Why do companies make promotion registrations manual and not automatic?

Yesterday, National announced their “One Two Free” promotion whereby with every two rentals  give you a free rental day. It’s one of the most lucrative rental car promotions out there.

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Limited Time Offers Up To 50,000 Points

In looking at the Frequently Asked Questions for the offer, I found something interesting that caught my eye.

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Participation is optional? Maybe it’s just me, but what customer would want this promotion to be optional? A free rental day is a free rental day, and I’m not sure there’s a legitimate reason one would want to skip out in earning that, even if they never used it.

So, this brings up an interesting topic of why companies make these types of promotions optional and not automatic. It’s not just National that does this – I’ve seen it done with other car rental companies, airlines and hotels, too. To make things even more “confusing,” there are companies that make their promotions automatic, so you never have to worry about registration.

They’re Hoping You Don’t Register

Well, sort of. I don’t think National as a whole is hoping people don’t register, because had that been the wish, they never would have released this promotion in the first place. That said, I think they want the good publicity from this, want the increased sales from those who will take advantage, but don’t want those who never knew about it in the first place to benefit. If you didn’t know about this, or didn’t care to register, you’ll never earn your free nights. That’s what National wants. It saves them free rental days.

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Let’s say you find out about this promotion late in September, and already have completed several rentals or are in the midst of a current rental: “Points will be awarded for each qualifying rental made after the date on which the you registered and which occurs from August 20, 2015, through January 31, 2016. Credit will not be given for rentals made prior to your registration date.” You’re flat out of luck. Because you weren’t aware of the promotion, they’re not going to award you because of your luck in now finding out. You booked the rental anyways without knowing about the promotion.

So, if I’m looking at this right, if you know about the promotion in advance, and book the rental after, National assumes you made the reservation because of the promotion, therefore wanting to reward you. If you find out after, or during, it’s obvious the promotion did not sway you into renting, and therefore there’s no justification in awarding you. They’re also hoping that a portion (however large) of the renting population does not know about the deal, which will therefore save them free rental days, allowing them to keep more cars on the lot for paying customers.

Some interesting food for thought.

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