Vouchers, coupons, and discounts are often a good tool to entice new customers or promote a product. However, if discount codes are not secured properly, forums and social networking can become a real headache for the company involved.
That is exactly what happened to Electronic Arts over the weekend.
A single post on a gaming forum that included a discount code for $20 worth of software from EA's online store sparked a downloading spree, much to the delight of Reddit users after the code made its way to the popular link aggregation site. Not only could the code be used multiple times by multiple users, but due to its $20 tag, 44 games priced $19.99 or lower could be downloaded for free.
The code was originally a reward for customers who completed an online survey. Based on Redditors, it seems the code worked for about 18 hours before EA noticed the free gaming spree and cancelled it at 1:28 AM PT today. The late move didn't dampen the spirits of Reddit users -- who then changed the thread to post their hauls in delight.
Game downloads included Mass Effect 1, Dragon Age, Mercenaries 2: World in Flames, and FIFA Soccer 12.
The code was valid for the U.S. and Canadian customers. However, this didn't stop everyone -- as a workaround is possible by breaching the firm's terms of service and using a fake U.S. address on the billing page. It is not known how many games were downloaded in the window, but hundreds of Reddit comments later, you can imagine how many thrifty customers took advantage.
The aftermath for such promotion abuse is likely to pain not only EA, but also the customers who actually completed the survey and looked forward to using the coupon until its expiration date on October 21.