Nightmare before Christmas for FreeNow as it claws back voucher free-for-all

‘Riddle’ worth €200 was solved by many customers before company cancelled credits for taxi app

15/09/2020 - NEWS - GV's as the Taxi Drivers Protest gathered on Dublin's Merrion Square.  Photograph Nick Bradshaw for The Irish Times

Black Friday may have been last week but this Friday has proved to be blacker still for the folk at the FreeNow taxi app after their festive wheeze turned into a full blown nightmare before Christmas.

It all started with a riddle.

In the early morning, customers were given the chance to win a voucher worth €200 if they could solve a puzzle which read: “I’m made of snow but never feel the cold. The answer to this riddle is a promo code worth €200 towards your next 10 trips.”

Anyone who was able to answer it correctly was promised a voucher code that would give them 10 x €20 vouchers to be used in the weeks ahead.


As agile-minded readers might have already deduced, the answer to the brain teaser was “snowman”.

So far, so what?

Difficulties arose because the taxi app enterprise intended to limit the number of vouchers issued to the first 100 right answers but that did not happen.

The problems were exacerbated when people who had cracked the riddle started sharing their codes with friends and family via WhatsApp groups allowing even more people access to the taxi vouchers.

Despite its name, FreeNow is not in the business of free journeys so it quickly cancelled the vouchers which prompted people to take to the platform formerly known as Twitter to express their outrage

“What the actual heck? Why would you issue me these vouchers then take them away,” posted Aoife Ní Nualláin. “I was very happy to be able to reasonably afford to get home from work for December. Absolutely putting me off your brand now.”

Serena Peruzzi said she has “solved the riddle you sent me this morning to get a promo code, which worked, and then two hours later the credits were all taken off? I can appreciate it was a big balance (someone messed up), but it’s bad experience to take it all away. At least leave one credit.”

Some people were caught out mid-journey. Mick Whealan had one of the vouchers and booked a trip with it. “It displayed as ‘applied’ on the booking confirmation screen so I confirmed the trip,” he wrote on X. “When I arrived at my destination and checked the app they had taken full payment from my card instead and there’s no record of any code.”

Along with the outrage came the inevitable jokes and memes with FreeNow trending on X for all the wrong reasons.

When contacted by The Irish Times the company confirmed the plan had been to run a promotion offering vouchers to the first 100 users who solved the in-app Christmas riddle.

“Unfortunately, there was a technical issue with the raffle on the app this morning and vouchers were issued beyond the first 100 winners,” a spokeswoman said.

“We express our sincere apologies for any confusion or inconvenience caused to passengers as a result of this technical issue which has since been resolved.”

She added that “line with the terms and conditions of our raffle, the first 100 raffle winners will all receive their prize vouchers. Vouchers allocated to anyone outside this group due to the technical issue were retracted.

“Any passengers who submitted the correct answer to our raffle today and were incorrectly allocated vouchers, will now be automatically entered into an exclusive new raffle which we are launching this afternoon with a prize fund of €20,000 worth of vouchers, ranging from €5 to €1000.”

Conor Pope

Conor Pope

Conor Pope is Consumer Affairs Correspondent, Pricewatch Editor and cohost of the In the News podcast