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I Love Birthdays! And Restaurants Know it.

I Love Birthdays! And Restaurants Know it.

But I’m not a kid anymore. Now that I’m on the other side of forty, and have kids of my own, birthdays have turned into a week-long celebration of free offers and discounts from every Fast Casual and Quick Service restaurant I have subscribed to. Most of them try to earn my loyalty and thank me for my patronage by emailing an offer to get a free menu item – and, of course, “certain conditions may apply”.

I’m willing to admit that because I work at Mobivity, a company that provides mobile marketing and customer engagement solutions for restaurant and retail brands, that I probably look at things a bit differently than the average consumer. So I want to share a story of my recent birthday experiences. I’ve removed the names and brands to protect the guilty, but the rest of the story is 100% true.

An Example Generic Birthday Offer

Tell Me If Any of This Sounds Familiar

I open my inbox and am reminded it’s my birthday. Again. I filter through some messages from friends and family (Thanks! I get it, I’m getting old.) and I get to all the birthday offers – and to nobody’s surprise, some offers are more valuable than others. I organize and prioritize them by dropping them into a folder in my email account. That way, when I am out and hungry, I can easily retrieve them on my phone. Unfortunately, that didn’t work out for me this year. Email promotions don’t always translate cleanly to our mobile devices, and that can lead to frustration and a poor consumer experience.

Email promotions don’t always translate cleanly to our mobile devices, and that can lead to frustration and a poor consumer experience.

I start by redeeming the best offer. This year it was a free burrito. Who doesn’t love a free birthday burrito? When I opened the email offer, I was instructed to print out the coupon and bring it in. I thought, “What? Print it out?! Carry around a piece of paper? Why would I do that when I already have it on my phone?” Then the marketer in me thought, “when is this brand going to join the digital age? I hope their food isn’t as stale as their marketing ideas.”

But I’m a good guy, and I like free burritos; so I played their game and printed the coupon. However, I accidentally printed three copies. I took one copy and headed out for my free birthday burrito. When I returned home a few hours later, the two copies I left behind were gone. I asked my kids where they went and they said, “We got free burritos because it’s your birthday.”

My Takeaway: Coupon Fraud to a Hungry Millennial is Not Considered Dishonest – It’s More of a Challenge

I wondered, if it was that easy for my kids, how much are brands losing to this archaic form of couponing? Turns out, it’s a huge problem for brands in the range of hundreds of millions of dollars a year. But fraud prevention can also be a problem on the opposite end of the spectrum.

Later that day, I was hungry and wanted pizza. I recalled getting a buy one-get one slice on a birthday offer. Great! Problem solved. However, when I opened the offer, it said “I’m sorry, you have opened this email too many times and you can no longer get to the offer.”

I thought to myself, “Seriously? I’ve only opened this message three times, and have not printed it yet. Now they’re taking the offer away? What a letdown.” It’s the opposite of customer appreciation. It seems the brand’s fraud security is more important than rewarding a loyal customer.

Moving on. Still hungry and now angry – “hangry” – I decided to go for the free sandwich offer. Fantastic! This email says this offer will also be accepted by showing it from my phone. So I went to the location, placed the order for my free sandwich, opened the email, and the image with the code and expiration date did not render! The cashier would not honor the email. I don’t blame her, she was just doing her job. However, despite playing by their rules, poor connectivity to render the image (a problem with my email provider) was preventing me from getting my free sandwich. As the line behind me got longer and my frustration grew, her only suggestion was, “. . . maybe you should get a Gmail account?” Mercifully, a manager saw what was going on and offered to honor the coupon, if I showed my driver’s license. I was annoyed, but at least I got my free sandwich.

So, What Did This Whole Birthday Experience Teach Me?

First, email couponing in a mobile world is fraught with customer service lapses and security holes. Brands need to understand that they have options when it comes to mobile offers, and smartphones are capable of hosting coupons that have any combination of available security features.

An Example Generic Birthday Offer

Plus, using mobile coupons also provides rich data reporting with insight into redemption rates, what accompanying items were purchased and more. In a data driven marketing world, requiring customers to print out their offers kills the information capturing process and all the benefits that can be gained from the digital experience. Not to mention, it can introduce a lot of unnecessary frustration on a customer’s birthday. I’m getting too old for this nonsense!

Happy Birthday to me.


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