How Domino's Accidentally Gave Away 11,000 Free Pizzas

You're sitting at home one day, watching TV, when you hear a knock at the door. When you open it, you see a Domino's delivery driver holding a box containing a medium two-topping pie. The driver says that this one's "on the house" from the company. What a strange but welcome surprise! Though it's nothing new.

Fast food companies are no stranger to giving away free food. For example, the McDonald's Monopoly promotion has given patrons the chance to win everything from enormous cash prizes to free medium fries. The odds of walking out of McDonald's with several thousand dollars are low, but just the thought encourages customers to keep trying by purchasing more menu items. McDonald's can afford to give away a free burger since the loss is offset by the volume of people buying into the promotion. Because, according to Time, giving out freebies gets people talking more about your company and entices them to spend more. It's marketing genius.

So of course Domino's attempted a similar promotion for giving out free pizzas back in 2009 (via The Washington Examiner). A free pizza here and there wouldn't affect the bottom line too much, and besides, it would get more customers coming in and ordering food, right? Unfortunately for Domino's, things didn't go exactly as planned.

People used an unapproved coupon code, which cost the company money

According to The Washington Examiner, Domino's had planned a promotion where customers could order online and put in the code "BAILOUT" in exchange for a free medium pizza. This sounds like standard marketing fare, but the promotion was actually never given the green light by higher-ups in the company, so it never went into effect. Except that, as the Consumerist reports, Domino's had actually been advertising the promotion before they canceled it, and one customer decided to see if the code still worked just out of curiosity.

And as it happened, the code was never deactivated. Even if the promotion wasn't running, customers could still type in "BAILOUT" and get a free pizza — if they happened to know the code beforehand. Needless to say, word soon spread about the "promotion" and people were logging on all over the country to order theirs. So many people were getting free food that, per FOX News, one Domino's store owner claimed he gave out 600 free pizzas across his 14 stores in Cincinnati. It was only after 11,000 pizzas were ordered that the company finally shut down the code, preventing any more freebies from being claimed.

While no one else received any more free pizza, Domino's later offered another coupon code for a free order of Cinnastixs, per CNET. But here's to hoping they try out that promotion again some time soon!