Stupid Giveaways No One Put The Brakes On
In this economy, businesses have to fight and claw and scratch for every red cent. So when they decide to throw a promotion, they tend to put their all into it -- which sometimes creates giveaways so needlessly stupid, it's a wonder no-one in the room went, "Hey, wait a minute..."
Amazon Gives Away Cheap Gas (And Logjams L.A.)
In 2019, Amazon's The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel scooped an amazing twenty nominations at the Emmy's for everything from its acting to its editing to its music to its hairstyles to its catering (probably). Despite this being the award show equivalent of shooting fish in a barrel, Amazon decided to simultaneously promote Mrs. Maisel and generate some headlines by giving the people of L.A. what they've always dreamed of: Affordable living.
For the entirety of August 15th, Amazon lowered the price of everything from food to hotels to movie tickets to groceries back to their 1959 price equivalents (the year the show is set.) And by all accounts, it was a smash-hit success, garnering a lot of positive press, even more excited tweets, and by day's end, many of the deals were sold out across the city. It went great! Well, aside from the gas thing.
See, in their infinite wisdom, Amazon also lowered prices on gas to their 1950's counterparts at one specific filling station - Angelos in Santa Monica. It became only 30 cents a gallon, which in this economy is like giving away, well, gas for 30 cents a gallon. It's its own hyperbolic metaphor.
Immediately, drivers jumped on the promotion and started filling up their cars, trucks, lawnmowers, basically any receptacle that could hold fluid with that sweet, cheap, oily nectar. As word of mouth spread, just like Amazon wanted it to, the crowds got larger...and larger...and larger...and larger still, until the surrounding roads and freeway exits were forced to a standstill. By the end of the morning, local law enforcement was dispatched to the scene to direct traffic and force the promotion to end. If they hadn't, there's a perfect chance that those lines would still be there.
Build-a-Bear's "Pay Your Age" Day Reduces Young Children to Tears
There are many ways to tell when you've effed-up a promotion. There's no bigger indication, however, than if you make a small child cry. And Build-a-Bear's "Pay Your Age" promotion did just that, and probably has to go down in history as the worst-run promotion of all time, having been responsible for reducing more children to sobbing heaps of despair than Mr. Blobby.
In 2018, the company announced that for one day only, children would only pay their age. 4 years-old would pay $4, 5 year-olds would only pay $5, and 30 years-olds would have the police called on them. Despite planning for a big crowd, though, they were not prepared for this, as crowds of parents and children swarmed their locations, desperate to take advantage of the promotion before it ended and those fucking bears went back to costing the same as a small apartment.
From the get-go, crowds were lining up outside stores at 6 AM, massive queues were forming, and things literally got so heated that would-be customers were soon passing out in the street. Eventually, it all reached a head and the company announced that due to safety concerns, they were suspending the promotion -- a fear which proved well-founded after news later broke that someone in the UK was assaulted while queuing. That's how broken this promotion was: It made the British hate queuing.
The company quickly apologized to the countless children, with the CEO calling the situation "heartbreaking" in an interview with NBC News. "It was beyond anything we could have ever imagined [...] There was really no way for us to have estimated those crowds." By way of apology, BaB announced that they were issuing customers vouchers worth up to $15 and would still honor the existing pay-your-age deal that the company offers children during their birthday months, begging the question of why the hell they did this to themselves in the first place.
Knott's Berry Farm Starts a Riot With a 5 Cent Cinco de Mayo Special
Knott's Berry Farm is the most famous amusement park in California that isn't owned by Disney or J.K. Rowling -- so basically, no-one knows it exists. That said, it's still a pretty fun day out and in 1999, the park had a brilliant brainwave to get people through the door: Cinque de Mayo.
On May 5, the park opened its doors for the low, low, LOW price of five cents a ticket. (Get it? Cinque?), an offer that was publicized extensively on local televisions and radio stations. Soon enough, 33,000 people -- waaaay over a typical weekday attendance of 4,500 -- had been admitted, a process that created a jam on local roads, forced local businesses to close, caused local schools' truancy rates to skyrocket, and irony of ironies, ruined the inside of the park by turning it into the Black Hole of Calcutifornia.
And things were about to get a lot worse. Over fears about safety, the gates to the park were closed at 10 AM, leaving an estimated 4,000 teenagers lingering outside -- who as teenagers are want to do, didn't appreciate the disrespect and started fighting in the streets and, in the words of Fred Durst, "breaking stuff." It took 200 riot police several hours to clear the teeny boppers out, after which the park was closed because they'd worked out that those nickels just weren't worth it.
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MoviePass Asked for Its Tragic Downfall, Really
For a time, MoviePass was the app to have. It promised movie lovers access to unlimited movies in the theater in return for a small monthly fee -- a monthly fee that, in hindsight, turned out to be too little and inside of two years, the company immolated itself.
MoviePass' business model wasn't especially terrible. As Nick Statt over at The Verge points out, lots of businesses -- gyms, for instance -- charge a monthly fee for 'unlimited' usage, knowing full-well that the users who don't turn up every day will subsidize the usage of those that do AND make up the company's shortfall. This was MoviePass's business model in a nutshell. They bought movie tickets at list price, sold them to consumers for nothing, and expected to make back their MASSIVE shortfall by the people who paid their monthly fee and didn't buy tickets.
Except, that's not what happened at all. The combination of the low price and the promise of seeing new movies for practically nothing was too enticing, and so everyone showed up. And so MoviePass lost money on everything. The weirdest part, though, is that initially, MoviePass cost $50 and was doin' alright for itself. That is, until it was acquired by venture capitalists who in a rush to gain as many users as possible in a short space of time, dropped the price by 80 PERCENT. This, they imagined, would build a loyal following of customers that would've allowed MoviePass to have leverage over the biggest movie chains for its own ends (cheap tickets, discounts on concessions, etc.)
There's only a slight problem with this plan, though. While it could've worked over time, the ticket price was set so low and the app was so popular and the rules so loose that moviegoers started using the app to do everything but watch movies, like use movie theaters' bathrooms, get free concessions, and book tickets to screenings and never go (which is something one person did SIX TIMES just for Infinity War).
Domino's Massively Underestimates the 'People Who Love Pizza and Tattoos' Demographic
When Domino's offered people the chance to win a lifetime of free pizza, they didn't expect too many people to apply. Why? Who doesn't like free pizza? Well because collecting the offer meant having the Domino's logo tattooed on your FACE. And what kind of crazy people would do that? Wait, where were they running this offer? Russia?