Swapping Your Online Friends for Dining Deals

| 17 Feb 2015 | 01:05

The new NYC-based app uses social media data to get local restaurants to offer discounts

Ever wondered if you could get paid just to be yourself? A new smartphone app start-up called Haggle is hoping to do just that. It collects your social media data from sites such as Facebook, Twitter, and Foursquare and uses it to give discounts from restaurants.

"We wanted an easy way for people to share their value," said Raji Salimath, CEO of Haggle. "For people to take all of their online data and use it in a way which could be understood by businesses."

The application uses your posts, status updates, pictures, check-ins, friend lists, and a multitude of other similar data to let you "haggle" down your bill.

But it is not haggling in the traditional sense. You won't be trying to barter your meal's price down one on one until someone relents or gets fed up and flips over a table.

"If we could empower both sides with data and figure out what's a fair price for the transaction, then it could be a good thing for both sides," said Salimath.

The New York-based company, which also has a sister office in Bangalore, India, originally got the idea for the app from the stigma that's present in haggling in Western countries. It's often considered cumbersome and difficult because it's usually only ever used in expensive items such as automobiles or very informal situations such as flea markets. For other services, bargaining is non-existant.

Eastern countries utilize haggling on a wider array of goods and services, from the scene of the local street market to booking a room at a hotel. The tradition of haggling in foreign countries is alive since it's often seen as a cultural adaptation of tourists trying to fit in.

"Haggling without any data tends to make both parties upset tense and angry, because both parties do not know about each other and tend to take extreme positions," said Salimath.

Haggle aims to smooth out this issue, giving a vendor information on the bargainer. The application uses four parameters, which it converts from your social media data: History, which is how many times you go to a certain type of restaurant; loyalty, how many times you go to the same place to eat; influence, which is how often you do go out to eat; and bankroll, how much money you spend on average going out.

"We do not blast this data out to anybody. No one gets access to your data. Only you have access to your data and now you could use these four scores to negotiate," said Salimath.

"We take your data, crunch it and put in these different algorithms and give the scores back to you."

Since the Haggle company just started last year, and the application itself was just released this February, the number of participating restaurants is still growing. Currently a handful of restaurants using the service are located in the downtown area, such as La Churreria, a Spanish restaurant, and Cafetasia, a Yelp favorite with their blend of Asian and Thai Cuisine.

The Haggle team hopes to expand their app, which is still technically in its beta phase, to offer more opportunities for restaurants by utilizing an open sign up in the future.