MONEY Banking

Why This Bank Bought Its Customers Pizza

Pizza
Jeffrey Coolidge—Getty Images

When Simple, an online bank, experienced an outage last week, the company made it up to customers by giving them dinner and $50 cash.

If you’re like most people, you probably haven’t heard of Simple, the banking startup (recently acquired by BBVA) that promises to bring banking to the mobile world. Simple works like a conventional bank, except the high-tech operation is only accessible through the web. That means if its online services stop working, Simple effectively ceases to exist.

That was a problem last Wednesday, when a transition to a new in-house payment processor went awry for about 10% of users, or roughly 12,000 of the company’s 120,000 customers. The outage lasted all day, and issues still persist for some, prompting a deluge of complaints. Anger at service disruptions is common, especially in banking, but Simple’s response might be unique: The company bought pizza dinner for a number of its users and appears to have given $50 to all those affected by the outage.

“I am deeply sorry,” wrote Simple CEO and co-founder Joshua Reich in a post on the company’s blog. “We let you down. We’re doing everything we can to help make things right.” While Reich doesn’t mention any details on exactly how the bank is making it up to customers, many Simple users took to Twitter, lauding Simple for its surprisingly generous efforts.

At least a few customers who could not access their funds received a free meal, courtesy of the bank. Another user posted an email from Simple on Twitter announcing his account had been credited with $50 as an apology for the downtime. Simple spokesperson Krista Berlincourt said she could not speak to any specific compensation offered to customers, but did stipulate that customer support agents “are empowered to do whatever it means for them to do right by the customer.”

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Berlincourt also confirmed that a subset of customers “who were affected longer than they should have been” received monetary compensation, but declined to specify how many accounts were credited or how much money Simple distributed. The Oregonian, working off Simple’s statement that fewer than 90% of customers were affected, estimates the company gave away about $600,000—not including what it spent on pizza.

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Simple could not immediately provide statistics on its general reliability, but Berlincourt said this is the first outage she knows of that wasn’t the fault of a third-party payment processor. Ironically, Simple says Wednesday’s issues derived from its attempt to switch to its own payment processor, a move intended to improve the service’s reliability and performance.

Now that this transition is completed, the CEO’s statement noted, another outage of this caliber is highly unlikely. “This project isn’t one we ever repeat,” Berlincourt said. “When you build a foundation for your home, once it’s built, it’s there.” And if anything does go wrong again, customers can at least look forward to another free dinner.

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