Have you ever tried ordering a pizza from a popular chain like Domino’s because you saw a meal deal at a price you thought was great, and then, upon putting in your order, were shocked to discover that the total at checkout was significantly more than what the original meal deal was advertised at?
In fact there’s even a running joke among Domino’s customers who quipped that even with a recent Domino’s $5.99 pizza deal (presumably implemented to compete with Little Caesar’s $5 pieces), that somehow the chain would discover a way to charge its patrons $24.99 for the pie.
And a TikToker named Yasin (@startupgrowthtips) claims that this is actually a business practice created by design, and showed off a series of different methods Domino’s allegedly uses via its online shopping interface that fools customers into thinking they’re getting the best possible price for their food.
Yasin claims the chain uses dishonest practices that yields inconsistent pricing for its consumer base, with additional charges randomly tacked on at certain intervals in order to extricate the largest possibly amount of money from a customer.
He posted about his finds in a trending TikTok that has currently garnered over 7,300 likes on the popular social media platform.
@startupgrowthtips Diabolical mastermind kinda stuff , Domino’s! Wait til the end cuz it just gets worse and worse. Heavily inspired by the Built for Mars newsletter. If you like UX stuff, check it out #dominos #pizza #ux #darkpatterns #business #businessnews #userexperience #uxdesign #pysychologicaltricks ♬ Suspense, horror, piano and music box – takaya
Yasin first tackles the idea of coupons and voucher codes in his video, highlighting how Domino’s customers, in the earlier days of online ordering, were able to find plenty of coupons for ordering food through its website: “So back in the day Domino’s used to hand out coupons so much that the actual prices on their website became utterly meaningless. And this created an incentive for customers to first search for coupons before placing an order.”
The TikToker then goes on to show Google search trends to back up his claim, which marked a high search term usage for a time period before the website introduced a change to its checkout interface: the Deal Wizard.
The feature is designed to get customers discounts on their meals, and Yasin says that the graphical user interface for the wizard is a misleading one: there’s a fake “waiting” period loading bar that that TikToker says is designed to make customers believe the Wizard is “working” on getting them the best possible deal.
However Yasin, after doing some searching around himself, says he discovered that the Deal Wizard wasn’t designed to get people better deals, but, he claims, to try and hoodwink them into thinking the discount the Wizard found was the best possible deal they could get on their grub: “And if you look at Google’s historic search data you can see that for the term Domino’s coupon people were searching more and more and more. In order to put a stop to this expensive trend Domino’s decided to put a coupons tab on their own site but people just kept searching for Domino’s coupons. That was until 2012 when they decided to use underhanded tactics to make sure this trend stopped. And though we might not like what they did it clearly worked. So in 2012 they released Deal Wizard. And this was marketed as a way for you to basically put a bunch of stuff in your basket, check out, and then have Deal Wizard automatically find you the best deal available.”
Yasin demonstrates how much more money an online coupon saved him: an entire eight pounds British Sterling more than what the Deal Wizard got him. “But did it actually find the best deal possible? Or was this just the way to trick customers into buying more? Let’s find out. So let’s say you go through the phone you add two original cheese and tomato pizzas to your basket. Once you click on your basket, you’re met with finding deals that match your basket. And this delay in combination with this language makes you feel like Domino’s is hard at work to find you the best possible deal. This is called the labor illusion, the idea that if something takes more time or effort then it must be higher quality and more trustworthy. After a short while the Deal Wizard adds a 40% discount to the order. Now the reason this is so genius is because it’s such a large discount that all but the most price sensitive customers will stop looking for better deals. And let me be clear that they absolutely haven’t given you the best discount they just want you to feel like they have. In order to keep you on the site Domino’s allows you to go from the Deal Wizard to a page with all of their voucher codes.”
He goes on to say that the coupon codes section of the website is intentionally made to be vague and amorphous, making it intentionally difficult for customers to know how much they’re saving and if the coupons are even applicable to their order: “However there’s no filters for searching. They don’t give any indication of how it’s gonna impact the price and they don’t tell you which discounts don’t apply to your order.”
Yasin adds that even if you did ignore the Deal Wizard and then attempted to search for coupons to use in the checkout section of your online order yourself, Domino’s still implements shady practices in order to try and charge folks more cash.
He says that Domino’s asks customers if they’re sure they want to spend less money on their order and design a pop-up that uses visual design cues in order to make it look like the higher price point is the better deal.
“So let’s say you do decide to go through the arduous friction full process of finding a better deal. You’re gonna be met by this: a pop-up that shows you how much you were saving before and how much you’re saving now. Why are you asking whether I want save 13 quid or 20 quid? The answer should be obvious. And in order to reinforce that you should pick the worse deal, they make this the primary button. And everything on this pop up is trying to reinforce that you’re making a bad decision if you don’t stick with the coupon you originally were given. Oh are you sure you want to switch vouchers? I don’t think that’s gonna be good for you. We have to remind you that if you do this all other deals will be removed.”
Yasin also says that Domino’s randomly tacks on more money to a total order if a customer decides to add another item to their cart. He demonstrates two instances where he was charged an extra $3 or an extra $2 for no discernible reason when placing online orders: “OK that’s not great and they definitely lied but wait it gets much worse. So let’s say you’ve gone through that process and then you realize you know what I’d love some garlic pizza bread. So you add the garlic pizza bread for six quid. 24 plus 6 is 30 so it’s gonna come to 30 bucks. Awesome. And yet it comes to 32.98 they just randomly charge you 3 bucks extra. Let’s try it again with a different basket. 48 quid is the basket total, we add something for 10 quid, should come to 58 but it comes to 60.98. Businesses, please stop fucking doing it might work in the short term but in the long term it definitely erodes trust. One day it will come back to bite you in the fucking ass.”
A number of people who responded to Yasin’s post expressed that they, too, felt like Domino’s prices were way too high: “Forgot the last time I bought from them. In my mind no large pizza is worth £19.99-£23.99,” one TikToker wrote.
Another said, “Their pizzas are incredibly overpriced anyways”
Someone else remarked that for some items, like dip, it’s best to wait until one is prompted to get it at checkout, as the price is cheaper than pre-selecting it from the menu itself and adding it to one’s cart beforehand: “Also don’t add the large dip from the menu. Go to checkout and it will ask if you forgot something. Dip is cheaper at checkout”
One commenter said that they just don’t understand how anyone could afford Domino’s these days: “Dominos was expensive, but now they’ve put their prices up again and stopped offering free delivery it is no longer possible even as a luxury.”
The Daily Dot has reached out to Yanis and Domino’s via email for further comment.
*First Published: May 21, 2023, 5:31 pm CDT
Jack Alban is a freelance journalist for the Daily Dot covering trending human interest/social media stories and the reactions real people have to them. He always seeks to incorporate evidence-based studies, current events, and facts pertinent to these stories to create your not-so-average viral post.