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Thrifty

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So it wasn’t exactly a free car, just a free car rental for a day. But for many disappointed customers, it turned out not to be even that. Now Thrifty Car Rental is taking some heat for accidentally offering a free coupon, then rescinding it.

It started a few days ago, when members of Thrifty’s email list got a surprise in their inbox. “Congratulations! You’ve earned a free rental day,” the email promised, saying that a coupon would be coming in the mail.

But before customers could even cash in, a followup email went out. “Please disregard the email you received,” it read. “You will not be receiving a coupon in the mail.”

Well, thanks for that, Thrifty.

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A spokesperson for Hertz, which owns Thrifty, said the whole thing was a mistake. The email was meant to go to “select” customers, but instead went to an untold number of people who had simply signed up for Thrifty’s email list. “Unfortunately, this was a human error and as soon as we became aware of the mass email distribution, we took steps to correct the situation,” the spokesperson told the Associated Press. Correcting the situation essentially amounted to a mass-mailed “oops, never mind.”

Should Thrifty have made good on its promise, even though it was a mistake? Giving away free car rentals would have been expensive, but so is turning off customers who had their hopes up for a freebie and now may have second thoughts about doing business with Thrifty – or staying subscribed to its email list. “They should have honored it, it’s just one day,” one customer told the AP. “Smart companies offer an apology with some sort of salve — ‘Here’s a gift certificate,’ or ‘Here’s a 10% off coupon’ to demonstrate their remorse,” a retail analyst said.

But then Thrifty didn’t actually give out the coupon, then refuse to honor it. It just promised that a coupon would be on the way. So there was no way for any customer to try to redeem it, since no one who wasn’t meant to, actually received it. In the annals of “coupon oops” then (read about many more here), this wasn’t a big one.

Still.

“We’re very sorry for any confusion our eagerness may have caused,” Thrifty’s followup email read. As long as they realize that some disappointed Thrifty customers will likely be very sorry for their lack of eagerness in renting from Thrifty again.

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