Facepalm: Last week, bedlam broke out at Domino's pizza stores nationwide as an exploit of its "Emergency Pizza" giveaway went viral on social media. Customers were placing orders for dozens of free pizzas and overwhelming staff. Store managers finally instructed employees to cancel all Emergency Pizza orders.
On October 25, Domino's Pizza's corporate marketing team announced the company would give away $1 million in free pizzas. It was an extension of a promo that had started earlier that month for regular customers and had encountered no problems. The pizza chain framed the program as its way of helping out all of those with student loans as the government ended the years-long payment furlough enacted during Covid.
"Student loan payments have resumed for millions of Americans, and we wanted to help in our own little way by using the power of pizza to do something nice for our customers," Kate Trumbull, Domino's senior vice president – chief brand officer, said in a press release. "When life gives you loans, Domino's gives you free pizza!"
The way the giveaway worked – or was supposed to work – was Domino's would generate a limited number of free medium two-topping pizza codes daily. Those with student loans could claim the vouchers online while supplies lasted. Regular customers could get freebies, too, but they had to buy a pizza at a menu price and then claim a coupon with their receipt. Codes were valid for 30 days.
The process functioned fine until the end of last week when one or more people figured out how to use a single code for multiple pizzas. It is unclear how these unlimited coupons were created. It could have been a glitch with the code generator, or a tech-savvy hacker could have reverse-engineered the algorithms.
Either way, the entire program blew up in employees' faces nationwide as news of the glitch spread on social media. An unofficial Domino's subreddit, which caters to employees and fans of the chain, began seeing numerous posts of the nightmares that were breaking out in kitchens all over the US.
Posts from the dominos
community on Reddit
"We just had like 30 orders of free emergency pizzas, a costumer just walked in and took 5 free emergency pizzas different orders and receipts, but same name [sic]," said one frazzled worker. "Who in their right mind decided to give free pizzas? Corporate are brainless."
"One guy had 10 pizzas and another person had 8 pizzas," said another Domino's Redditor. "Damn those people that took advantage of the system. But hey one of the free bastards gave me a 20 dollar tip. So I guess worth it somewhat."
Many franchises shut down the program and canceled all free orders, especially if they were from the same person. It's hard to tell how many pies went out the door gratis before then. According to one employee, at least one person had redeemed and scheduled orders for several weeks in advance.
It is unclear whether Domino's corporate management provided any actual remedies. Most accounts stated that panicked franchise managers, seeing their profits run out the door, handled the situation by halting the bogus orders. Domino's Corporate has not responded to requests for comment, nor has it communicated well with store owners or employees, according to r/Dominos posters.
"Domino's is an awful company that is bad at basically everything," said one upset worker. "They don't know how to increase business because they don't understand what the problems are."
It was not the first time Domino's had a free giveaway blow up in its face. A similar joint promotion in 2016 with T-Mobile saw the company renege on it's promise of free pie when it neglected to limit the offer to one per T-Mobile account rather than per line.