Noodles And Company Takes My Complaint Seriously, Then Sort Of Stalks Me

Dustin was disappointed in a promotion at the restaurant Noodles and Company. He’s on their mailing list, and they shared a promotion offering free salads. Who doesn’t like free food? All you had to do was be online and go to the restaurant’s site at a certain time. That’s not so hard. He was poised at his computer five minutes before the free salads hit, refreshed the site and got… a page saying that all 500 salads had been claimed within seconds. That was impressive. He sent the company a sad e-mail, and wrote up a quick account of what happened for us to share his disappointment with the consumerverse.

I’ve been a fan of Noodles and Company for several years and have opted-in to their emails. I saw a new promotion from the restaurant last Wednesday where they were giving away 500 free chili-lime and ginger salads and you had to click on the link in the email and visit their site at precisely 10 a.m. MST on Thursday (9/13) to win. I’m not a huge salad fan, but I’ve been trying to eat healthier and wanted to see if this was something new I might enjoy.

I set up an Outlook reminder for 8:45 (Pacific Time) so I wouldn’t forget. At 8:55, I clicked the link and a page came up with a countdown clock on it that had less than five minutes left. It said “When the countdown reaches 0:00:00 refresh this page to claim your free salad.”

I know that technology can be fickle and sometimes it takes a few seconds for servers to talk to each other, so I waited until there was still 5 seconds on the countdown, then I pressed F5 to refresh the page. I figured I would just hit refresh until the countdown was done, but instead of reloading the same page, the screen refreshed almost instantly to a losing message: “Wow! That was quick! We’re sorry… All 500 free salads have been claimed.”

I know for a fact that the countdown wasn’t finished yet, so how could all of the salads have been claimed already? They were all given away before the promotion even began!

I emailed Noodles and Company to ask what had happened and got this canned response:

“Much like you were ready at your computer at 10am Mountain Time (11am Central/12pm Eastern/9am Pacific), so were 19,999 other Noodles fans and they all refreshed or clicked on the provided icon simultaneously. That’s lightning speed. In the world of nanosecond systems and functions and powerful network connections, the first 500 winners at 10:00:00 Mountain Time were captured and notified without issue. Much like how people may call in for a radio contest and “caller number 33 is the winner” in ten seconds or how quickly a concert could sell out at Madison Square Garden in ten minutes could happen, this contest was that similar in nature.”

I’m sorry, but blaming this on “nanosecond systems” and “powerful network connections” doesn’t explain the fact that the giveaway was over before their own countdown clock reached zero. How early did I need to refresh my screen to win? One minute early? Ten seconds? Thirty seconds? There’s no way to know.

Two days later, we heard back from Dustin. Was he still frustrated? No! He was dazzled with what happened next, where Noodles and Company customer service tracked him down, sending him a personalized note and a coupon for a free dish of noodles.

Here’s something cool. I sent you a complaint (included below) about a contest at Noodles and Company that annoyed me. Last night when I got home from work, I found an envelope in the mail from them. Inside was a hand-written note from the customer service rep I had emailed back and forth with (she thanked me for being a fan of the company) and included were free noodles! Not actual noodles, of course, but a voucher for some!

I don’t even know how they got my address… I must have entered it into their system when I signed up for their e-newsletter. But the fact they she took the time to look up my contact information and send me a personal response was awesome. Kudos to Noodles and Company for completely reversing my opinion of them in the past two days!