The package delivery company, FedEx, teamed up with American Express to promote “Small Business Saturday” – a day set aside to encourage people to drop the big-box stores for a day and shop at their local small businesses.
To get the word out about “Small Business Saturday,” FedEx offered their Facebook fans the opportunity to score one of one-million $25 American Express Gift Cards. All someone needed to do was visit FedEx’s Facebook page at 1pm ET today (November 1) and register for the free card.
Sounds simple enough, right?
1pm came and went. No gift cards but plenty of complaints.
“FedEx please post help! Been trying since this went live and still blank page…help!!”
“Rather disappointing!! I have been on here for 51 minutes and could never get the form to load, it just keeps giving me a blank page :(“
“SCAM! Cause this actually makes me want to never use FedEx again.. Shame they are a big corporation and can’t get someone to run their web system and not cause such a mess up..”
“In all fairness, why don’t you just give up, let us go back to work, and try again same time tomorrow?”
“Congrats to the ones who say they got one…It will not load after 22 billion page refreshes. I could have used the gift card, but its not worth wasting more of my time trying to get thru. Way to go FedEx…:(“
“Well i have to go now. Been at it for 50 min. I got the page but would not load. Oh well thank you anyway FedEx. It’s like iIsay it’s like playing the lottery you just might win, be thankfull they gave us a chance to even try!!!”
“FedEx just LOST a shipper – Im going to use UPS now…. False advertising is messed UP !!!”
Shortly after 1pm FedEx posted a note which said, “Hi all – we’re loading the registration for the Amex gift cards now – you will see the form very shortly – sorry for the delay!”
Then around 1:30pm signs of the promotion began to appear and several people responded with glee that they were finally able to claim their free gift card.
“I finally got it! Don’t give up!!”
“I finally got one…. alot of refreshing….”
“Mines on its way already,, woohoo….. lol”
By 2:10pm FedEx posted another update to their wall, “We are still working through technical difficulty in loading the American Express gift card form. We are working to resolve this issue and hope to have the registration form up and running soon.”
Finally at 2:19pm, one-hour and nineteen minutes late, FedEx posted that the technical issues were fixed and the promotion is live. “We’re very sorry for the delay, but the Small Business Saturday $25 Amex Shop Small Gift Card registration is live now!
Then within minutes, like a Priority Overnight package zipping down a shipping belt in Memphis, the promotion was over.
“That stinks, by the time the page was up, after trying for an hour, the cards were all gone! Unlike…”
“Ran out seconds after it went live? Not good…”
“I am more than disappointed. I struggled for 3 hours just to get a form to load and when I did, they were all gone. This was my one chance to buy gifts as I am still unemployed. I feel like the butt of a practical joke. :-(“
“You have got to be kidding me. The system was down more that it was up. Now it seems that they are all out when I did get the tab to show.”
So what went wrong?
Much like the horror stores of websites going down on Cyber Monday, it seems FedEx and/or American Express did not anticipate the amount of web traffic this promotion would bring. I find that hard to believe, but certainly plausible. While waiting for the page to load, my browser seemed to be having problems connecting to https://amexgiftcards.stuzo.com/ a site managed by the Philadelphia advertising agency – Stuzo – who lists American Express as one of their case studies.
A high-profile promotion like this should have started on-time and the technology behind it should have been more than able to accommodate the demand that a million-dollars worth of gift cards would bring.
Unfortunately, for FedEx, the damage is done.
Pull a boner like this on a social media site and you’re bound to be doing damage control for a long time.
Of course there is a lesson to be learned here. Never underestimate the power of social media and the technological power needed to pull off a successful promotion.
I got my gift card. Maybe I should send it back with a note, “Use this to upgrade your webserver.”