Did something fishy go on with Applebee’s Date Night Passes?


If you want to get something while it’s hot, you need to sign up for promotion pings

Bourbon Street Steak, Oreo Shake for basically free?

Taking a possible cue from Walker Hayes’ song “Fancy Like,” Applebee’s recently rolled out a $200 Date Night Pass – 52 date nights, one per week, with up to $30 on food and non-alcoholic beverages, equating to more than $1,500 in value. And it was such a hit that it sold out within a minute. 

Unfortunately, for the diners the company supposedly made happy, it probably p-o’ed twice that many. Once the “all gone” signal was broadcast on social media, tempers flared like jalapenos on Applebee’s Neighborhood Nachos.

A scam or a marketing misstep?

These types of promotions always generate buzz and anticipation, and it’s typical, if not standard, to have a limited number of items available. It’s a marketing tactic that’s been that way since time immemorial and will continue because it works magic.

For some, it didn't seem to be on the up and up, as evidenced by the Date Night Pass conversations happening on TikTok and Reddit, calling the entire promotion a “scam,” said NRN’s Alicia Kelso. 

In this case, it proved to be a technological failure, too -- at least in one ConsumerAffairs' reviewer's eyes.

"I was on two of my computers for the noon time chance to purchase the date night card for $200.00. A few minutes prior to 12:00 pm, both computers Applebee's Date Night home pages went blank and a notification came up on a blank page saying I was not authorized," Paula from Bellafonte, Pa., wrote.

"It would be impossible for anyone to have a opportunity to purchase the card at 12:00 when the window closed before 12:00. I enjoyed eating at Applebee's often but I won't eat there ever again. This scam shows me what kind of company they really are and consumers don't need any more grief."

“But selling out – especially in early days – comes with the risk of reputational erosion, as evidenced by the Date Night Pass conversations happening on TikTok and Reddit calling the entire promotion a “scam,” said NRN’s Alicia Kelso. 

“Those conversations indicate the passes sold out within seconds and the website crashed early and often the day they were released.”

Company response

ConsumerAffairs reached out to Applebee’s to see if more “Date Night” cards will be released, and here is the company's response according to an Applebee's spokesperson:

The Date Night Pass sale this week showed us that our guests are hungry for date night at Applebee's—just prior to sale time there were nearly 100,000 guests waiting to try and snag a Date Night Pass.

Our passes sold out in less than one minute to guests in 41 states – far exceeding our expectations. We apologize to our guests who were disappointed that the limited number of passes sold out so quickly. We're always looking for ways to make date night special for our guests and look forward to sharing future offers. 

Don't want to miss promos like this?

Reading between the lines, it’s likely that Applebee’s -- or any business for that matter -- is going to release promotions like this on social media or its app.

If you have a favorite restaurant and are looking for a bargain like the Date Night deal, you’d be smart to download the company’s app and set up notifications from that company on your phone.

Keep in mind that while subscription promotions like this sound like something are a dream come true, they have a definite downside.

Just like January promotions from fitness centers, you should also think long and hard about how much you will actually use these deals. Do you want to eat at a restaurant every single week for a year? If you don't, the bang for your buck diminishes greatly.

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