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App alerts students to discounts

Marisa Iati | Thursday, October 6, 2011

Students will receive reminders to visit local businesses that offer discounts by downloading Vidappe, a mobile application that connects users with 41 discounts in the South Bend area.

Star Li, a 2010 graduate of Cornell University, and a friend developed the free application for the iPhone and Android to remind people when they are near businesses that offer special deals.

“It’s kind of like having a service following you around reminding you to do stuff,” Li said. “You would start getting alerts for all 41. Within the settings, you can choose what type of alerts you get. If you don’t want to get alerts for restaurants, you can turn that off.”

Users subscribe to receive alerts for a specific program of discounts, Li said. They then indicate whether they are walking or driving, and Vidappe alerts users when they approach businesses in the program. Students can redeem discounts with their Notre Dame or Saint Mary’s identification cards.

“It’s definitely quite different from a lot of apps out there that you download and forget about immediately,” she said. “The app is always on and if it notices that you’re getting close to something, it sends you an alert. You yourself will never actually have to think about anything.”

Vidappe works in conjunction with Students for South Bend, a student government initiative that organizes local discounts for Notre Dame, Saint Mary’s College and Holy Cross students, student body vice president Brett Rocheleau said.

The Student Activities Office (SAO) will decide within the next week whether to support Vidappe, Rocheleau said. If SAO approves the application, student government will promote it.

“We’ll have it at COR [Council of Representatives], we’ll have it at [Student] Senate, we’ll maybe go to HPC [Hall Presidents Council],” he said.

Rocheleau also said student government might utilize the off-campus e-mail listserv to reach students that are most likely to use Vidappe.

Vidappe users can subscribe to the University College Discounts program, which offers approximately 20 additional discounts, Li said.

“It sort of aggregates all programs available to college students nationwide,” Li said. “Because there are over 170 programs, you can literally subscribe to any program that applies to you.”

Li released the iPhone application in June and the Android version in August, she said. There are currently six users participating in Vidappe’s Students for South Bend program.

“I think that was actually a really bad time because all the students were out for the summer, so even though [Vidappe] has been out for a while, we haven’t been able to get a hold of anyone,” Li said. “It’s popular in odd pockets of the U.S. right now, but I’m definitely trying to expand it.”

Li developed the application after she noticed that many people forget which businesses offer discounts.

“It’s kind of like, ‘I’ll check out the discounts online and remind myself to use my student ID to save at Indulgence, but I’ll probably forget about this five minutes later,'” Li said. “‘On the other hand, Vidappe will remind me to save at Indulgence when I’m a block away, and because I’m so physically close by already, I’m much more likely to go in and check it out.'”

Rocheleau downloaded the application on an iPhone and an Android approximately a month ago.

“The app has been very successful, especially on my phone,” he said. “There’ve been two or three different upgrades so far.”

Rocheleau said in the past, discounts through the Students for South Bend Program were only listed on paper and on the student government website, so many students did not know about them.

“The app is a nice way for our discounts to be promoted and for students not to have to carry around papers and remember what that discount is,” he said.

Feedback about Vidappe has been positive so far, Li said.

“I think the response I’ve been getting most is people saying, ‘I had no idea that restaurant offered a discount. I used to go there all the time and I had no idea,'” Li said. “In a lot of cases, it was people being really surprised they had stuff around town.”