May 19, 2011, 11:10 AM

Checking in at middle age

Location-based services are the province of the young.

Lead Photo

Customers can use check-in deals to get discounts at participating merchants.

The local spoon near where I live is known for its gyros, chicken kabobs and burgers. A no-frills diner, Johnny’s has not changed much in years. A small flat-panel television for diners to watch that replaced a dying tube TV is the only change I’ve noticed in nearly seven years.

I suspect that Nick, and his brother Magic, who own Johnny’s, like it that way. That is why I was a little surprised a few weeks ago to see a Facebook check-in deals decal behind the counter. If I showed Nick, who usually works the cash register, that I checked in at Johnny’s on Facebook, I could get a free medium soft drink with a purchase of $5 or more.

If Nick tracked the ages of the people who take advantage of the check-in deal he would discover I am one of the few in my age group who take the time to use a location-based service to get a deal. According to a comScore Inc. MobiLens analysis of 16.7 million U.S. mobile subscribers who use check ins, only 9.7% of adults age 45 to 54 check in at a merchant. Most of those who check in are younger: 58.5% are between 18 and 34 years old. In its analysis, comScore found that 12.7 million of all check-ins were made with a smartphone.

That is about what I expected. Of my friends, it is the younger ones who typically use check-in services.  I’ve tried some, but stopped using them once the novelty wore off. Last year I used Foursquare, another location-based service, for several months, but found only one merchant offering a coupon I could actually use. That was at Ram Restaurant and Brewery for a free cup of soup. Starbucks has a Foursquare deal for a $1 discount on a beverage, but only if you are the mayor—as Foursquare calls those who check in the most at a location—of that particular store. Have you seen the volume of 18- to 34-year-olds that move through a Starbucks? No way would I ever be mayor of a Starbucks.

But I could be mayor of Johnny’s, or, better yet, just check in on Facebook, get a free soft drink and not worry about someone half my age trying to unseat me.

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