A Mobile Experience That Fails to Delight

By Samuel Greengard 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.

This article was originally published on 2015-12-07
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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