AT&T Rolls Out Location-Based Text Messages for Nearby Deals

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Last week I was in New York at TIME HQ for some no-holds-barred internal strategy sessions involving overhead projectors, calendars, spreadsheets and speakerphones.

On the way through Times Square one morning, I was informed by not one, but two gentlemen representing separate business establishments that I—and I’m paraphrasing here—looked like I might find sitting in a strip club to be a better use of my time than showing up for work by 9:00.

“I’m on my way to work,” I said. “Man, work is for suckers,” said one of the men. “Aren’t you working right now?” I asked. And then he ignored me!

The whole interchange could have been much more pleasant if he had just sent me a text message. And AT&T is rolling out a service called ShopAlerts that does just that—albeit without the whole strip club angle—in Chicago, New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco.

If you opt in to the service, you’ll get text messages whenever you’re in range of a participating store. According to AT&T:

“The innovative ShopAlerts by AT&T service will provide consumers with valuable offers, rewards, and coupons based on their specific geographic location. AT&T creates a ‘geo-fence’ – a virtual-perimeter around a retail location, event, or any geographic area – in order to deliver appropriate location-specific messages.  Participating consumers receive relevant marketing messages when they are inside a geo-fence, benefiting both consumers and marketers.”

Now programs such as this aren’t necessarily new, of course, but as AT&T points out, it’s “the first U.S. mobile carrier to offer a large-scale, location-based mobile marketing program to consumers and advertisers.” So it should hopefully be able to attract some decent stores with some decent deals.

Initial advertisers include HP, Kmart, JetBlue, SC Johnson, and a handful of others. No word on if or when this program will expand beyond the four cities it’s in right now, but it stands to reason that if early trials are successful other well-populated areas would get blanketed in due time.

More on TIME.com:

Top 10 Monday Tech Deals

Facebook Adds ‘Places’ Feature for Real-time Location Sharing

Apple Shares Your Location With ‘Partners and Licensees’

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