A Mobile Experience That Fails to Delight

By Samuel Greengard  |  Posted 2015-12-07 Email Print this article Print
Mobile commerce failure

Getting a physical gift card to work in the virtual world should be fast, easy and convenient. Unfortunately, it isn't if there's a lack of channel integration.

As a journalist and writer, I'd be the first to admit I'm a bit of a professional curmudgeon. It's my job to examine things in a critical light and point out how to correct them. Yet, it's astounding how many organizations can't get the basics right.

The latest installment? A while back, someone presented me with a $25 Fandango gift card. How nice, I thought. But I quickly discovered that the gift card can't be used at movie theaters; it works only through Fandango.

So, I dutifully downloaded the Fandango app, set up an account, and tried to store the credit. Unfortunately, the company wouldn't let me enter the card into the app until I was ready to buy tickets for a specific movie.

Finally, that moment arose last week. I selected a film, choose a theater and attempted to enter the card into the company's system. Incredibly, there was no way to claim the credit without inputting a 19-digit code and a four-digit PIN. Can you say: "E-x-t-r-e-m-e-l-y t-e-d-i-o-u-s?"

Then, to add insult to injury, once I had entered the data and placed the order for two tickets, I was socked with a $3.70 "convenience fee" simply because I used Fandango rather than the theater box office.

On a positive note, Fandango allowed me to cover the 70 cent overage quickly and easily with Apple Pay, and it seamlessly imported the e-tickets into Apple Wallet.

But there is a glaring problem here: a lack of channel integration. Getting a physical gift card to work in the virtual world shouldn't take 10 minutes. Since the gift card must be used with the smartphone app, why would I have to manually input a mind-numbingly long code when apps that read numbers and codes using a smartphone camera have been around for a few years?

I guess if you're using a credit card, you wouldn't encounter this issue. But you will still get socked with a $1.85 convenience fee per ticket simply for bypassing the box office. That's about 20 percent of the cost of the ticket. Really, standing in line for a minute or two isn't a problem.

I won't be using the Fandango app to purchase movie tickets again—at least, not in its current incarnation. I bet that Fandango has seemingly valid reasons for the way the gift card and app function, and I guess the company needs to get its cut.

I'm sure everything makes perfect sense for executives there. But, as a consumer, it makes no sense. So I'll take my dollars elsewhere, thank you.

Samuel Greengard writes about business and technology for Baseline, CIO Insight and other publications. His most recent book is The Internet of Things (MIT Press, 2015).

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