Whatever happened to the “Stretch Your Dollars” student promotions?

At the beginning of this school year, one of the thousands of flyers plastered around Capitol Hill caught my eye: a brightly colored poster promoting one of my favorite things: student discounts.

The poster, while flashy and fun, was vague and lacked pretty much any details. No website, no QR code, just a few lines of text telling me about a program, open to Seattle University and Seattle Central faculty and students, called “Stretch Your Dollars” with some popular local businesses: Pike Street Fish Fry, Via Tribunali, and Caffe Vita.

Without a full concept of what the poster was really about, I forgot about it and moved on, until a few weeks later. With a low bank account and rumbling stomach, student discounts were sounding really good. I tried doing a quick Google search for “stretch your dollars Seattle” and found zilch. Same went for Facebook. Remembering that my beloved Vita had been involved, I headed to their Facebook page to find out more.

It took me a good five minutes to search through their page and find anything about student discounts. When I did, it was a lone picture, telling me students got 15% in the month of September (or something like that, my exact memory escapes me). No link to a separate page, no further information.

As I found out, each of the three businesses offered a different discount for students each month. To see what that discount was, you had to “like” each of the separate businesses on Facebook and find the picture on their wall. At the businesses themselves, there were no posters or acknowledgement of the program.

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Since the launch in September, the “Stretch Your Dollars” program has gotten increasingly worse. The discounts offered early on weren’t bad– free fries with purchase, discounted drip coffee…but as far as I can tell, there haven’t been new discounts since February. December and January both shared the same (awful) deal: Free boxing class at a local gym with purchase (this was the deal for all three businesses, although Fish Fry did have an additional deal for December). That’s not a discount, that’s more of a grown-up Happy Meal toy that you don’t really want.

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I know, I shouldn’t complain about a program that is only trying to help. But this could have been so much better, and I really feel like they dropped the ball this time. Maybe they just didn’t actually want to give discounts, I don’t know. I’m not really sure what happened; the whole campaign just feels half-baked (and I’m pretty sure they gave up on it entirely, despite the original promise to go until June).

Here’s what they should have done: Make a separate Facebook page for the student specials program. Make a Twitter, make a webpage, make whatever, but don’t just use the three separate pages of the businesses involved. It made everything disconnected, and took away from any sense of unity the program could have instilled. While there was some publicity in the form of posters, they lacked proper information. They also should have gotten the word out by contacting the Seattle University Spectator (the student newspaper) and any student papers Seattle Central might have. By having a small ad or article, which could potentially have been free for the businesses, more students would have been aware of the deals.

This was an opportunity for three already successful businesses to not only expand their audience, but strengthen their relationship with their already existing student customers. As much as I love Fish Fry and Via Tribunali, they aren’t cheap, and a special student deal would certainly be appealing to a college student that’s always on the lookout for inexpensive (but hopefully quality) grub. Via Tribunali in particular often comes off as a bit more high-end, and not many students I know personally are frequent customers; perhaps this would have been a good chance for them to reach that younger audience.

I love living in Capitol Hill. Really, I do. But let’s be honest– it is (understandably) devoid of the “college town” feel of places like the Ave that really know how to cater to university students. It would be nice to see a few more places reach out and offer student discounts and specials, even if it’s only once in a while.

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