Wendy's Logo - © 2016 Wendy's

Wendy’s Atones? Offers $1 Burgers After Pricing Fiasco

Wendy’s got itself in a sea of hot water when its CEO chose his words poorly describing a new ‘dynamic pricing’ plan. Then it backpedaled, blaming the media. Now, Wendy’s is offering $1 burgers to help sooth abraded fans…

Wendy's First Opening - © 1969 - Columbus DispatchWendy’s founder, Dave Thomas (right) and Columbia, OH, Mayor
M.E. Sensenbrenner (left) at the opening of the first Wendy’s
resto in 1969. WWDS (What Would Dave Say?) about
the highly contentious dynamic pricing fiasco?

Remember, not too long ago, when Wendy’s new CEO told investors and the business media, on an earnings conference call, that the chain would soon start to phase in ‘dynamic pricing’? His description shot up red flags. It sounded as though he was talking about ‘surge pricing’. That’s what UBER Eats does – raises prices during peak hours. One word: ‘Despicable’.

No! Sorry, sorry, sorry…

A few days later, after the story went viral in both mainstream and social media, Wendy’shurriedly put out a stark, unsigned, ‘poker-faced’ sort of statement ‘clarifying’ the CEO’s announcement: “This was misconstrued in some media reports as an intent to raise prices when demand is highest at our restaurants. We have no plans to do that and would not raise prices when our customers are visiting us most.”

The truth, they said was much tamer: “Digital menuboards could allow us to change the menu offerings at different times of day, and offer discounts and value offers to our customers more easily, particularly in the slower times of day.”

Still, it was a lame response to a consumer outcry unlike any we’ve seen in recent times.

The horse had left the barn…

But it was too late to limit the damage to Wendy’s corporate and brand profile. As they used to say, ‘the horse had fled the barn’. Now-a-days they say, ‘You can’t un-ring the bell’.

So what’s a beliegured burger chain to do, to try and repair such self-inflicted harm?

They obviously won’t hold their CEO responsible for his misspeak. Especially since he just came to Wendy’s from Pepsico, and is supposed to be a ‘big deal’. No, they’ve done everything they can to deflect blame for the gaffe from him. In fact they blamed the media for misleading the public about it all.

But how do they make amends with their offended fans?

Give ’em something free…

The classic ‘Hail Mary’ move that retailers and service providers have been using forever. Give ’em something free. In Wendy’s case, it’s a free Dave’s Single. Or a Double, if you like. But there are multiple catches:

  • The freebies are only available now through April 10.
  • You must use the Wendy’s smartphone app to access the deal.
  • You must also sign up for a Wendy’s Account before you can access the deal.
  • You must add the freebie burger to an existing order – which, of course, you must pay for.
  • You can only get 1 freebie burger at a time.
  • And you can only use the deal once.

A cynical, insincere ‘Sorry’…

It’s a cynical, insincere ‘Sorry’, at best. At most, another despicable attempt to foist something on fans that many don’t want. I don’t know anybody who has any Fast Food chain app on their phone. Much less has signed up for an account or membership to get occasional discounts and exclusives.

Basically, Wendy’s has disguised another in a long line of exhortations, to become its phone-app, brand loyalty slave, as a penance for its ‘dynamic pricing’ disaster.

It’s obvious to me – and others in the media I’ve heard and read – that Wendy’s has lost sight of its customers as human beings. Moreover, the chain has made the huge mistake of assuming they can get away with any self-serving scheme it chooses to fly.

My take

I’d have thought the marketing geniuses at Wendy’s would have realized their customers – and especilly their fans – aren’t as stupid, or sheep-like, as they initially assumed.

Get with the program, Wendy’s!

Nobody believes you didn’t originally intend to leave the door open for ‘surge pricing’ in your digital menuboard scheme. And we’re even more suspicious of your motives and intentions now that you’ve offered this shabby excuse for a ‘make-up gift’.

Shame, Wendy’s! Shame! What would your founder, Dave Thomas, have thought of this whole fiasco? I’ll bet you a Dave’s Double he’d have handled it much differently – more sincerely and humanely.

~ Maggie J.