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BlackboardEats is free again, but paid subscribers won't lose out

May 20, 2011 |  7:00 am

BlackboardEats, the Web-based deal site that offers discounts of up to 40% on meals at respected local restaurants, has returned to its original fee-free model.

When the site launched a year and a half ago, it allowed subscribers to click on as many free deals as their hearts desired. Then, earlier this year, it moved to implement a $1 fee for every deal that subscribers clicked on. The idea was that people would be more discerning about what deals they signed up for and that they would actually go to the restaurant rather than just hoard discount passcodes without using them.

Now, after conducting a survey of nearly 10,000 of its 160,000 subscribers in Los Angeles, New York and San Francisco, BBE founder Maggie Nemser has decided to stop charging fees.

"Seventy percent of respondents said to get rid of the fee," says Nemser. "They felt it was counter-intuitive to pay for a discount, and that the fee took away the ease and spontaneity of the site."

Nemser says BBE chose to make the change not because it was losing subscribers, but because it wanted to remain responsive to its client base. For the same reason it had to figure out what to do with 1,942 annual members that it had accumulated when it offered unlimited deals to subscribers who paid a $20 fee up front.

Those subscribers will now have an all-access pass to sign up for a deal at any time during the duration of its run (normally, you can click on a deal only on the first day it is offered). They will also be able to click on a deal after it has reached its max capacity -- which will happen often now that the deals are free again. 

-- Jessica Gelt

Photo: BBE founder Maggie Nemser, right, with chef Akasha Richmond. Credit: Stefano Paltera / For The Times