Carl's Jr. Apparently Unaware That People Share Discount Coupons Online

from the welcome-to-the-internet dept

I remember a decade or so ago stories of online coupon offerings where companies would use a single coupon code, and not realize that people would share it with tons of others. However, those types of promotions went away after companies started using unique codes for promotions to make sure people couldn't share them too widely. Apparently, however, the folks who work for marketing at Carl's Jr. were unaware of how news of deals spread online. They offered up a promotion at a basketball game, where certain attendees were texted a code to download a coupon for a free burger. However, all attendees were given the same code... which was quickly leaked online and Carl's Jr. was forced to cancel the promotion after a lot more people than expected started to show up with the coupon. It's hard to believe that no one involved in the promotion had any idea that this would happen.

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(Flattened / Threaded)

  1. identicon
    E-Rock, Jan 16th, 2009 @ 3:56pm

    Speaking of bad promotion ideas...

    Anybody remember Harveys' "Buy anything and get a free Angus burger" deal? It was an online coupon with no coupon code. Just an expiration period of about two weeks. Not sure who the initial offering was to but it spread quickly.

    Small fries were just over a buck. Meaning small fries and an Angus burger were just over a buck. Most restaurants were forced to give out free double burgers once the Angus ran out. It was beautiful.

    It's hard to imagine how Harvey's and Carl's Jr. could have hit a net benefit from either of these marketing campaigns, yet I bet all the marketers at HQ are still behind their desks (or gone for unrelated reasons.)

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2. icon
    ChurchHatesTucker (profile), Jan 16th, 2009 @ 4:15pm


    Why does it matter how many people used the code? If the logic is to get people in the door, or to try out "Carl's" for the first time, or whatever then more is better, right?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3. identicon
    Noah Buddy, Jan 16th, 2009 @ 4:18pm

    I _may_ understand how the marketing genius behind this missed the whole viral concept... but why make a bad thing worse? Why turn away anyone with a coupon?

    I read the article and it mentioned honoring the coupons of those that could prove they deserved it, but why not offer everyone else at least SOMETHING? $1 off? Free Drink?

    Anything to stop people from getting pissed and just leaving. I'm sure some would still be unhappy, but they should know they were trying to cheat the system.

    Shame on Carl's Jr. for being ignorant, but they could have played their cards much better.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jan 16th, 2009 @ 4:54pm

    Re: WTF?

    Because sometimes the discount is offered at a loss to the store, counting on return visits or additional purchases to make up the loss. If too many people respond to the offer, they may lose more money than they can recoup, or have more new customers than the store is capable of handling, or have the SAME people redeeming the coupon multiple times which defeats the whole purpose, etc...

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5. identicon
    E-Rock, Jan 16th, 2009 @ 5:02pm

    Re: WTF?

    I think that the logic was to get people in the door, up to a point. Carl's is obviously taking an immediate loss for each free hamburger they're giving out. It was (hopefully) a calculated loss that they felt they could afford in the short term in the hopes that, in the long term, it would pay itself off through increased brand awareness, retained customers, etc.

    I'm not sure how many basketball attendees would've been given the code, however I'm guessing the number of people who did (or would have) used the coupon severely surpassed their predicted "manageable" short term loss; especially if, as nothing indicates otherwise, the coupon codes could be re-used multiple times. And so the decision to stop taking the coupons.

    Verifying who was or was not at a basketball game probably would not have been worth the resources either for such a one of a kind promotion.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jan 16th, 2009 @ 6:02pm

    Re: Speaking of bad promotion ideas...

    do you mean hardee's? they have angus burgers i think. if so, the whole thing is even more ridiculous, since they merged a few years ago!

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7. identicon
    ToySouljah, Jan 16th, 2009 @ 6:38pm

    Re: Re: WTF?

    I wonder why they didn't just have people bring in the ticket stubs from the game as their "coupon". McDonald's does that here with Spurs stubs (I'm in San Antonio). Also, if UT wins a game Valero gives out free coffee to everyone the following day.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8. identicon
    the angry intern, Jan 16th, 2009 @ 7:32pm

    Re: Re: Speaking of bad promotion ideas...

    I was thinking the same thing. At first I was trying to figure out what Harvey's was and then I realized I think he meant Hardee's, which is the same thing as Carl's Jr. Hardee's is primarily midwest I think, but it's the same company and same food as Carl's Jr.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jan 16th, 2009 @ 10:02pm

    Re: Re: Re: Speaking of bad promotion ideas...

    Very much the same, although they weren't always. Carl's acquired Hardee's, I think.

    For a while, they rebranded some of the Illinois Hardee's to Carl's Jr. but they changed them back.

    I don't live near one any more but I miss the hot ham & cheese sandwiches. Tasted great, especially if they'd been in the bin for a while.

    My strongest memory of them, though, was walking in and being greeted with, not "Welcome, may I take your order?" or "can I help you?" but "If you want chicken, you's gonna hafta wait." (They were selling fried chicken at the time, I don't know if they still do.) Ack!

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  10. identicon
    Lucretious, Jan 17th, 2009 @ 4:48am

    I think the bigger story is that anyone would eat a burger from that hepatitis pit.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  11. identicon
    bobwyzguy, Jan 17th, 2009 @ 5:23am

    Newbie Mistake

    Want to bet that the old experienced marketing guy that was laid off to be replaced by two new college grads knew the history of this particular problem. The bean-counting CEOs that run companies these days cannot find a column in their Excel spreadsheets to place a value on knowledge and experience, they just know that old Jim was making $75K and new Sara and Bobby would do the work for $30 K each, a net savings of $5K per year, and more bonus for me, whoo-hoo!

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  12. identicon
    Carl Jr., Jan 17th, 2009 @ 9:09am

    The amount of coupons supposedly awarded at the game was around 278. 50 of them got redeemed before they put the kibosh on the deal. I suppose the concept is that folks who eat a burger usually eat it with a drink and fries, and they probably make enough profit on those to cover (or nearly cover) the cost of the burger. Several questions present themselves. One, why not use unique codes or require a ticket stub for the promotion in the first place? Two, why, after redeeming 50 coupons, cut off over 200 more legitimate customers who now have to go back home to get a ticket stub they may or may not have, and likely if turned away with a valid coupon, would swear not to return to Carl Jr's anytime anyway? This whole thing was screwed up by Carl Jr's, who could have turned this into a marketing bonanza, but ended up making it a huge liability.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  13. identicon
    jamEs, Jan 18th, 2009 @ 11:36am

    Harvey's vs Hardee's

    Harvey's is a Canadian chain of fast food restaurants, so odds are he did mean Harvey's. They are pretty much the biggest Canadian owned fast food chain.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  14. identicon
    Lewis Salem, Jan 18th, 2009 @ 4:55pm

    I believe it.

    I believe this will happen, and continue to happen. When you work in IT for a marketing company you are constantly fielding bad ideas, and having to implement them. Of course, when all goes to poop, it's the IT groups fault anyways. If you complain too much, they'll just outsource your job to someone who will implement your magnificent crap. This is the result.

    It costs more money to print individual codes. They probably didn't want to spend the money. I'm willing to wager there's a sad IT worker at CKE who'll take the brunt of blame.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  15. icon
    Killer_Tofu (profile), Jan 19th, 2009 @ 6:52am

    The Internet Strikes Again


    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  16. identicon
    RAWRAWR, Jun 20th, 2009 @ 9:41pm

    Re: Re: Re: Speaking of bad promotion ideas...

    No, Harvey's is a completely separate Canadian burger place. Hardee's isn't allowed to expand into Canada because Harvey's blocking it in courts due to the similarity of the name.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  17. identicon
    Don Moulinho, Aug 20th, 2010 @ 7:04am

    chegg coupon best way to rent textbook for college use this code: CC129076 for special discount 11% off. And also free shipping and can also get cash for your books with They’ll give you more then the bookstore for sure. Visit and use promo: CC129076 code to get an extra $5.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

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