NEW YORK (MainStreet) – As if Groupon didn’t have enough competition to deal with, it just got a competitor with a built-in user base of 500 million people: Facebook.
While the social network had previously stuck a toe in the deal water through its Facebook Places feature (meant as competitor to Foursquare), today’s launch of Facebook Deals represents a full-blown cannonball into the deep end, with the company offering special limited-time offers in five urban markets: San Diego, San Francisco, Atlanta, Austin and Dallas.
Facebook is touting the social aspects of its service as setting it apart from the likes of Groupon and LivingSocial, noting that group-based deals like whitewater rafting would be king and that users could easily share news of the deals they’d purchased. Still, the service will sink or swim on the strength of its deals, so we took a look at what deals Facebook is offering on day one.
First, it’s clear that there is indeed a focus on more socially-oriented deals; in Atlanta, for instance, five of the nine deals are expressly for two or more people, and the rest are for group activities like horseback riding lessons. The actual discounts your group will get, though, are a mixed bag. There’s a deal for $100 off an “extravagant birthday party for four kids,” which seems like a great deal until you realize that it’s originally priced at $799; while the cupcake bar and personalized bathrobes certainly sound fun, you’re still talking about spending $700 on a children’s birthday that only three friends can attend. On the other hand, there are some lower-priced deals of the sort made popular by Groupon, like $20 worth of barbecue for just $8.
Meanwhile, the Dallas section of the site features slightly better discounts – all but two of the nine deals featured there give you 50% or more off your purchase. Compare that to Groupon Dallas, where you can get more than 50% off carpet cleaning services and pizza, as well as 60% off soccer tickets; and LivingSocial Dallas, where you can get an almost identical deal on carpet cleaning as well as deals on food and magazine subscriptions.