Gaming the System


There are many aspects of running a business that you just don’t think about prior to launch.  One of these items is how customers or employees can take advantage of you as a company.  As a consumer or even an employee, you tend to think of where you are shopping or the corporation you work for as a big faceless thing.  There is lacking a true personal connection between the company and you.

This is what makes it easy to game the system and take advantage of these faceless corporations, maybe you “borrow” some printer paper to use in your home printer or you end up with a set of cups from the chain down the street.  It is typically little things like this that as a consumer or an employee you tend not to think much about.  However, once you own your own company, these little things have an entirely new light shed on them and while you do your best to understand, they can sometimes get on your nerves.

Let me tell a quick story, I would be very interested in hearing your feedback.

At scrubadoo.com we donate $10 gift cards to nursing schools & nursing student associations etc. We do this as a good will gesture and in the hopes that every card will reach 1 new person.  We have run the numbers and over the long run have lost a little bit of money on the first order made with these cards.  After thinking of the best way to set the cards up to prevent people from hoarding all of the what we send, we basically set the cards up so that every user can only use one of these promotional cards ever.  It says this on the cards and we tell the groups that we give them to.  Now I realize that people could register multiple times and us multiple gift cards but it seemed like a lot of work to game our system for a $5.01 savings (we charge $4.99 for shipping/order so if you register twice and use the card again you are paying shipping twice).

Anyhow, we get calls occasionally where the person on the end of the line asks “I have 15 of these gift cards, but the system is only letting me use one at a time, how do I use them all?”  Yesterday I received one such call from a lady in Wisconsin who had acquired 3 of the cards at a nursing convention over the weekend. I went into my standard explanation, that we donate the cards to the the student associations as we feel it is a great group and they deserve our support, but we have to limit their usage to one per person otherwise we wouldn’t be able to afford to make these donations in the future. I then proceeded to tell her seh is more than welcome to use one and then suggested she gives the other two to friends.

We hang up and everyone seemed happy.

15 minutes later we receive two orders back to back. They are shipping to the exact same address, one is for a women’s scrub top and the other is for a matching scrub bottom.  Both of the orders use a $10 gift card and the name on one of the orders is shipping to the woman whom I had just spoken with. The other was to a second person with a different email address but the same last name.

Now I am not so naive that I do not expect people to not game the system, it has happened before, and heck, I myself have gamed a system or two. However, I would like to think that if I had just had a conversation with someone about the situation and there were similar circumstances to these, I would just take my $10 off and be happy to share the other gift cards with 2 of my friends.

So, I sent her an email. I very politely told her “Hi Jane Doe , I think we spoke on the phone about 15 minutes ago about your gift cards. Would you mind if we shipped your two orders out in the same box?”

I sent the email for three reasons: 1. I was a little mad at the situation (again, I realize people will game the system) 2. It would save us about $13 to ship the items together and 3. I wanted her to know that I knew.

She responded by asking me to cancel her order.

I did.

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