Monday, April 23, 2018
Business

Valpak's new smartphone application makes coupon deals available anytime, anywhere

Valpak president Michael Vivio says without hesitation the future of coupons is in mobile.

Surprising words, perhaps, from a company that produces 44 million blue envelope mailers monthly — until you consider its recent efforts to make deals available any time, anywhere.

The Largo-based Valpak has a newly updated application that lets users browse coupons on their smartphones and keep ones they want in Apple's Passbook available on the iPhone.

More than 68,000 people have downloaded the app since its October launch, saving money on everything from pizza to pet-sitting. It shot up to the sixth spot among free lifestyle apps in the iTunes store, trailing only the big dogs like Walgreens, Target and Amazon.

Like other mobile coupon sites, the app appeals to people who don't like carrying around a bunch of coupons, or forget them. You never worry about leaving deals at home because you always have them on your phone.

Deals are local as well as national, thanks to Valpak's recent purchase of Savings.com, a coupon site for major retailers. To redeem, a clerk just scans a coupon's QR code on your phone.

Perhaps even cooler is Valpak's new paperless venture with Roximity. The system connects people with coupons while on the road. Drivers can say "lunch'' or "dinner'' into an in-dash system to find a list of nearby offers. It's only available on Ford and Lincoln vehicles equipped with the SYNC AppLink but is expanding to Hondas and Subarus. I like the idea of narrowing my choices based on who has the best deal.

EVOS is living up to its name and evolving its menu. For the first time in four years the Tampa-based chain known for its "airfries'' and earth-friendly focus has upgraded its offerings to keep up with diners' tastes.

That means bacon. But healthy bacon, if there is such a thing. The new bacon cheeseburger and bacon chicken caesar wrap contains bacon made without hormones, antibiotics and nitrates.

Woefully missing on the new menu is the crispy Thai trout wrap, which the fast-casual restaurant scratched because of supplier issues. The spicy Thai salmon wrap is a tasty alternative but doesn't trump the trout. R.I.P. my favorite fish dish.

Other new menu items range from a wild Alaskan salmon burger to a strawberry walnut Gorgonzola salad. New hot dog varieties, like the bacon, play up the healthy twist on an unhealthy premise. The Good Bad Dog is topped with natural bacon, cheddar cheese and barbecue sauce. The chili on the chili dog is low fat.

The menu upgrade is the latest big change for EVOS, which hunkered down during the recession but now readies for expansion. The chain is opening a seventh location in March or April at 10205 Lake Carroll Way in Carrollwood. Others will follow in Doral and Plantation.

Stumped for gift ideas? The Furby, that hamster/owl robot creature that was all the rage in the late '90s, is back. The Furby cracked the top 10 toy list, according to a National Retail Federation survey by BIGinsight.

For girls, it ranks third, surpassing American Girl dolls and the Apple iPad. (Barbie remains No.1). For boys, Furby comes in ninth, a ways off No. 1 Lego, but it beat the classic, never-go-wrong-with-a-truck.

More than 40 million talking Furbies were sold after they debuted and became an instant hit. Hasbro gave the latest ones a digital makeover with LCD eyes and compatible iPad apps. They come in about 16 colors and retail for about $60. They can be hard to find in stores but as of Monday, Toys R Us on Tyrone Boulevard had a bunch.

Susan Thurston can be reached at [email protected] or (813) 225-3110.

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