Subscriber Loay Eletreby checking GoNabit.com deals from home Image Credit: Xpress/Abdel-Krim Kallouche

Dubai : A new shopping trend is taking Dubai bargain hunters by storm, with online buyers hooked on to the deal of the day.

Marketing site GoNabit.com posts heavy discounts from city stores every day, but the offer becomes real only if enough subscribers buy into the scheme.

Users have to lock in ‘Today's Nabit' through their credit cards and get charged when the deal ‘tips' after a minimum number of shoppers sign up.

E-vouchers are then sent to subscribers, who print them out and redeem the deal at the local business behind the nabit.

The discount offers range from 50 to 90 per cent on anything from restaurant meals to hardware tools and are usually available only for a day or two after they tip.

The subscriber strength needed to tip over the deal varies from offer to offer, but can be as low as 35 people. Subscribers said a scramble then erupts in cyber space and also creates word-of-mouth buzz about the nabits.

"I had checked my e-mail in the morning one day and the deal had tipped even before I reached office," said GoNabit member Dushi Mahesh, 25.

Up for grabs

The advertising professional from Sri Lanka said: "I think it was for flowers. But I had got a deal on a spa; I went online after a friend shared a nabit on his Facebook page. I've never seen anything like this in the UAE, thousands of people are ‘nabbing it'. The deals can tip within a few hours."

Another subscriber, Loay Eletreby, 24, said he also keeps tabs through Facebook. The Egyptian e-commerce executive said: "I referred the nabits to 10 people, four of them bought in. I can't think of a single deal that hasn't tipped, hasn't gone through."

Social element

Eletreby said he has saved hundreds of dirhams through the deals — a fitness boot camp, restaurant meal and a two-day holiday involving a dhow cruise and trip to Burj Khalifa, in his case. Some others have started gifting nabits. Maidy Cook, a 30-year-old Filipina who works in a petroleum company here purchased a massage service for her husband recently. "I heard about it on Twitter and nabbed it the next day. It's become a bit of a habit, it's catching on. You've got to check once a day," Cook said.

Over 16,000 other residents have already registered for free since the website went live around a month ago, senior company officials said. The bargain portal gets 1,000 to 3,000 hits per day from "unique visitors". Around 2,500 fans follow developments on Twitter and Facebook.

Founders Dan Stuart and Sohrab Jahanbani said the "new model" of shopping and doing business raging in the US will work in the UAE. They plan to soon launch Abu Dhabi-based deals. "There's a social element to online group buying, there's something for everyone," Jahanbani said.

Paying options

However, some subscribers who had tried to use bank debit cards instead of credit cards said they had experienced technical difficulties. GoNabit.com team members have since offered many subscribers the option of paying in cash. Company drivers pick up the money and fill out the paperwork at the doorstep.

With the normal credit card method, however, the transactions are almost instant.

"There are no refunds because you don't actually get charged for anything if the nabit doesn't tip," said Stuart.

"Still, it's impossible not to reach us for questions…No one enters their credit card information with us, it's done through PayPal (online payment system). We don't even need to do some of the things we do for security. But we believe you can't be too secure."

How it works

1. Sign up to get a new deal via e-mail every day.

2. Purchase the deal. You only get charged — and get the deal — if enough people buy and the "deal is on".

3. Get your Nabit voucher the next day after the deal closes.

4. Print voucher and redeem it at the local business.

Source: GoNabit.com