for nothing. But it’s not likely to stay that way for long.

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