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Devil In The Details: How Punctuation Cost Domino’s Pizza Millions Of Dollars
- As Domino’s CEO Don Meij put it, their operation “wasn’t optimized for French addresses.”
- But it’s a classic example of how technological innovation – something the Australian company prides itself on – can blow up in your face in a million (and I’m only slightly exaggerating) unexpected ways.
People head for a Domino’s pizza branch in Calais,[+]
Here’s something I never imagined I’d write: My heart, if not my stomach, goes out to Domino’s Pizza.
The problem tugging at my heartstrings wasn’t pepperoni or extra cheese. Rather, it’s what we in the digital media world call “special characters” – in this case, apostrophes – that contributed to the company’s sluggish performance in the French market and, in turn, to disappointing annual earnings.
The company’s largest licensee outside the U.S., Australia’s Domino’s Pizza Enterprises, took a huge hit this week in market value after announcing that its profit through July 30th had been below expectations. The reaction was immediate: Within hours, share prices of Australia’s largest pizza chain tanked almost 19%, spiraling the company’s market value down by more than $635 million.
The culprit? To a large extent, a rough rollout of a new online delivery system in France. And here’s the tug on my heartstrings: In addition to struggling with French slang, the system – which had been successfully implemented in some of the company’s English-language markets – was stumped by apostrophes, which tend to pepper the French language rather frequently. Like Rue de l’Université, Rue de la Goutte d’Or, or Rue de l’Annonciation. Meaning that deliveries were…complicated.
Would-be pizza eaters were being told delivery to their addresses wasn’t available. Clearly, not good for business.
Donald “Don” Meij, chief executive officer of[+]
As Domino’s CEO Don Meij put it, their operation “wasn’t optimized for French addresses.”https://746b4b93252e4195174e48e6cbb15277.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-37/html/container.html?n=0
To be fair, the misbehaving punctuation was only part of the problem, if a significant part. The company also reportedly suffered in France from a lack of enthusiasm for a new low-priced line of pizzas (limited choice of single toppings) as well the company’s decision to pull the plug on some long-time promotions.
But it’s a classic example of how technological innovation – something the Australian company prides itself on – can blow up in your face in a million (and I’m only slightly exaggerating) unexpected ways. For example, remember the debacle triggered by the incompetent rollout of the online component of the Obama Administration’s Affordable Care Act? Those problems played a significant part in the bad rap that dogged the program for years.
Going digital can bring riches…and headaches[+]
I’m CEO of a b2b digital media company that produces customized business intelligence for clients in various industries. Our products include email briefings, newsletters, and newsfeeds. We use a number of up-to-the-minute technologies, yet “special characters” – simple things like apostrophes, accents and quotation marks – can blow things up in surprising and unexpected ways.
Take databases. Because we manage subscription lists for many of our clients, we often find ourselves spending hours cleaning up those damned gremlins, weeding out punctuation and letters automaticallly replaced by %, @, ^ and ©, among others. Like JÃ©rÃ©mie (Jérémie), StÃ©phanie (Stéphanie), LÃ©o (Léo) and the exotic but nightmare-inducing ÃœÃ‡ÃœNCÃœ (Ucuncu).
You can imagine how companies like Société Générale can be irritating – through no fault of their own, I should add.
We’re obsessive about the quality of everything we produce, especially as accuracy and reliability are two of the pillars of our brand. In my years as a newspaper and magazine journalist, I was equally obsessive over any mistakes sneaking into my stories – including especially any typos either of my doing or the composing room (ah, those were the days, when I could blame someone else).
So when a special character gets corrupted in any of our products…well, it’s like I just ate an extremely spicy pepperoni pizza that won’t let me forget it for several days.
So my condolences, Domino’s. I was heartened to read that your CEO reports the punctuation problem has been fixed. Next order, extra cheese, please, but hold the apostrophe.Get the best of Forbes to your inbox with the latest insights from experts across the globe.Follow me on Twitter. Check out my website. David SchriebergI’m an American journalist and entrepreneur in Europe: more than 13 years based in Luxembourg and now leading my third startup, VitalBriefing, a digital media company…Read MoreCorrectionsReprints & PermissionsLoading …
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