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posted by hubie on Friday March 01, @05:18AM   Printer-friendly
from the providing-you-an-enhanced-customer-and-crew-experience dept.

Company speaks out after reports of "surge pricing" test led to calls for boycotts online:

A day after American fast food chain Wendy's announced plans to test dynamic pricing and AI menu features in 2025, the company clarified its plans.

Wendy's said it will not dynamically raise menu prices based on demand after reports about the experiment, which was set to roll out in 2025, caused a stir online. In a statement to Reuters, a Wendy's spokesperson said it "would not raise prices when our customers are visiting us most." Instead, the company framed experimental price changes as discounts during "slower times of day."

"We said these menuboards would give us more flexibility to change the display of featured items. This was misconstrued in some media reports as an intent to raise prices when demand is highest," the company told Reuters. "We have no plans to do that."

Presuming that lowered prices during slow times will eventually rise again, it appears some sort of dynamic pricing will still be taking place.

According to the original report from Nation's Restaurant News and Food & Wine, prices for food items would automatically change throughout the day depending on demand, similar to "surge pricing" in rideshare apps like Uber and Lyft. The initiative was disclosed by Kirk Tanner, the CEO and president of Wendy's, in a recent discussion with analysts.

[...] In conversation with Food & Wine, a spokesperson for Wendy's confirmed the company's commitment to this pricing strategy, describing it as part of a broader effort to grow its digital business. "Beginning as early as 2025, we will begin testing a variety of enhanced features on these digital menuboards like dynamic pricing, different offerings in certain parts of the day, AI-enabled menu changes and suggestive selling based on factors such as weather," they said. "Dynamic pricing can allow Wendy's to be competitive and flexible with pricing, motivate customers to visit and provide them with the food they love at a great value. We will test a number of features that we think will provide an enhanced customer and crew experience."

[Ed's comment: As of 29 Feb, there is some reporting that the CEO of Wendy's has withdrawn the entire plan]


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  • (Score: 5, Insightful) by DrkShadow on Friday March 01, @05:40AM (8 children)

    by DrkShadow (1404) on Friday March 01, @05:40AM (#1346921)

    So you're raising prices across the board, so that you can show "lower" prices during "non-peak hours"!

    Raising prices across the board.

    Showing the higher price during peak hours.

    Got it.

    • (Score: 1, Insightful) by Anonymous Coward on Friday March 01, @08:23AM (6 children)

      by Anonymous Coward on Friday March 01, @08:23AM (#1346935)
      Where I am the KFC had different prices for certain things depending on what the time is.

      To me the main thing is whether you can tell what the price will be in advance without having to go there, or wait for the specific time. If you can then to me it's not surge pricing.

      For example: To me it's surge pricing if you don't know what the price will be and it can even go up at unpredictable times as you are queuing. Whereas it's not surge pricing if you can know in advance it's going to be X price before/after Y pm at Z location(s).

      Some fast food places already have the prices and offers displayed on large screens.
      • (Score: 5, Interesting) by JoeMerchant on Friday March 01, @03:35PM (5 children)

        by JoeMerchant (3937) on Friday March 01, @03:35PM (#1346973)

        Chicken bucket happy hour, cheaper 30 minutes before closing until all remaining stock is sold...

        First there was the Wendy's "dynamic pricing" announcement. Apparently, the media (including the blogosphere) interpreted this (correctly IMO) as "surge pricing."

        Then there was the Wendy's "not a retraction" retraction clarifying: "We never said 'surge pricing,' we love our customers and would only make changes for their benefit." Yeah, like OP said above, Y'all already more than doubled prices in the past few years, giving discounts during your slow times doesn't really feel like a benefit to me.

        Make me king of the world, after most of the lawyers are at the bottom of the ocean and at least half the accountants are out of work my next order of business would be a continuing "war on complexity." The best transaction is a simple transaction: seller advertises a good or service at a price, buyer pays seller. Call it a reward for simplicity, or a tax on complexity, call it what you will, get those out of work accountants busy monitoring / auditing the commercial landscape and charging a tax on price changes.

        First precept: prices are advertised, online in a standardized format such that someone wanting to buy 87 octane gasoline can run a query, find all gas stations within less than one mile detour of their planned route along with their currently advertised prices. That is "perfect free market competition," if Shell offers greater value to the customer then they can charge higher prices. If that cheap-o station with a single pump always has a 20 minute line waiting to fill, many people will likely be willing to pay a bit more for a more accessible outlet.

        Second precept: Establish an envelope of something like 4% annual inflation. Any price changes within that envelope are tax free. If it has been 90 days since your last price change (and a year before that), you are free to move your price up 1% tax free. If you feel the need to change your price faster than that, you are absolutely allowed to do so, but revenue derived from the price increase "outside the envelope" of +4% annual from baseline (baseline being any advertised price in the past year) will be itself taxed at a rate of the deviation above envelope, up to a cap of 33%. So, if you're like our gas station down the street that was charging $2.85 last month and is charging $3.39 this morning, that's an increase of 19% in one month, or an annual rate of something like 227% annually, they hit the cap and will be paying 33% of their "outside the envelope" increase of $0.54 per gallon, so $0.18 of that $0.54 would be going in "stupid whip-saw price swing" tax. Yes, of course you can say that this will just be passed along to the consumers, so instead of $3.39 per gallon the price would "be forced" to increase to $3.66, but... the station down the street that has kept a more stable price profile staying inside the 4% envelope can charge $3.39 and NOT pay the stupid tax - where will you be buying your gas now?

        Third precept: Coupons and promotional discounts are "great for business!" Great for businesses, maybe, not so great for people who don't want to waste their time and effort deciphering a bunch of BS. Any sale which deviates BELOW the advertised price will be paying 33% of that deviation in tax. Box of cereal at the grocery store: "normal price" $7 each, "special buy one get one promotion, this week only!" Net price to consumer: $3.50, stupid pricing games tax paid by retailer: $1.15.

        Fourth precept: Advertised price includes all applicable taxes, fees, charges and other B.S. If your website can calculate applicable taxes at checkout, it can calculate them while comparison shopping as well.

        Make me king and I'll figure out something to do about free shipping B.S. as well.

        --
        🌻🌻 [google.com]
        • (Score: 1) by khallow on Saturday March 02, @01:51PM (3 children)

          by khallow (3766) Subscriber Badge on Saturday March 02, @01:51PM (#1347070) Journal
          So what happens when you go to your local Wendy's or whatever and have to wait outside because the line is out the door. One of the enormous things missed in these rants about standard pricing is that you pay one way or another when there is a market imbalance. The next most common currency is human time - huge lines at peak times is traditional.

          The business can also choose to just not offer the service at peak or off-peak times. For example, having nice restaurants in great locations and high prices, open only at peak times with a second, cheaper brand in less valuable locations open off-peak. Or one menu for peak and a default, less tasty menu for all day.

          I won't say it's easy to work around the rules you propose, but it'll be necessary for some industries to do so (ride hailing comes to mind as a notorious examples).

          and at least half the accountants are out of work

          And I'd have to get a real job? That's crazy talk.

          • (Score: 2) by JoeMerchant on Saturday March 02, @04:40PM (2 children)

            by JoeMerchant (3937) on Saturday March 02, @04:40PM (#1347089)

            >and have to wait outside because the line is out the door

            Well, obviously, the solution is to see the bouncer at the door and slip him a $50 to skip the line...

            >you pay one way or another when there is a market imbalance. The next most common currency is human time - huge lines at peak times is traditional.

            And this is best solved with price gouging?

            >high prices, open only at peak times with a second, cheaper brand in less valuable locations open off-peak. Or one menu for peak and a default, less tasty menu for all day.

            Are you claiming this is a bad thing?

            >but it'll be necessary for some industries to do so (ride hailing comes to mind as a notorious examples).

            Because standard pricing put the taxi industry in such a bad spot?

            >>at least half the accountants are out of work

            >And I'd have to get a real job? That's crazy talk.

            More clues to the khallow puzzle - so you make your living off of interpreting byzantine rules for clients and assuring them that you're skimming as much off their taxes as they can get away with without risking jail time?

            --
            🌻🌻 [google.com]
            • (Score: 1) by khallow on Saturday March 02, @10:35PM (1 child)

              by khallow (3766) Subscriber Badge on Saturday March 02, @10:35PM (#1347143) Journal

              you pay one way or another when there is a market imbalance. The next most common currency is human time - huge lines at peak times is traditional.

              And this is best solved with price gouging?

              I'd consider it better solved with price gouging than via royal edict. Remember price gouging is a signal of market inefficiency not a sign of mean people. If you make it illegal to price differently, then nobody is incentivized to do something about the underlying market inefficiency. This works for extremely low prices as well as high ("dumping" being the alleged immoral counterpart to "gouging").

              And I'd have to get a real job? That's crazy talk.

              More clues to the khallow puzzle - so you make your living off of interpreting byzantine rules for clients and assuring them that you're skimming as much off their taxes as they can get away with without risking jail time?

              I support commercial lodging, restaurant, and retail services for a large concessionaire in Yellowstone National Park. There's some sales tax issues (making sure the local Caesars get theirs), but they are only moderately byzantine. I avoid playing games with income tax. That's definitely not my thing.

              • (Score: 2) by JoeMerchant on Sunday March 03, @03:50AM

                by JoeMerchant (3937) on Sunday March 03, @03:50AM (#1347171)

                >I'd consider it better solved with price gouging than via royal edict.

                The Royal edict doesn't forbid price gouging, it just demands a slice of it be donated to the general fund.

                >Remember price gouging is a signal of market inefficiency not a sign of mean people.

                Oh, they're not mean, they're greedy, there's a huge difference.

                >If you make it illegal to price differently, then nobody is incentivized to do something about the underlying market inefficiency.

                Again, not illegal - just influenced such that up to 33% of price gaming be donated as tax. Remember: we actually only tax as much as we need to, so if price gaming continues to be commonplace (and I expect it will in some markets), then these taxes reduce taxes collected in other areas. It's like the lotteries which "fund education" - what they also do is reduce property taxes which used to be the sole source of education funding... Studies in Florida clearly show that educational funding has remained flat pre and post lottery, it's the property tax payers who are getting lighter bills instead.

                As for addressing underlying market inefficiencies... how is this in any way discouraging correction of those inefficiencies?

                >This works for extremely low prices as well as high ("dumping" being the alleged immoral counterpart to "gouging").

                Christians of America have killed the shoe making industry in many places in South America and Africa with their mass donations of "free shoes to the poor" - I allege that, on the whole, that's bad for the people who now get a bunch of hand-me-down shoes from the holier-than-thous on an unpredictable basis with no locally made shoes that they could be buying and supporting local industry. The industry is the small part of that, the people with shitty and unpredictable shoe supply would be the bigger benefactors of a healthy local shoe industry.

                >I avoid playing games with income tax. That's definitely not my thing.

                Ah, but I still feel some sympathy for the devils in there - you never know when your employment might take an unpredicted turn and you end up being another "maximum rebate guaranteed" Block-head.

                Notice: I only suggested that we might un-employ half the accountants, they do actually provide some valuable services, and the unemployed ones could mostly find related work auditing and ensuring that proper "stupid price swing" tax is being paid by those who would continue to play stupid price swing games (although, with standardized pricing transparency, a computer system tracking sales volumes should then take care of most of the accounting...)

                IMO, the reason we have too many accountants is that the tax laws are too complicated. Same for lawyers: laws in general are too complicated. All of this is what I call "big government out of control" - not only do they overcomplicate things, but this complexity creates un-productive service industries which do little more than navigate the complexities for other people. It's make-work in the extreme, far more egregious than FDR's CCCs running around building roads and parks.

                Finally, if you catch my "left wing" drift, it's all about getting government out of the business of crawling around in citizens' finances with a microscope and getting transparency and inspectability into the business side of things instead. Pipe dream, I know, but maybe it's time for the people to stand up and demand the representation they have all been taught in school they're supposed to be getting in Congress...

                --
                🌻🌻 [google.com]
        • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Saturday March 02, @08:13PM

          by Anonymous Coward on Saturday March 02, @08:13PM (#1347120)

          This is of interest to me and I would like to subscribe to your newsletter.

    • (Score: 2) by mcgrew on Saturday March 02, @07:02PM

      by mcgrew (701) <publish@mcgrewbooks.com> on Saturday March 02, @07:02PM (#1347112) Homepage Journal

      In the Nooze [nooze.org]:

      Wendy's Hamburger has a stroke

      The Wendy's corporation was rushed to the hospital yesterday after it decided to change food prices on the fly. Of course, everyone was alarmed.

      There was a sigh of relief when it was discovered that Wendy's didn't have brain damage, it just couldn't understand that most people, unlike its CEO and Board of Directors, don't have unlimited supplies of money.
      02/27/2024

      --
      mcgrewbooks.com mcgrew.info nooze.org
  • (Score: 5, Insightful) by Barenflimski on Friday March 01, @05:40AM (12 children)

    by Barenflimski (6836) on Friday March 01, @05:40AM (#1346922)

    Price used to be the agreement on what a service/good was worth trading for someones time/money.

    These corporations are no longer into value for the customer so they can grow, they are backed by the deepest pockets on the planet. The entire system has turned into a way to wring every last cent from you.

    "Surge" pricing used to be called price gouging, and it was frowned upon. Now, these large corporations have written the regulations, lobbied for the laws, and likely know your politicians. Who are you going to complain to now? The FTC? The Congrescritters who own shares and make money from every one of these large corporations?

    This type of pricing already happens with Amazon, Airlines, Ride Shares. I wouldn't be surprised if all new loans from the top banks came with free courses on, or even requirements to "Surge Price", or at least make their "Best Effort to Comply."

    Wendy's is going to lower prices to people that aren't at their shops? That makes zero sense. "Hey Jose, we haven't had a customer come through the drive-thru in 6 minutes, lower the price of fries by 4 cents for the first car that shows up!" Yea, right.

    • (Score: 2) by darkfeline on Friday March 01, @06:25AM (4 children)

      by darkfeline (1030) on Friday March 01, @06:25AM (#1346929) Homepage

      If the product is not worth the price, simply stop purchasing it.

      Your hypothesis is self contradicting; if companies are "no longer into value", then customers would not buy the product. If the customers buy it, then that means they consider the price suitable for what they are getting. If the customers do not buy it, then there is no problem.

      --
      Join the SDF Public Access UNIX System today!
      • (Score: 5, Insightful) by Barenflimski on Friday March 01, @03:04PM (2 children)

        by Barenflimski (6836) on Friday March 01, @03:04PM (#1346966)

        If you are hungry and surrounded by 'restaurants' all owned by the same racket who do the same thing, you have no choice. You must buy into their system, regardless of the value of the food.

        Another way to put it is this. They aren't charging you for the price of food/labor. They're charging you what you would pay to not be hungry anymore, which in most cases is higher.

        • (Score: 3, Insightful) by darkfeline on Friday March 01, @09:52PM

          by darkfeline (1030) on Friday March 01, @09:52PM (#1347018) Homepage

          >They aren't charging you for the price of food/labor. They're charging you what you would pay to not be hungry anymore, which in most cases is higher.

          And that is exactly what they should be charging. This is Economics 101. If you don't find what they're providing to be worth the price, then don't eat, or bring your own food.

          --
          Join the SDF Public Access UNIX System today!
        • (Score: 2, Funny) by khallow on Saturday March 02, @10:38PM

          by khallow (3766) Subscriber Badge on Saturday March 02, @10:38PM (#1347145) Journal

          If you are hungry and surrounded by 'restaurants' all owned by the same racket who do the same thing, you have no choice. You must buy into their system, regardless of the value of the food.

          We call these places things like airports, movie theaters, college campuses, and amusement parks. Bring your own food and you don't have to buy into the system.

      • (Score: 4, Touché) by JoeMerchant on Friday March 01, @05:30PM

        by JoeMerchant (3937) on Friday March 01, @05:30PM (#1346987)

        >If the product is not worth the price, simply stop purchasing it.

        This works better when you know the price ahead of time.

        A lot of life involves low cost of purchase / high cost of purchasing transactions: drive to Wendy's for some drive-thru fries, get there - are you really going to waste a 5 mile round trip over a $1 price hike on your fries?

        --
        🌻🌻 [google.com]
    • (Score: 4, Insightful) by DrkShadow on Friday March 01, @07:07AM

      by DrkShadow (1404) on Friday March 01, @07:07AM (#1346930)

      I wouldn't be surprised if all new loans from the top banks came with free courses on, or even requirements to "Surge Price", or at least make their "Best Effort to Comply."

      Imagine if Wendy's priced your order based on your likelihood of paying off your credit card each month. Like the banks price your mortgage. Ooph. Or gave you discounts / additional fees based on the number of items you order. Government surcharges, other than taxes, that you don't know about, or know the total of, until you get to the register. Gahhh.

    • (Score: 5, Interesting) by corey on Friday March 01, @07:52AM (4 children)

      by corey (2202) on Friday March 01, @07:52AM (#1346933)

      Here in Australia, we have a duopoly of two big supermarkets. They are currently in the news a bit because the government is doing an investigation into their pricing practices. One of the main issues of that they pump up prices each month then have a special at which the price was what it used to be. They are making prices fairly fluid as a result and people find it hard to know what is a normal price and what is a special (they also have other names for this like “down down” or “price matched”). There are some things that I notice regularly are on special for the same price they were on special for last month/fortnight. I’ve come to suspect that special price is their cost + overheads + bit of profit price, then it goes up which inflates the profit. It’s hard to follow unless you shop often and pay attention.

      Sounds like Wendy’s is going to make it real hard to know what something is actually worth (cost +overheads +fixed profit) because it’s always moving around. They could easily increase the propensity for the price to have an inflated profit then they would fabricate inflated profit margins at the end of the year.

      But like someone else said, they’re always next to competitors so people will go elsewhere.

      I dunno if we have the same Wendy’s here in oz but I wouldn’t shop there anyway.

      • (Score: 2) by JoeMerchant on Friday March 01, @03:39PM

        by JoeMerchant (3937) on Friday March 01, @03:39PM (#1346976)

        >One of the main issues of that they pump up prices each month then have a special at which the price was what it used to be.

        Around here we have about five grocery sources to choose from. About five years ago I quit shopping at the dominant one (after five decades of consistently shopping mostly in their stores) because of them starting this scheme with "BOGO" where they raise the price of common items about 90-110%, then once every 12 weeks or so (unpredictable) they put them on "Buy one Get one FREE!" sale. This used to be the chain well known for: "if it says 7 for $5, you don't have to buy all seven to get the same price per unit..." they still do that, unless it's BOGO.

        I called BOGUS on them and we went from spending 90+% of our food budget there to less than 2%.

        --
        🌻🌻 [google.com]
      • (Score: 3, Interesting) by epitaxial on Friday March 01, @04:54PM

        by epitaxial (3165) on Friday March 01, @04:54PM (#1346979)

        I don't live in Canada but do visit frequently and it's the same thing. Two companies own nearly all the grocery stores. I was a bit shocked walking into one store and seeing every shelf sticker had been replaced with small LCD showing the price. Now they don't even have to pay someone to replace the stickers and the prices can raise with a mouse click.

      • (Score: 1, Informative) by Anonymous Coward on Friday March 01, @09:33PM (1 child)

        by Anonymous Coward on Friday March 01, @09:33PM (#1347016)

        Pretty sure it's not the same Wendys. We already had the icecream chain, so when USA Wendys moved in they had to rename themselves Oz Hungry Jacks.

        • (Score: 2) by corey on Friday March 01, @11:57PM

          by corey (2202) on Friday March 01, @11:57PM (#1347026)

          Thanks. That’s what I suspected. Our Wendy’s is fairly small in food courts etc. Thanks.

    • (Score: 3, Insightful) by JoeMerchant on Friday March 01, @05:18PM

      by JoeMerchant (3937) on Friday March 01, @05:18PM (#1346982)

      When Wendys implements price gouging on their dynamic menu displays, consumers can complain with their feet and go next door to Burger King.

      The Wendys in my neighborhood had employees who would make up their own totals for your order in the drive through and not give you a receipt. When that happens, you can complain to corporate and the owner of the store will apologize profusely and mail you coupons. Our local owner explained "they know what my car looks like, so I can't really check on them effectively..."

      --
      🌻🌻 [google.com]
  • (Score: 5, Interesting) by Fnord666 on Friday March 01, @05:41AM (2 children)

    by Fnord666 (652) on Friday March 01, @05:41AM (#1346923) Homepage

    You mean "Wendys will experiment with a significant loss of profitability in 2025."? Dave Thomas is turning over in his grave so fast you could power a small town if you connected him to a generator.

    They are looking at business models that come from vastly different markets than fast food. From any Wendys parking lot you can probably throw a stone and hit any one of four competitors. People will just go somewhere else. Wendys doesn't have anything that you can't get from a half dozen other places.

    If they try this, shareholders should vote out the board that greenlit the project.

    • (Score: 5, Interesting) by julian on Friday March 01, @07:14AM (1 child)

      by julian (6003) Subscriber Badge on Friday March 01, @07:14AM (#1346931)

      I think there should be a campaign of "surge purchasing" where drive-through customers offer the price they're willing to pay and then if Wendy's refuses they just drive away and leave

      • (Score: 3, Funny) by Fnord666 on Saturday March 02, @04:14PM

        by Fnord666 (652) on Saturday March 02, @04:14PM (#1347082) Homepage
        I saw a post that also suggested that employees should receive “surge pay” where they tell their boss how much the next hour will cost the company.
  • (Score: 4, Troll) by PiMuNu on Friday March 01, @08:23AM (3 children)

    by PiMuNu (3823) on Friday March 01, @08:23AM (#1346934)

    This is capitalism doing what it is supposed to do, i.e. balancing resources by increasing prices during periods of high demand.

    • (Score: 3, Touché) by Opportunist on Friday March 01, @10:31AM (1 child)

      by Opportunist (5545) on Friday March 01, @10:31AM (#1346942)

      And I predict this is the demand side deciding that it's not worth the risk to go to the Wendy's when it's uncertain what price they may have to pay so they will go to the competitor where prices are fixed and predictable.

      You know, there is actually a market [wikipedia.org] JUST for making sure that I will have to pay a predictable price for goods. Companies pay good money to have reliable and predictable prices. If your competitor offers me that for free, why the hell would I take a risk with you?

      • (Score: 3, Insightful) by JoeMerchant on Friday March 01, @05:20PM

        by JoeMerchant (3937) on Friday March 01, @05:20PM (#1346983)

        >it's not worth the risk to go to the Wendy's when it's uncertain what price they may have to pay

        When the kids were younger we'd average 2-3 Wendy's visits a month, prices were pretty stable and reasonable.

        It's not so much that the kids have grown up now as it is that Wendy's prices have inflated at double-digit rates for years. Now we go maybe 2-3 times a year, and it is always a mystery what our order is going to cost. The same order that used to cost $12 15 years ago was $22.70 last month.

        --
        🌻🌻 [google.com]
    • (Score: 5, Insightful) by sjames on Friday March 01, @10:16PM

      by sjames (2882) on Friday March 01, @10:16PM (#1347021) Journal

      No, it's Capitalism failing miserably at what it's supposed to do. It's been failing for years, the market is supposed to drive price down to approach the marginal cost of production, but it clearly hasn't and isn't.

  • (Score: 2) by looorg on Friday March 01, @09:21AM (1 child)

    by looorg (578) on Friday March 01, @09:21AM (#1346941)

    So if the plan still sticks the current price is still the roof or max price. But they will lower prices when there is least people in the store. So when is the least attractive time of the day to go and eat, so one will know when the food (if it can be called that) is the cheapest? Or will this just smooth out the customer curve over the day. Nobody will want to go to Wendy's durring peak hours, whatever those are -- lunch and early evening? Since those are then going to be the max prices hour.

    They tried this, and are still in theory doing it, with train tickets here. It has not worked our very well. It affects very few trips in reality, mostly inefficient trips durring the middle of the day when nobody really uses the train as it's inconvenient. Also robots are sniping up the cheapest tickets and resell them on various auction sites. I guess they won't have the same problems as nobody wants to buy some second hand food from the dude outside in the parking lot reheating them for you. But there will be issues.

    Not to mention that the menu will be weird pricing wise. At least now you know what the meal will cost, now you know what the maximum cost of the meal will be so the question is how low can you go and when will it be worth it to you.

    • (Score: 2) by JoeMerchant on Friday March 01, @05:22PM

      by JoeMerchant (3937) on Friday March 01, @05:22PM (#1346984)

      Call it a discount, call it price gouging in non-discount times, the effect is the same.

      See above for my rant-war on price swings. Similar thinking would go into an escalating tax on day traders.

      --
      🌻🌻 [google.com]
  • (Score: 3, Interesting) by Anonymous Coward on Friday March 01, @11:55AM (2 children)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday March 01, @11:55AM (#1346953)

    CNET posted this...

    https://www.cnet.com/tech/wendys-says-no-to-surge-pricing-but-yes-to-ai-here-are-the-key-takeaways/ [cnet.com]

    I can see Wendy's has been preparing for dynamic pricing for some time. Menu boards are all electronic apparently connected to the internet. The registers appear to also be connected. The paper coupons seem to have gone away, replaced by their phone app offers.

    Right now, the app has some really good offers, like Dave's Singles for a buck, Dave's Doubles for two bucks. The terms for single use for each offer is enforced electronically. Fair enough.
    The paper coupons were surrendered when redeemed too. Each app coupon has a unique QR code, scannable once at the register. Once redeemed, it's no longer valid. Not will it show anymore in the offer pane.

    The phone must be online to retrieve coupons and it has been timing out on mine when I tried to store an offer for offline use on a retired phone.

    I had suspected maybe I had EMI issues, maybe harmonics from a switching power supply nearby. So I did a screen capture of the QR code screen at home, then presented that at the register, taking it was only valid for one presentation. My workaround didn't work. Invalid. My guess is it timed out. There is quite a bit of data in that QR code. My guess is that it's a c++ Struct object or equivalent.

    I guess the menu board will display a fixed price, not changing in front of customers, which will only invite race disputes. ( What? 4.99? It was 3.59 just a minute ago! - leaves super pissed - now too embarrassed to come back - he made a scene and a monkey out of himself for disputing a Business! )

    I take it discount promotional offers will be sent over the phone app dynamically, as the offers time out in minutes and won't display for scan at the register. If you are not there during the offer time window, it just won't retrieve for you...and you pay full price. They can easily control who gets the offers and who does not without the others finding out about it. That will incentivize their customers to load their app .

    I have noticed on my phone offers come and go - in seconds! One retrieval yields several offers. When I try a few minutes later, sorry, no offers, try again later. Wait some more, and the same offers I had before show up. I've had them fail to retrieve at the register when I had carefully retrieved them before tying up the cashier, out of respect for other customers in line, who won't enjoy waiting for me to fiddle with my phone at the register. First it shows the item the promo is for, then upon touching it, it displays a QR code. Apparently the time of the retrieval is embedded in the QR code, as a stale one ( an hour old ) didn't work. If I wait for the cashier to ring me up, it will sometimes fail to retrieve a fresh QR code and force me to as much as reboot my phone to reinitialize their app. No, I didn't lose internet connection. I have a monitor app running that shows that. Simply exiting the Wendy's app and bringing it back up wasn't working either. It still wouldn't load the offers. But it usually would work right after a phone reboot. Needless to say, this activity is very much unappreciated by everyone else in line.

    In order to try to work within the Wendy's IT framework, I have several burner phones loaded with the Wendy's app. All wildly different names and email providers. I can usually get at least one phone to work when I present at the register, so I don't annoy the hell out of everyone else in line.

    It's like fiddling at checkout with multiple flakey credit cards. It's one of the reasons why I prefer cash at retailers...I get no enjoyment at all by being the ass holding up the line over payment issues. Cash works every time. Cards don't.

    Yeh, enshittification of payment methods for a fast food purchase. 20 million dollars worth of it from what I hear..n

    https://abcnews.go.com/GMA/Food/wendys-addresses-dynamic-pricing-comments-raise-menu-prices/story?id=107634558 [go.com]

    +++ What follows is a long funny off topic rant +++

    I know. I lost it in a record store. It happened to me over a 25 dollar gift card someone gave me 30 years ago, then found it was worth quite a bit less than face value because I did not redeem it promptly. I threw a huge scene to a line of Christmas shoppers waiting in line at the Cash Register. I had a royal fullbore hissyfit in front of their gift card promotional poster.

    "Cooler than Cash my eye! Give your giftee the same experience I am having right now! They will never forget it! Spend $25 now. Earmark it so it can only go in this register, not necessarily for what your giftee really wanted. Let him discover too when he tries to redeem it there are late fees if he hasn't read and complied with theTerms and Conditions!"

    Store manager comes over and tells me to leave store property or she will call law enforcement, in front of everyone. I keep arguing over the over $20 of fees deducted. Five years worth of penalties and fees. She repeatedly threatens police action.

    " Cooler than Cash! The cartoon poster says...Give your loved one what they really want! Do you think I want this? This is definitely a gift I will remember! Gotta use cartoons for the posters...I don't think pictures of my experience will sell very many cards, do you?"

    I left them all in stitches in laughter. And considered maybe engineering wasn't really my calling. Maybe should have been a comedian. I had 'em all doubled over laughing so hard. If it happened today, I am quite sure my performance would have gotten top billing on YouTube had someone filmed it. "Crazy Mad Man loses Cool in a Record Store over Fees on Gift Card".

    I never went back to that store.

    The manager ended up giving me the item ( a cabinet drawer that was sized for CD's. I had just got a CD ROM reader for my computer - about 5 years after I had received the "gift".)

    It was priced at 24.99.

    No one is charging hidden expiry fees on gift cards anymore, but I haven't verified this.

    I feel that when I feel I have been wronged, I have to make a spectacle of myself, but make it entertaining for everyone else. Expose the whole mess as the joke it is. In front of everyone.

    That way, not many of us have to do this before the message gets across to the right people.

    I had so many people in line egging me on with thumbs up hand gestures. I wonder what would have been written in the Police Report had one been written? It would have been interesting reading in the local newspaper when names are named and the situation documented.

    • (Score: 3, Touché) by looorg on Friday March 01, @12:13PM (1 child)

      by looorg (578) on Friday March 01, @12:13PM (#1346954)

      I can see Wendy's has been preparing for dynamic pricing for some time. Menu boards are all electronic apparently connected to the internet. The registers appear to also be connected.

      Oh this will be great then. No room for hacking or price fixing there then. Tap-tap-tap at the keyboard. Oh look the price of my meal is now in the negative. I guess you pay me to eat your food ...

      • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Friday March 01, @01:37PM

        by Anonymous Coward on Friday March 01, @01:37PM (#1346963)

        I saw where a Wendy's promotional display board had frozen with an internet connection error displayed. A few days later, it was simply removed. If that one was driven from the internet, I would betcha the menu boards are too. I never see the employees messing with the boards. Everything is all automated. I wonder if even the temperature of the fry vats are controlled remotely.

        My take is that anything that can be automated is being automated. I would think the Wendy's IT system knows the exact inventory of all ingredients , hours worked, taxes, utilities consumed, expenses, and funds received down to the millisecond time resolution. My guess is they can instantly have all sales statistics on any restaurant analyzed and profitability ranked against all other restaurants in the chain in realtime. From what I see, they have the hardware in place to do this.

        I think my problems with their app is due to a server overload on their end as they are running an insane deal on their flagship burgers right now, and my connection woes correlate with dinnertime. My guess is they are testing their system.

        I thought it was on my end, but after seeing more of it today, I am seeing this as a preliminary soft opening to find and fix bottlenecks. I had no problems tonight. Last night I had fits trying to connect. Very erratic. It would work, then die mid-transaction.

  • (Score: 2) by turgid on Friday March 01, @12:41PM (1 child)

    by turgid (4318) Subscriber Badge on Friday March 01, @12:41PM (#1346955) Journal

    This means, "We're too busy to serve you right now so we'll discourage you by raising prices." It's the Invisible Hand.

    • (Score: 3, Funny) by JoeMerchant on Friday March 01, @05:26PM

      by JoeMerchant (3937) on Friday March 01, @05:26PM (#1346985)

      The hand is invisible, because nobody wants to work for the rates they pay Wendy's employees anymore. On a road trip last summer we drove up to a Wendy's around 10pm, they were posted open until 11:30, but the employee having a cig-break in the parking lot informed us that they're closing up early tonight, not enough staff showed up.

      It wasn't for a lack of customers, there were 3 cars lined up at the drive thru when they pulled the plug and started telling them "no dice, homeslice."

      --
      🌻🌻 [google.com]
  • (Score: 2) by Tork on Friday March 01, @08:06PM

    by Tork (3914) Subscriber Badge on Friday March 01, @08:06PM (#1347005)
    If paying 10% more for my burger because they are busy means the workers making the food are also getting a 10% boost I'd at least give that serious consideration. I didn't read the article, but that was probably part of the plan from the get go... right? 🤡
    --
    🏳️‍🌈 Proud Ally 🏳️‍🌈
  • (Score: 1) by khallow on Saturday March 02, @11:00PM

    by khallow (3766) Subscriber Badge on Saturday March 02, @11:00PM (#1347148) Journal
    I'll note that we have three low drama examples of surge pricing that have been around for a while. Happy hour - where a bar or restaurant offers reduced prices on drinks and such in order to encourage people to come in before or after peak hours. A second similar example is matinee movies - movies offered during midday when most people are busy doing other stuff. And off season pricing for lodging and such where lower prices are offered in order to generate some revenue during off season. It is common for a business that makes most of its money from short periods of the week or year to be profitable enough to stay open for longer than peak times. These off-peak deals are to generate more income from the off-peak times so that the property can make some profit from those stretches as well. Notice that in each case, the gimmick is that the reduced rates are spun as a special deal rather than that the peak time is spun as paying extra. I bet if instead, Wendy's had sold it as a "happy hour" rate, they wouldn't have the publicity issues.

    The tone deafness of the marketing is remarkable. The reason Uber and such can get away with it is because most of the surge money goes to their ride hailing contractors. They are selling the pricing idea to the contractors not to the eventual customers (reliability of service at peak time is their selling point to them).
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