The long-awaited Back to School Bing Cashback promotion started yesterday but suffered from a myriad of problems.
Perhaps the biggest concern voiced by shoppers was that although Bing Cashback tweeted to its Twitter followers that “On Aug. 10th, use Bing to find deals on all your back to school items with 15% cashback from eBay for a limited time!” and also, “What will you buy on Aug. 10th with 15% cashback from eBay?”, the actual rate offered for eBay on Monday was 10%.
While Bing Cashback members tried throughout the day to get a response from Microsoft/Bing on the discrepancy, the company was silent on its Facebook page until 6:30pm CT, when they posted, “A quick word on the eBay cashback issues some of you have been experiencing: we previously posted that eBay would have 15% cashback. Currently it’s at 10%, but this may change over the course of the back to school promotion. We apologize for the confusion.”
Much ado about 5%? On a larger purchase, that additional 5% is a substantial difference. Many shoppers put off eBay purchases over the weekend after reading that 15% cashback would be offered on Monday. Ebay sellers edited their listings to include details about the upcoming 15% cashback that never materialized. Both shoppers and sellers are now in limbo with this latest wording — does this mean it could go up to 15%, or that it may actually drop?
But the eBay cashback rate discrepancy wasn’t the only issue shoppers had yesterday with the promotion.
NewEgg‘s Facebook page promised 10% cashback through Bing as a sponsored Bing.com search result for neweggfacebook from 10AM to 11AM PST, then it would be “open to everyone.” Only problem: they didn’t mention it was only open to everyone for 4 hours. While NewEgg did update their Facebook to announce a reduction to 5% and eventually the return to their standard 2.5% rate, this information didn’t trickle down to the many deal forums that reposted their initial Facebook announcement until much later, after much confusion…and some very upset potential customers.
ZipZoomFly is another Bing merchant that caused problems for shoppers yesterday. It was reported by several customers that ZipZoomFly was actually increasing their prices throughout the day, in some cases by as much as 15%. While not illegal, it’s certainly something that’s unethical, particularly given the fact that the additional cashback is completely paid by Microsoft/Bing and doesn’t cut into their profits at all. They simply saw an opportunity to jack up their prices and boost their profit margin, and Bing shoppers who caught them in the act are outraged.
Eastbay purchases through the Bing promotion also caused some headaches yesterday. Although Bing displayed a 50% cashback rate, some shoppers yesterday found that they were actually only awarded 30% and had to decide whether to cancel their orders (which, by the day’s end, was frequently denied by Eastbay CSRs) or to report it to Bing and hope that they made good on the original 50% offer. Others Eastbay shoppers found that, due to an erroneous cashback calculation, they were paid a 50% cashback rate on the single-item price of items that were discounted when bought in quantity — for example, $17.99 shirts on sale as “2 for $25″ were credited 50% cashback on their original $17.99 price rather than the discounted $12.50. No doubt this is a situation that Bing and Eastbay are going to have to address immediately.
Other problems experienced by many had to do with confusion about how Bing Cashback works in general:
- Sponsored ads sometimes don’t appear depending on your security settings
- IE seems to be more consistent in reporting cashback than Firefox
- Shoppers are told by Bing that the use of coupon codes invalidates cashback yet some stores list coupon codes on their landing page when clicking through Bing’s links
- Some stores display a banner confirming that Bing cashback is active while others don’t
- Some stores show a calculation at checkout of the Bing cashback you’ll receive while others don’t
- There’s a delay in receiving confirmation of cashback earned from some stores (Sears, Drugstore.com, Barnes and Noble)
- Shoppers don’t understand the range of potential cashback offered on Bing’s merchant list
- Shoppers are confused about being offered a different cashback rate when clicking through a sponsored ad versus what’s on the official Bing merchant list, and about how to figure out which search terms trigger the different rates
- There are recurring basic questions about whether cashback is paid on tax and shipping (it’s not), on orders paid for by gift cards (I’m still not sure), and on orders OF gift cards (should be no, except for on eBay)
I’ve been shopping through rewards programs online since 1997 and have been reporting on them here on CompareRewards.com for eight years. I can tell you that a good rewards program needs to be damned near idiot-proof, and Bing Cashback has a LONG way to go in that regard.
Throwing ridiculous sums of money at people to entice them to try out your rewards program, only to subject them to a trial by fire as they struggle to understand how the program works, is NOT a sound marketing investment, because the marketing dollars aren’t ultimately going to create goodwill for the program — they’re simply paying off the badwill created by the negative user experience…leaving shoppers with the taste of “Eh,” in their mouths.
Bing, continue what you started last night when you reappeared on Facebook: sic your PR people on spinning this mess while your tech and customer service people work on it on their ends. But a word of advice: censoring your Facebook page the way you censor your Bing search results further erodes your integrity… something no amount of money can buy back.