Remember the days when daily-deals sites were relevant, even interesting? When they could sell out in a manner of minutes? When everyone was trying to cajole everyone else to buy a half-priced pizza, so they’d get theirs free?
Before subscribers were buried in an avalanche of e-mails hyping sketchy laser hair removal deals, there was Woot.com. Launched in 2004, the site offered one deal each day, drawing fans of both its then-novel business model and its eccentric humor.
Then the company cashed out. In 2010, Amazon bought it for $110 million, and the site eventually became basically indistinguishable from every other deals site pushing a seemingly endless menagerie of crockpots, khakis and laptop cases described in lifeless copy (Accessories.woot.com currently implores you to “Werk it and twerk it with amazing deals on designer watches, handbags and more.”)
The daily-deals site has been declared “conclusively, dead,” but one man is attempting to bring it back. Woot has basically been reincarnated by no less than the founder of Woot himself, Matt Rutledge (who left Amazon after two years of his three-year contract). The new venture is called Meh, and it marks a witty return to the simple days of one day, one deal. The first deal – launched yesterday, and already gone! – featured a refurbished iRobot Roomba 560 vacuum for $179 with a side of self-aware commentary.
If you ask us, the good old 560 was peak Roomba. It was the moment when iRobot put together all the classic features that made Roomba Roomba … without any of the finicky refinements that make later Roomba models so expensive. Hmmm: a cool, simple, fun thing gets bloated by add-on features into something complicated and pricey. Seems like we’ve heard that story before.
Today, a stream-of-consciousness riff inspired by the Internet’s newfound potato salad fascination is meant to sell a $5 Speck CandyShell Case for iPad Mini (“Absorbs shocks instead of teaching your iPad mini how to deal with problems on its own.”) Want to think about it? Users have until midnight Eastern standard time, or until it sells out, to commit. Don’t care for it? You can toodle around the site’s forums, check out how many people bought the deal, take part in a poll, and join the thousands who have already clicked the “meh” button to express their disinterest. Or, you can simply sit back and wait for tomorrow’s offering. But you won’t find it in your inbox or Facebook or Twitter. Meh is skipping the mass marketing e-mails and deals for followers and relying on users to go straight to the simple Web address: Meh.com. Rutledge purchased it for $100,000 from a guy he calls “Larry the domain guy,” according to a riveting profile of him in D Magazine. Will it work? The Meh founder is pretty candid that he doesn’t know. But more than 1,000 Kickstarter backers though it was worth chipping in to see how it all plays out this time around.