Outage Treatment Can Be Improved

Wanted to access my credit card statement on and encountered a couple of different error messages. It appears that was having an outage. There are typically two flavors of outages: the planned outage (this is when the website or application needs to do some scheduled maintenance and the company has no choice but to completely stop a key site flow or the entire site) and the unplanned outage (this typically occurs when there is an unexpected software or hardware problem that brings down a key site flow or the entire site).

Here are some screenshots:


First thing I noticed when I encountered the page above was the “We’re sorry this website is temporarily unavailable” page title. I think better content would be to refer to or “we” i.e. “We’re sorry but we are currently undergoing maintenance.” or “We’re sorry but is currently unavailable” — the reference to “this website” is a bit informal. I also noticed the “chase_outage.htm” in the URL. This made me wonder about whether or not this was planned or if this message is put up during an unplanned outage.

At various other points, I got the page below. It’s pretty clear that this page is not at all useful to the user.


Chase Freedom Incentives & Making Rational Economic Choices

The Chase Freedom credit card has a promotion that gives users bonus cash back.

Here’s how it works:
– For a given quarter, you earn 5% on purchases in specific categories (such as at grocery stores and at movie┬átheaters). You can earn this bonus rate of 5% on up to $1500 worth of purchases.
– For all other purchases, you earn 1%.

Let’s think about why a consumer would participate in something like this, and if it’s the rational economic choice. As a consumer, one would be reasonable to think: “Well, I already spend on these categories, so I might as well sign-up and earn the extra bonus cash back along the way. I’ve got nothing to lose.” So on the surface, the choice seems trivial. But on a deeper level, I think that’s where consumers end up not making the rational economic choice.

Assuming a consumer goes on to spend exactly $1500 in the quarter for the bonus categories, they will have thus earned $75 bonus cash back (5% of $1500). The essential question would be: which is more likely?
(a) Irrespective of this bonus offer, the consumer would have spent at least $1425 on these categories for the quarter.
(b) This incentive impacted multiple purchase decisions and caused the consumer to make multiple purchases as a result of the existence of the incentive whereas they would not have made the purchase otherwise. Specifically, without this incentive, they would have spent less than $1425 for the bonus categories.

For most consumers, I think (b) is more likely than (a). In other words, they would be best served carving out $75 (or more) of the $1500 and simply not spending that money in the first place, rather than making the spend and getting the money back.