OOPS! Messed Up . . . What Would YOU Do?

By | June 19, 2013

Oops! Thrifty Car Rental, whose case studies of great, personalized marketing have shown up around the industry (and even in my posts on Digital Nirvana, most likely) has made a boo-boo.

According to an AP report, Thrifty sent out an email offer for “rent 16 days, get 1 day rental free” not to the select list of customers it intended, but to the entire list. This included non-customers who had simply signed up to receive emails from the company.  Now because the story has gone out on AP, its mistake has been magnified even more.

The company rescinded its offer, and from what I can gather, it didn’t offer any kind of mea culpa discount coupon or anything else. Just the apology for the mistake.

Great companies often turn marketing disasters into profit wins if they handle it right. It’s not unusual to hear of companies who end up earning more from a blown campaign through a well-handled apology than they would have from the original campaign itself.  So what might Thrifty do?

First, I am curious why it didn’t simply honor the offer. I would be surprised if a 16-1 offer created an actual loss, so why not let it stand? Avoiding potential inventory issues? I don’t know.

Another option would be to craft a great, personalized direct mailer both to the originally intended list and to another, broader selection of existing customers. Apologize again for the mistake, but indicate that they  — specifically, using their name — were part of a select group for which the offer would be honored. “Not everyone is getting this offer!” This creates that sense of privilege and exclusivity. Obviously, print is costs more than email, but it also carries more weight in terms of sincerity, trust, and relationship (which the company could probably use right now).

If you were Thrifty’s MSP, what would you suggest?


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9 thoughts on “OOPS! Messed Up . . . What Would YOU Do?

  1. Fadel Iskander

    Absolutely mind-numbing!

    They meant for it to go to “select Group of Top Customers”.
    Who else may be just salivating to get 1-free day after renting 16-days?

    What’s wrong of getting a few additional “top” customers? Maybe even “Top” customers of their competitors.

    I wish someone would attempt to figure out what was their exposure (if it could be called that).

    Of course, maybe they were worried that their “Select Group of Top Customers” may get mad if they know that regular “Joe Public” is getting the same offer as the elite.

    I am truly puzzled.

  2. Ralph Irwin

    Honor the offer all the way to the bank! What are the chances that everyone on the list would need to rent a car for the same 16 days. And I believe you are right that no loss would be incurred, surely they have more than a 6.25 % margin built into their cost of renting a car.

  3. Jodik

    I love the idea of using a personal direct mailing to get your message to your intended clients. It does elevate the relationship. Also why not honor the offer and potentially increase your customer list? Thrifty seems like it made a knee jerk reaction rather than smart use of the situation. Panic does not good business decisions make!

  4. Sheila

    They could have left the offer standing for the 16 days + 1 Free to the general list and then sent out an updated email notifying the Top Customers that there was a “typo” on their email and it should have said 6 days get one Free. 1 week of rental sounds like a more reasonable offer to redeem for business or personal use. Any other redemptions of the offer would be a plus. I see no loss.

  5. Kate Dunn

    Great ideas all. I too wonder what the opportunity would have been to let the offer stand. It’s hard to believe that they wouldn’t still make a significant amount and would have developed probably lifelong customers by saying we goofed up but we’re honoring it.

  6. Ralph

    I like what Sheila suggested. This would be a win/win for everyone, they would probably get some new customers on the 1 free for 16 and the Top list would get a better deal on the 1 for 6. This would probably put them at the top of the list for current and new customers. I always give a company that does the right thing a second look and even if they were higher priced (within reason) I would use them for doing the right thing. Having used them before, this is a second strike in my world and they would go to the bottom of my list.

  7. Raffe

    Sheila, great comment

    A Northwest Tire retailer made me a customer for life. I was on a trip and had a flat tire on my trailer. Went to one of their locations (did not know at the time that particular location was a franchise not a company store) Short version, they created a major problem with the wheels of the trailer which after about 50 more miles caused the tires to blow up. I was much closer to another location and got them to supply temp tires, which blew out, they brought the trailer in, replaced the rims, tires, fixed the problem the other location caused. All for no charge, I did not even ask for no charge. I now take all my work to the Company Location in my home town. I have spent well over $5,000 with them in the 13 years and what ever it cost them they have made it back. I also send everyone I can to them also.

  8. Priceless Inkjet Cartridges

    Yes, the direct mail is much more appreciated than the e-mail and (if you bother to open it), you feel you got a special deal!
    But as the article mentions, Thrifty Car Rental should have simply honored the offer.

  9. Elaine Neiss

    Seems like their response was also a mistake and not well thought out. Of course there could be other factors such as inventory availability, expiration date, etc… I think the best course of action would be to either honor it or rescind with a discount coupon offer to be used in the future.

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