Friday, December 23, 2005

Consumers go head-over-heels for Wendy's deal

A restaurant promotion that merits its own message thread on (“Your Dumpster Diving and Curb Crawling Resource”) might sound like a bad thing. But Wendy’s has stated that it’s delighted with the fun consumers are having with the traffic builder it launched on Nov. 1 in collaboration with Airtran, the budget airline, and Coca-Cola. Indeed, the campaign has some people going head over heels. And we mean that literally.

The promotion encourages Wendy’s customers to buy a soft drink with the enticement of free air travel. On each drink cup is a coupon worth one-sixty-fourth of a roundtrip excursion on Airtran, a payback easily worth several hundred dollars. Some patrons have computed that they can buy 64 drinks for less than $80. According to news reports implicitly confirmed by Wendy’s, customers are walking up to the counter and ordering 64 medium drinks, without ice. Or soda.

The rules limit purchases to five drinks at a time, and presumably require that the cups actually be filled with fluid. But the chain has acknowledged to papers like The Atlanta Journal and Constitution that not all units are abiding by the restrictions.

Even cagier consumers are foregoing the purchases altogether. They discovered that some patrons could care less about amassing points for a free flight, and toss their couponed cups in the trash along with burger wrappers and uneaten French fries. That’s why, if you cruise by the Dumpsters outside Wendy’s units until Dec. 31, you may spot pairs of legs jutting into the air. Dumpster divers are not only reaping the refuse to enjoy a post-holiday getaway, but are sharing information via and other sites about what receptacles have been picked clean and which ones have proven particularly fruitful.

Those who don’t want to plunge into trash can keep their hands clean by working what may be the most robust promo aftermarket the trade has seen since McDonald’s offered mini Beanie Babies as Happy Meal premiums a few years ago. Sites like the uber-popular are reportedly packed with offers to buy the coupons for a quarter or 50 cents each. Meanwhile, eBay is bristling with offers from entrepreneurs willing to part with their cups, with bids on the auction site usually falling around that per-cup price range.

Wendy’s has yet to say what kind of impact the promotion has had on sales. Ditto on its garbage-carting costs.


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