Everybody loves a bargain, which is why companies like Groupon and Amazon continually flood inboxes with offers for discounted goods and services. Now Microsoft is getting into the act, with a service called Bing Offers, which aggregates local deals, puts them all on one easy-to-navigate site and emails them to you if you care to subscribe.
Announced Thursday, Bing Offers succeeds an earlier effort called Bing Deals, which quietly disappeared this week. Microsoft, of course, isn't really in the shopping business, but because it is working hard to build market share in search for Bing, a distant runner up to Google, you can see the attraction.
Here's how Microsoft describes the service: "Bing Offers aggregates deals from a broad set of partners, including many of the leading local deal providers. If you are looking for tasty treats, fun activities or a relaxing spa, need to fix your home or automobile or just want some retail therapy, Bing Offers provides simple ways to discover the best deals closest to you."
When you go to Bing Offers the site apparently looks at your IP address and links it to a zip code and then shows deals in that area. The top of the page looks like this, making it easy to find different types of deals:
However, it looks like Microsoft has a ways to go before it has a critical mass of merchants signing up. I live in San Francisco, one of the best restaurant towns in the country (excuse my local pride) and when I clicked on "food," the offerings felt very much oriented to tourists. I saw things like tours of the Ferry Building's food outlets for $30 and a $45 "edible excursion" in Japantown, a $75 dinner dance cruise, things no local would ever do.
Some of the other sections were more interesting; "health and fitness" offered discounts for memberships at a number of local gyms and yoga studios.
Microsoft's problem, I think, is that there are so many aggregators chasing merchants that the supply is getting a bit thin. Some merchants I've talked to about Groupon, for instance, say they often lose money on the deals and have stopped participating.
Still, if you like bargains, Bing Offers is worth checking out, particularly if you’re visiting someplace and wouldn’t mind doing something touristy. And given Microsoft's deep pockets, it may well lure enough merchants to make the site more competitive.