How I Lost Money with TheGotSpot and MB Financial Bank

We all know that any deal that sounds too good to be true probably is. But since the launch of Groupon and any number of competitors, along with services that aggregate those fab daily deals into a single email, I've seen some amazing offers.

Typically, I watch them come and go through my inbox, but last week I jumped on deal too good to pass up: a $50 MasterCard gift card for only $25 through MB Financial Bank. Not only was this a good deal because I'm not far from a branch, but I'm also on the lookout for a mortgage provider. At any rate, until we find a house, we've got a down payment that we're keeping liquid for said purchase and are on the lookout for the best spot for our money.

That said, the TheGotSpot certificate did not mention the need to talk to a banker in order to receive the gift card (see image). Even though it wasn't a requirement, I was up for it. I haven't stepped inside my local MB branch in a decade or so.

So in I walked at two minutes after noon on Saturday. After waiting a minute or so to speak with a teller, I was told I needed to speak with a banker, which required a wait.

Granted it was a Saturday, but time is money, no? At 12:17, having spent 15 minutes waiting in the bank, I began to wonder how much this $25 in the form of a gift card bonus would cost me.

I would have walked out at 12:30 without my gift card, but I did sink $25 of my own money into the deal plus I'd invested nearly 30 minute of my time, so I waited, but I realized I was losing money on this deal.

Shortly after 12:30 it was clear MB was losing a future customer as well.

In turns out that, depending on which employee I spoke with, one or two bankers had gone home sick. It's totally believable based on what's been happening in my own house this past week.

But I had to be I had to be back home at 12:45, so I could take my dying cat to be euthanized.

I approached the teller again. "I'm told I'm supposed to speak with a banker, but I have to get my dying cat to the vet. Do you think I could just get the gift card?"

No. I'd have to wait for a banker.

When I was called by a banker around 12:32, I told her I didn't have much time. "Oh," she apologized, "I need to speak with you for 15 minutes."


"I don't have that kind of time. I need to get home to take my cat to the vet to be put down," I said.

"Well, she replied, "There's another branch just down the street, there might be less of a wait there."

Um, why didn't someone tell me that 30 minutes ago?

Also, what part of "euthanize my cat in 20 minutes" did she not understand?

I mentioned something about my down payment money, looking for a home and my anger at having been left waiting and stormed out of there close to tears not only because I'd wasted more than 30 minutes of my time, but also very aware that when I got home I'd be collecting my tiny, frail old cat that hadn't eaten in three days and bringing her to meet her maker.

It's vulnerable moments like this that provide a chance for an otherwise cold bureaucratic institution an opportunity to show a human touch, but as the bank's tagline notes MB Means Business. Not compassion.

However, if, for example, had the banker responded,

"I'm so sorry. Let me give you the gift card and please come back to talk to us during the week."

they might have had a chance with me. Sure, she would've risked my not actually following through. But kindness breeds kindness. Chances are I would have made good on the deal if only to see if they could suggest a better way for me to invest our down payment money that's sitting around earning lousy interest.

Instead, I spun out of that parking lot furious for having wasted my time, missed lunch with my family and filling my heavy heart with petty matters at such a crucial time.

Yes, I will stop in at a branch of the bank to get my gift card; I do have $25 invested in it, after all. But figuring about an hour of my time will have gone into acquiring the bonus $25, I figure I lost money on this deal.

Caveat Emptor. (My second lesson from the Brady Bunch this month!)

I know that vendors that partake in these Groupon-like deals can easily be overwhelmed by the response. They need to be prepared for the traffic that such deals bring (I was not the only person at the bank with a coupon).

And the coupon provider need to be clear about the restrictions, i.e. "in order to redeem the coupon, the holder must speaker with a bank representative for 15 minutes."

Edited 10/16 to add: Just heard from a friend who pursued this same deal. She popped into her to her local branch, picked up the gift card and was out the door like that. What gives?

Edited 10/19 to add: I see a lot of folks from MB Financial have stopped by to read this. I encourage you to read through the comments, where I share some of my thoughts after being contacted by MB.

My first foray in to "coupon madness" was pretty disappointing. Is it worth another try?

P.S. Fortunately, everyone at the vet's office was really wonderful and supportive; they could not have been kinder with the cat (or me!).
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