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CHICAGO, IL - JUNE 10: The Groupon logo is displayed in the lobby of the company's international headquarters on June 10, 2011 in Chicago, Illinois. Groupon, a local e-commerce marketplace that connects merchants and consumers by offering goods and services at a discount, announced June 2 that it had filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission for a proposed initial public offering of its Class A common stock. The company, launched in Chicago in November 2008 now markets products and services in 43 countries around the world. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images) (Scott Olson/2011 Getty Images)
CHICAGO, IL - JUNE 10: The Groupon logo is displayed in the lobby of the company's international headquarters on June 10, 2011 in Chicago, Illinois. Groupon, a local e-commerce marketplace that connects merchants and consumers by offering goods and services at a discount, announced June 2 that it had filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission for a proposed initial public offering of its Class A common stock. The company, launched in Chicago in November 2008 now markets products and services in 43 countries around the world. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images) (Scott Olson/2011 Getty Images)

Bargains

Groupon's instant deal feature launches in Toronto Add to ...

A new feature by Groupon, the collective-coupon giant, will be introduced to bargain-hunting Torontonians Wednesday. Groupon Now!, which launched in Vancouver last month, is being advertised by the company as a solution for people seeking deals on demand.

Unlike traditional Groupon bargains that are bought for future use, Groupon Now! allows users to redeem coupons for a limited-time offer immediately. Groupon says the feature allows users to explore their neighbourhoods, and save money on what they want “right now,” according to a press release.

To use the service, customers can log onto their Groupon mobile app or enter a location on the Groupon Now! “landing page” – an online map featuring their respective cities – and browse deals on where to eat, something fun to do or where to pamper themselves, among other activities.

But despite the service’s purported benefits, one customer says she lost money after a coupon she purchased was advertised inaccurately on Groupon’s website. The 33-year-old Vancouver woman, who asked not to be named, said the expiration time on her coupon did not match the business’s hours of operation.

“They said the [coupon]was available until 9 p.m. that night, and the business closed at 6,” the woman says, adding that she lost the $5 she spent on the coupon, which was good for $8 worth of bubble tea.

Despite this experience, she says she will use continue to use Groupon Now! in the future because she “likes the idea of it,” and has successfully redeemed traditional Groupon offers in the past.

On the flip side, some merchants say Groupon Now! hasn’t given their businesses the boost they were expecting.

“In all honesty, I don’t know whether or not people are familiar with Groupon Now!” says Lauren Akyurek, 24, manager of Vancouver’s 9th Avenue Grill. “There was a lot less than we thought there would be, like of people redeeming and/or purchasing the Groupons.”

The restaurant has been offering a deal through Groupon Now! for two to three weeks, but the service has only brought in seven customers since then, Ms. Akyurek says.

“A couple of people who I’ve spoken to – they were like, ‘No, we didn’t even know what was going on!’”

Ms. Akyurek was initially attracted to Groupon Now! because it enables merchants to choose what they want to offer, the discount they want to give and how long they want the deal to last. Describing it as a “great business model,” she says the service helps her control the times she wants customers to come into her restaurant (helpful during slow business periods). 9th Avenue Grill, for instance, is offering 30 per cent off food and drinks between 6:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m., 1 to 2:30 p.m. and 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. This is unlike the traditional Groupon model, Ms. Akyurek adds, where “you can’t even book an appointment because there are literally 500 people trying to do the same thing [at the same time]”

Despite lacklustre sales so far, Ms. Akyurek is willing to continue advertising through Groupon Now! if more customers start to roll in.

“If we start to see benefits, then I believe we’ll keep it on,” she says.

Other merchants like Ron Zalko, 60, owner of Ron Zalko Total Body Fitness and Yoga in Vancouver, have seen a positive impact on their business. 30 people have purchased the $5 coupons his fitness centre has offered over the past two-and-a-half weeks, he says.

“[Groupon Now! coupons are]promoting fitness and getting people that wouldn’t come otherwise – I think it’s great,” Mr. Zalko says. “And we’re doing very well with it.”

There is no fee for a business to advertise through Groupon Now!, and profits are split 50-50.

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