Monday, March 3, 2014

The Emerging Radioshack/Netflix Debacle

On Sunday, February 23rd, Radioshack began a promotion to make it possible for anyone who bought a laptop, tablet, or cellphone to receive a code good for 6 months of Netflix online streaming service. The deal can be found on their website. However, not all is well in promotion land. Since the promotion period began there have been cancelled orders, widespread theft, and generally more questions than answers. To fully explain, it will help to start at the beginning.

Radioshack announced this deal last week, and it was to begin Sunday that any online or in store purchase of a laptop, tablet, or phone would result in a code being emailed or printed on receipt. That code would be entered at another redemption site, which would then generate a code that could be redeemed on Netflix for 6 months of services (around a $48 value). The issues all began with the first redemption process.

Initially the redemption site, The Deal Now Card, had to send out notices that Netflix codes would be sent out within two days. This would be fine except that some savvy (or scummy, depending on your interpretation) internet users found a way to manipulate the redemption process.

Users on slickdeals, a deal finding and sometimes deal exploiting website, found that the URL of the redemption website could be changed upon trying to enter a code, resulting in a valid Netflix subscription code being generated. Within hours, many of Netflix codes that were allocated to this promotion were stolen and some were redeemed or put up for sale on Ebay.

This means that those with legally obtained codes could either be receiving an already redeemed code, or they might not receive a code at all. To make matters worse, Radioshack has declined to respond as of Tuesday afternoon. The only change has been an update to the terms of service, requiring a higher purchase amount, for receiving a Netflix code that has likely already been used.

Who is to blame for this issue? Radioshack certainly could have benefited from employing a more sound delivery system for the promotional codes. Utilizing a shell of a website that initially cracked under traffic, then was so easily manipulated, while making the goods so easy to steal, certainly doesn't bode well for their online marketing decision making.

Plenty of blame can also fall on the redemption website designers. Getting the trust of a large company such as Radioshack usually means that the job will be taken seriously, rather than having a major promotion be handle by as they put it "a website design in process".

Some blame can be put on the Slickdeals users who decided to exploit the website error. By trying to exploit the deal, exploiting it, and then sharing the exploit with others in the name of building their online reputation, they likely ruined a good promotion that others could have benefited from. I am a fan of deal websites, but when scoring a good deal becomes an exercise in manipulation and theft, it is no longer what I would consider a slick deal.

Radioshack has not addressed these issues yet. A press release to give some indication if the thousands of customers who tried to correctly participate in this promotion will be receiving what they were promised will hopefully be coming soon. Until then, I am back to paying 8 bucks a month for my online streaming needs.

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