Don’t hold back: customers rip into Jeep for botched car competition

Customers have ripped into Jeep over a botched competition held yesterday morning, labelling its contest to buy a cheap Jeep “unfair” and threatening to take legal action against the car company.

With angry customers increasingly turning to social media to vent their frustrations, the luxury car brand found its Facebook wall awash with complaints and threats for a class action lawsuit after the incident yesterday.

At 9am on Thursday, Jeep’s “The World’s Most Remote Dealership” promotion had intended to reveal to customers a phone number they could ring to be the first to buy one of 10 Jeep Cherokees for just $10,000, according to Mumbrella.

The cars, which normally retail for around $30,000, caught the eye of around 50,000 customers who signed up for the competition before yesterday morning.

Jeep had not anticipated users may not be watching the countdown timer from a smartphone, and as customers waited for the clock to tick over to 9am, many of them did so from a tablet.

When the clock ticked over, revealing the location of Jeep’s remote dealership and prompting customers to use a ‘call now’ button with the competition hotline number, tablet users couldn’t use the calling function.

But problems had arisen long before 9am, according to angry customers on Whirlpool.

The countdown time was apparently set by the current time on the device and when it reached zero (9am device time) it would check in with the server and show the location and phone number.

So if users set the time on their device forward, they had an unfair advantage of gaining the information before everyone else.

Whirlpool users also suggested that some people got the ‘ok-to-show’ on their phones 12 hours early due to a server problem or even because of a leak from Jeep.

Users without GPS also claimed to be further disadvantaged, as the app demanded the use of GPS tracking to proceed when the time ticked over.

Jeep’s Facebook page was inundated with angry posts, currently at just over 900, calling on the company to re-run the completion and calling it’s a “farce” and a “scam”.

A Jeep Fiasco Class Action Lawsuit Facebook group also popped up, currently with just under 400 members, as well as a webpage dedicated to signing up for the class action.

One commenter said they had also written to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission about the case.

Jeep responded to the furore, but did not suggest it would look at re-running the competition or investigate what went wrong.

“Wow! Thanks Australia for your amazing participation in ‘The World’s Most Remote Dealership’ promotion. We can see that some of you are disappointed — there were over 30,000 calls made this morning for the chance to buy just 10 vehicles,” said a Facebook post from the company.

“Once we had confirmed our 10 buyers, we updated all our social media channels that the promotion was now over. We also closed the phone lines, as we thought this would indicate all the cars were gone! Sorry if this confused some of you.”

“We love your passion for Jeep; stay tuned for more exciting and unique promotions and offers.”

Michelle Gamble from Marketing Angels told SmartCompany while Jeep likely has its own legal advice on whether or not it has to re-run the competition, it has to deal with the fact the contest backfired and left disgruntled fans.

“If something does go wrong, I would look at some kind of consolation to those affected, rather than saying, ‘bad luck’,” says Gamble.

“Jeep should use the opportunity to create some goodwill with some of the customers who are upset, and were obviously fans of the brand,” she says.

Gamble says any small businesses considering running a competition should firstly look into whether or not they need a permit from the Office of Liquor, Gaming and Racing.

“If it’s a game of chance you need a permit,” says Gamble.

While the laws differ from state to state and are dependent on the prize value, Gamble says even Facebook competitions have to comply with these regulations.

“The second caution would be that you need to do a dry run with these things,” says Gamble. “With anything involving technology, test it beforehand.”

Jeep was contacted for comment, but SmartCompany did not receive a response prior to publication.

Image credit: Flickr/inajeep

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