Donatos coupon

Yet another company has learned the hard way, that sending a hot coupon via email ends up being nothing but trouble. All it takes is one recipient to forward their coupon to a friend, and soon all heck breaks loose.

That’s what the pizza place Donatos figured out this week, after being overrun with customers bearing coupons for a free pizza. The Columbus, Ohio-based chain, with 152 locations in six East Coast states, was so overwhelmed that several locations had to close after running out of pizza dough.

The chaos began on Tuesday morning, when customers who signed up for the Donatos email club got their promised “special welcome offer” in their inbox – a printable coupon offering a free large one-topping pizza, redeemable in stores or online. The company estimates that about a thousand people received the coupon.

And some recipients decided to share their wealth with friends. And strangers. And the entire internet.

The coupon quickly went viral, and hungry pizza fans hurried to claim their freebie. There were so many online orders, that the website went down for a time. And so many customers flocked into stores, wiping out the pizza supply, that a number of locations had to close early.

Now Donatos says it was all a mistake. In fact, it reacted as many companies do when faced with an out-of-control viral coupon – it cried “fraud.”

“This was a fraudulent coupon that is not valid,” Donatos said in a followup email to those who received the coupon. “Moving forward, this coupon cannot be redeemed in any Donatos stores or online.” It went on to call the coupon “fraudulent” three more times in the same email – despite the fact that the coupon came from Donatos itself.

The company is still trying to figure out how the coupon got sent out, when the offer to new email club members is meant to be somewhat less generous. It eventually conceded that the coupon was actually valid, at one time, though it was meant to be distributed only in the Cleveland area. So how did it end up being sent out to a thousand people? Did someone hack into the system? Did someone at Donatos hit the wrong button when sending the email club welcome message?

And does the fact that the coupon was a mistake, make it a “fraud”?

Not according to most customers. “This came from the same account from which all the other coupons were sent. There is no way this was fraudulent,” wrote one commenter on Donatos’ Facebook page. “Don’t send a coupon out then say it’s fraudulent just because you’re overwhelmed,” wrote another.

Donatos has not responded to requests for comment about its investigation into how an email containing an invalid coupon was sent out in the first place, and why it’s choosing to use the loaded term “fraudulent”.

At any rate, to its credit, Donatos quickly added the otherwise nonworking coupon code into its system on Tuesday so that it could be redeemed. Even as the company investigated the source of the coupon, Donatos locations honored it as long as possible, to “make sure our loyal guests are taken care of.”

And for those who weren’t able to redeem their freebie? Well, Donatos is currently running a contest called “Pizza for Life”. The grand prize? 480 coupons for a free large, one-topping pizza.

Let’s hope they don’t all don’t turn out to be “fraudulent”.

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