A few weeks back I got hit up with an attractive promotional offer from Uber. It arrived via email and for the most part I tend to read stuff I get from them. And why not? I’m a fan. Or at least I thought I was.

I’ve used Uber fairly often over the last 3 or 4 years, particularly on the west coast and in Seattle where the company I work for is based.  I’ve even been a bit of a brand ambassador, championing their merits along the way. So the other day when their offer arrived at a very opportunistic time (how do they know?), I was ready to pounce.

Their promotion was the gift of $10 in Uber credit to be used over the course of two trips. And it expired just two days from receiving it.  Well, it was a Friday and we were going out with our neighbors to dinner that night, so why not Uber our way to and from the restaurant and not worry if we have another glass of wine? Right?

And redeeming the offer looked easy. Right there in the email was a button to select that simply read: Get A Ride Today. Awesome. I was in.

When the time came to go, I touched the button, it took me to the Uber app, I summoned our car and away we went. What great simplicity in design.  We had a great dinner and the neighbors picked up the Uber on the way home. All was good.

Later, when I examined my emailed receipt, guess what? The $5 credit had not been applied. So, of course I immediately hunted down the proper channel to contact customer service (BTW, it was so easy) and fired off my inquiry as to why I didn’t get the promotional deal that they had spent time and effort on to send to me in an obvious ploy to continue to earn my loyalty.

In a very quick and timely response, I heard back from Christeza. She rather politely told me in so many words that I was a dumb sh*t. Her words:

Sorry to hear about the confusion on this promo, John. In order for a promotion to apply to a fare, it must be entered before the trip ends. In this case, no promotion code had been applied by the time your trip ended.

How was I supposed to know this? I did just what they wanted me to do, I pressed the Get A Ride Today button, it took me to the app and I summoned a driver. Done. No where along the way was I informed about needing to enter the promo code before the trip ended.

Now I’m no luddite and I navigate the digital space just fine, thank you, but to expect me to know to use a coupon code at the right moment in response to their seemingly user-friendly marketing effort is absurd.

No, actually, here is the absurd part: SHE DIDN’T GIVE ME THE DISCOUNT. All that work to incentivize me. All that money and time they spent to put the campaign together. The fact that I responded to it and by doing so, proved that effective targeted marketing works… all that went down the drain.

So, what’s the issue here? Is it me because never before have I received a promotional offer from Uber that was relevant, meaningful and timely, so I didn’t know the procedure? Is it the marketing? Technology? Customer service?

No, I think it is cultural. It’s the lack of knowledge and training to be able to respond correctly to an attempted favorable response to the marketing. It worked. They made a great effort. They got me there. But in the end, they lost sight of the real goal…

keeping me a brand loyalist.