Lunch subscription start-up and ClassPass sister company MealPal has been on a growth rampage. The company that lets people pay a flat rate for weekday lunches recently raised $15 million in venture capital funding and is now in nine cities plus Brooklyn, up from just three a year ago. It has been fairly well-received by both restaurants and diners.
But they must really want to grow their user base because man have their marketing emails been thirsty lately.
Between September and January, they sent three emails with the subject line “$40 Off Your First Month - TODAY ONLY!” They sent an additional two emails that offered $40 off but did not advertise the time limit. Pretty typical.
But by late April, they started implementing a new email marketing tactic that is — ahem — less orthodox.
April 20: They sent an email with the subject line “Please Accept Our Apologies.” It then said that they had particularly “heavy traffic” for their website, so maybe we weren’t able to sign up for MealPal with a 40 percent discount? “As a way of saying thank you for your patience and understanding, we've extended the 40% off MealPal discount,” the email from “Elizabeth” said. For reference, we did not try to sign up for MealPal that week.
April 25: MealPal sent another email with the subject line “You’ve Been Upgraded,” even though — as previously mentioned — we are not paying members of MealPal. The email says: “Congratulations! Your lunch experience has been upgraded. I'm excited to invite you to join MealPal, and provide you with $40 off your first month if you join today.”
April 27: An Eater tipster forwarded an email that he called “creepy.” The subject line was “Payment Processed for Account Ending in 2793,” and it listed the last four digits of an account and noted that a balance of $40 had been added. The email ends: “Happy Lunching! Liz. p.s. Check out this recent MealPal review: "MealPal is an incredible way to upgrade the weekday chore of acquiring food."
The tipster writes: “A brief update on the apparently desperate and deceptive MealPal is below. This creepy, misleading message with the same fake 'account ending in 2793' went out to a LOT of people, none of whom are happy about it, quite understandably.” He did not respond to requests for further comment.
May 9: MealPal sends another $40 credit with a “pop quiz”:
POP QUIZ TIME!
True or False: You've been thinking about trying out MealPal.
If you answered TRUE: Great news - today's the day! The much loved $40 credit towards your first month is back.
Join MealPal today and enjoy lunch for as little as $3.99 per day from some of the best restaurants in your city.
If you answered FALSE: Hey, you gave us your email address, so there must have been some inkling of interest at some point!
May 16: Subject line: “Oops did you forget?” Opening line: “With all of the excitement of spring, it looks like you forgot to claim your $40 MealPal credit!” Spoiler: I did not forget.
May 17: Finally today, MealPal jumped the shark on thirst. They sent an email with the subject line “happy birthday.” My birthday was weeks ago....but MealPal says “every day feels like your birthday with MealPal!” Oh, and they offered $40 off if I join today.
Earlier this month, MealPal co-founder Mary Biggins talked to Eater about a change in the business, where people can order meals later than they previously could. When asked if they have been more aggressive about their email tactics, she said no. “We’ve always offered people a discounted first month,” she says. “We want people to be able to try it. A good way to do it usually with trial offers.”