In what has become a tradition among companies this year, yet another giveaway has gone awry.
This time Marsh Supermarkets, a grocer in Indiana and Ohio, stopped accepting a $10 coupon it had promoted on its Facebook fan page after it became too popular, according to Consumerist.com. The coupon was shared with fans of the Marsh Supermarkets on July 28 and the offer canceled a few days later after the coupon was "distributed in an unauthorized manner."
Upset customers took to the coupon post on Facebook to share their anger over the coupon cancellation, claiming that they would, "never go to Marsh again," and another user stating that she "will definitely be shopping Kroger and Meijer."
Still, animosity wasn't the only feeling expressed on the company's wall. Many fans supported Marsh's decision to crack down on the unauthorized use even though it meant they wouldn't save $10 themselves.
The problem began when Facebook fans made copies of the coupon and shared it directly with friends and family rather than directing them to sign up to be a fan of Marsh's.
By bypassing the requirement to be a fan of Marsh's on Facebook, these users were making unauthorized coupons which weren't valid. While this type of coupon sharing is illegal, it isn't an unexpected issue for online coupon promotions.
Smart companies use coupon technology to put a unique ID on each coupon which makes copies worthless after the first one is used. By making it harder for the coupons to be duplicated and re-used Marsh could have saved a lot of cash, as well as avoided the negative publicity that comes with a failed giveaway.
It's a shame the company had to cancel the program without offering legitimate Facebook users anything for their trouble. An action like this can go a long way toward harming a company's reputation in social media, but then again since the cancellation the Marsh has actually gained close to 500 new fans!
Only time will tell how long the average consumer's attention span is and whether or not the threats of shopping elsewhere still hold true when they need a gallon of milk late at night.
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