20 Times Companies Promised More Than They Could Deliver

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MoviePass
Photo credit: Courtesy of moviepass.com

NOT READY FOR PRIME TIME

Most companies want nothing more than to drum up demand. Special promotions and flashy launches are one way to create buzz, even if the product ends up flopping. Other times, products need no special marketing, selling like crazy on their own. Either way, it's a company's dream — until high demand backfires, leaving throngs of disgruntled customers. From Amazon's Prime Day woes to the financial troubles plaguing MoviePass, here are 2 times companies overpromised and underdelivered.

MoviePass
Photo credit: Courtesy of moviepass.com

MOVIEPASS (2018)

Ten bucks a month to see one movie a day is a shockingly good deal. And that’s probably the reason MoviePass is reportedly running out of money. Recently, frustrated subscribers were turned away at the box office when the company couldn’t pay for users’ tickets; now, in a desperate attempt to stay afloat, MoviePass is set to raise prices to close to $15 and limit subscribers’ access to some big-name first-run movies.

Amazon Prime Day Problem
Photo credit: Courtesy of amazon.com

AMAZON PRIME DAY (2018)

Amazon relentlessly promotes its Prime Day, but this year, the ecommerce giant was caught with its pixels down. The website crashed outright when deals were released, and technical glitches continued to plague would-be customers for hours, costing Amazon untold amounts of business. And it's not the first time Prime Day has left customers angry. In 2015, shoppers flooded Twitter with complaints about subpar deals on items no one wanted, such as no-name women's underwear and old Adam Sandler movies.

Build-a-Bear
Photo credit: Courtesy of amazon.com

BUILD-A-BEAR 'PAY YOUR AGE' (2018)

Amazon's difficulties probably have Build-A-Bear executives breathing a little easier after being in the hot seat for a botched "Pay Your Age" promotion, which had the stores offering $2 bears to 2-year-olds, $5 bears to 5-year-olds, and so on. The hysteria that followed seemed predictable to everyone — well, everyone except Build-A-Bear. Lines of frenzied parents and kids reached epic proportions, forcing local authorities to put a stop to the deal.

Nutella
Photo credit: AlinLyre/istockphoto

INTERMARCHÉ NUTELLA DISCOUNTS (2018)

Nutella has always been popular in Europe, but the French took their devotion to new heights when supermarket Intermarché slashed prices independently on the chocolate-hazelnut spread. Fights erupted between customers, leaving at least one worker with a black eye and an elderly woman with a box thrown over her head. One store reported selling out of three months' worth of Nutella in minutes.

Starbuck's Unicorn Frappuccino
Photo credit: Courtesy of starbucks.com

STARBUCKS UNICORN FRAPPUCCINO (2017)

The Unicorn Frappuccino was one of several fast-food misfires in 2017. Starbucks couldn't keep up with demand for the insanely sugary concoction and many stores ended up selling out of the colorful drink, leading angry customers to vent online. The shortages were cheered by one group, however: bone-tired baristas who spent their days coated in the pink and blue powder they had to sprinkle into each drink.
Super Nintendo
Photo credit: Nintendo/facebook.com

NINTENDO SNES CLASSIC (2017)

Video-game consoles are notorious for whipping up insane customer demand, but Nintendo might be king when it comes to disappointing customers. Few were able to track down an SNES Classic last year, and it was the same story for the console's predecessor, the NES Classic. Ditto for the initial release of the Nintendo Switch and the Wii. The chronic shortages have led many to speculate that Nintendo deliberately creates shortages to create buzz — a charge the company, of course, has denied.
Mcdonald's
Photo credit: tupungato/istockphoto

MCDONALD'S SZECHUAN SAUCE (2017)

McDonald's introduced Szechuan sauce in the late '90s as a tie-in with the Disney movie "Mulan," but it didn't stay in restaurants permanently. After the condiment was featured on an episode of Cartoon Network's late-night cult favorite "Rick and Morty," fans took to social media, pleading for McDonald's to bring it back. McDonald's was all too happy to oblige for a single-day stunt, but quickly ran out — forcing cops to deal with irate customers chanting, "We want sauce."

Domino's Pizza
Photo credit: jetcityimage/istockphoto

T-MOBILE/DOMINO'S FREE PIZZA PROMOTION (2016)

Free pizza is always bound to draw a crowd. Domino's found out the hard way after it co-sponsored a promotion with T-Mobile that offered free pizzas to T-Mobile customers through a special app. Stores reported massive increases in orders, partially because the deal wasn't limited to one pizza per account or household. Domino's stepped in to save its struggling stores, pulling out of the deal after a couple of weeks.

Tesla Model 3
Photo credit: LPETTET/istockphoto

TESLA MODEL 3 (2016)

Electric-car juggernaut Tesla created enormous buzz when it announced a vehicle that many people could actually afford: the $35,000 Model 3. Of course, the funny thing about affordable vehicles is that people want to buy them. The company took in hundreds of thousands of preorders, but after significant production roadblocks, nearly a quarter of would-be customers ended up requesting a refund of their deposit.

Target
Photo credit: jimkruger/istockphoto

LILLY PULITZER FOR TARGET (2015)

Target relishes its "cheap chic" reputation, but its much-ballyhooed partnerships with designer brands haven't always gone smoothly. The most notorious example: Stores sold out of Lilly Pulitzer for Target merchandise in minutes, leaving long lines of frustrated shoppers — and a thriving market for marked-up items on eBay. The store faced a similar debacle in 2011 with its Missoni for Target line, and this year with Hunter for Target.
Sephora
Photo credit: anouchka/istockphoto

SEPHORA 'EPIC REWARDS' (2015)

Makeup chain Sephora has some truly devoted customers, many of whom are members of its Beauty Insider customer loyalty program. Members earn points when they buy products, and they can redeem them down the road for reward merchandise — at least, that's how it's supposed to work. During an "Epic Rewards" promotion, the rewards turned out to be so over-the-top that they were gone in seconds. Frustrated fans launched a revenge campaign to return everything they'd bought in the past 60 days, even if it was already used, to exploit the store's lenient return policy.

iPhone 5
Photo credit: guvendemir/istockphoto

APPLE IPHONE 5 (2012)

Lines form at Apple stores with every new product, but some releases are more infamous than others. The iPhone 5 saw double the preorders of the iPhone 4S, and nearly quadruple the number of the iPhone 4. Stores sold out of their initial supply in under two days, and even those who placed preorders had to wait several weeks to get their hands on a shiny new phone. If Apple learned from its mistake, it had a funny way of showing it: The same thing happened a couple of years later with the iPhone 6.

Air Jordan 11 Retro
Photo credit: Courtesy of stadiumgoods.com

NIKE AIR JORDANS (2011)

Air Jordan devotees swarmed stores during the holidays in 2011, hoping to land a coveted pair of Nike's limited-release Air Jordan 11, a white shoe with sleek patent-leather accents. Instead, some of them got a face full of pepper spray as long lines led to fights and arrests all over the country. Some customers angrily accused Nike of artificially creating a frenzy by keeping production low. The company has stayed mum about how many shoes it actually cranked out.

KFC bucket of chicken
Photo credit: marcoprati/istockphoto

KFC GRILLED CHICKEN (2009)

KFC learned the hard way that you shouldn't use Oprah to sell a product if you don't want to sell out — and then some. The company used her show to promote a free offer for two pieces of its new grilled chicken, two sides, and a biscuit. Millions of hungry customers tried to take KFC up on the deal (some with photocopied coupons), forcing executives to renege after just a couple of days because of extreme demand.

Quiznos Subs
Photo credit: typhoonski/istockphoto

QUIZNOS SUBS (2009)

Chicken devotees weren't the only fast-food customers to get burned in 2009. Quiznos rolled out a Million Sub Giveaway and, unsurprisingly, at least a million hungry customers showed up. But when some tried to redeem their coupons, they were met with strange stipulations, refusals, and rudeness from franchisees. Turns out franchisees were mad because Quiznos was making them eat the cost of the promotion — no pun intended — instead of paying for it.

Dr. Pepper can
Photo credit: Samohin/istockphoto

DR. PEPPER AND GUNS N' ROSES (2008)

In one of the stranger marketing stunts in recent history, Dr. Pepper decided to troll Guns N' Roses by promising free soda to everyone in the U.S. if the band finally released its album "Chinese Democracy" after keeping fans waiting for 14 years. Lo and behold, the band released the album. Dr. Pepper scrambled to modify its promotion, forcing people to sign up online to get a coupon, but there were still so many thirsty deal-seekers that the website crashed, leaving many empty-handed. A lawyer for Guns N' Roses later demanded full-page apologies from the company in several national newspapers for a campaign that "brazenly violated our clients' rights."

Burger King Pokemon Toys
Photo credit: Courtesy of ebay.com

BURGER KING POKÉMON TOYS (1999)

When Pokémon fever first gripped the country in the late '90s, Burger King was there to capitalize with a $22 million promotion. It gave out Pokémon toys with its kids' meals, but several restaurants ran out due to insatiable demand. Pokémon collectors snapping up toys were part of the problem — one even tried to buy 500 kids' meals at a restaurant in Chicago. Sadly, the shortages ended up being the least of Burger King's Pokémon problems: It had to recall 25 million of the toys after two children suffocated because the plastic Pokémon balls became suctioned to their faces.

Original Tyco Tickle Me Elmo
Photo credit: Courtesy of amazon.com

TYCO TICKLE ME ELMO (1996)

Tickle Me Elmo will forever live in infamy as one of the nuttiest holiday toy crazes. Tyco's laughing, furry Elmo doll became an unexpected hit after being featured on Rosie O'Donnell's daytime talk show as well as the "Today" show. Sellouts fueled news coverage, which in turned fueled even more demand. Then came the inevitable reports of fights, trampled customers, and parents running after delivery trucks.

Original Coleco Cabbage Patch Doll
Photo credit: Courtesy of ebay.com

COLECO CABBAGE PATCH DOLLS (1983)

It was the toy fiasco that started it all: the Cabbage Patch Doll craze. Ingenious marketing of the unique "adoptable" dolls worked a little too well, and manufacturer Coleco ended up selling millions before the holiday season even began. As shortages started to plague stores, overeager parents resorted to camping in parking lots and ripping boxes from each other's hands.
Dupont Nylon Stockings
Photo credit: Courtesy of etsy.com

DUPONT NYLON STOCKINGS (1945)

Pantyhose has fallen out of favor with many women, but in the '40s it was a different story. When DuPont introduced nylon stockings, they sold out in days to women all too happy for an alternative to fussy silk. But U.S. troops fighting in World War II needed nylon for parachutes, ropes, and other goods, so it was rationed — and stockings were nowhere to be found. That is, until the war ended. In 1945, women clamored for the stockings again, resulting in massive lines. In Pittsburgh, 40,000 women lined up for 13,000 pairs.

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