Charity Magazine

ShopKick Ban – Why Was My Account Flagged by ShopKick?

Posted on the 01 December 2013 by Steveliu

Only a month ago I wrote a post touting how much I loved an app called ShopKick. It’s an app that rewards you for “checking in” to stores you walk into and for scanning items in stores. “Points” you earn can be used for gift cards to popular stores or, as I mentioned on the blog, donated to charity.

I work in New York City for my “day job” and ShopKick has literally changed my life. I used to take the subway from my office on Madison Avenue on the East Side of Manhattan to Penn Station on the West Side. But after discovering ShopKick, I walk the 16 or so blocks from my office to the train station. Along the way I’ll pass by multiple ShopKick locations (the Best Buy on 44th, the Macy’s and Old Navy on 34th, the JCPenney on 33rd, the American Eagle Outfitters on 32nd). On my lunch hour, I’ll sometimes walk uptown to the Sony Store on 55th or even the Crate and Barrel near 59th. Needless to say, I’ve gotten a LOT of good exercise from my ShopKick experience. The funny thing is, I first visited the stores mainly to collect “points”, but over time I found myself shopping at these stores, which I think was the whole intent of ShopKick to begin with.
ShopKick also allows you to “scan” products at stores like CVS, Target, Verizon, Sprint, and Best Buy. I hadn’t used this feature a lot before, but only started to recently because their new app redesign made it a lot easier for me to figure out how to do this (but if you’ll read on, I believe their new app design also is causing my current nightmare with them).

Over the last few months I worked HARD to collect points, to the point of going completely out of my way on weekends and vacation days simply because there was a “bonus point opportunity”. Long story short, as of last week I’d collected 9,863 points, enough for about $100 in rewards. I had planned on treating myself to some Starbucks, but also divvying up some of the points to the American Red Cross, Ronald McDonald House Charities, the American Humane Association, and Feeding America. It was win-win-win-win-win scenario, I got great exercise, the ShopKick merchants benefited from my increase shopping with them, I could trade in some points for a nice treat for me, I could help a number of great causes, and I could continue to tell my friends (and you) of what a great app this is.

To my horror, the other day I went online and opened the app to see this screen.

shopkick ban

It reads “Too bad! Unfortunately your account history indicates that you have not followed the shopkick rules (see them in Settings > FAQs & Rules). We want everyone to enjoy collecting kicks, so we have to pull aside those who don’t follow our policies. You will not be able to collect or redeem any more kicks. Sorry to see you go.

I was completely, completely dumbfounded. For months, I have been using the app completely according to the rules, so so I thought. It’s about a 1.6 mile walk from my office to Penn Station, so after walking about 20 days a month for 6 months, that’s about 200 miles of walking! There’s a part of me that wonders if ShopKick is assuming that nobody can walk by so many stores in one day, so they’re assuming I’m giving my account to other people or something to get them to scan for me. But that’s not the case at all.

I wrote a frantic email to ShopKick Support. I got this reply from Eileen Swanson, one of their support reps:

Thank you for letting us know about your concern. We want to make sure everyone can use shopkick and earn kicks, so our system is built to ensure everyone enjoys the shopkick app in agreement with the rules. I’m including them below, and you can also find them under “shopkick Rules” in the app settings menu. Unfortunately, your account shows activity outside of our terms of service.

Here are the rules for shopkick:

  1. Rule: Have fun while shopkicking every day. :)
  1. Walk-in rules:
    · Walk into the store during store hours
    · Remember, sometimes there are limits to how often you can walk-in for kicks
  1. Scan rules:
    · Scan products at the store; in each store, only scan items that are featured for that store in the app
    · Each product has a limit to how many times you can scan it in a day and in a 30-day period
  1. Device rules:
    · One account per shopkicker
    · You may use more than one device, but only collect kicks on one device at a time
    · Do not share your device(s) with other shopkickers
  1. These rules may be updated.

Unfortunately, it’s not possible to re-enable your account. We need to ensure that everyone follows the rules and we hope you understand. You will no longer be able to collect or redeem kicks. However, you may still take advantage of our exclusive offers with our partners which can help save you lots of money.

Regards,
Eileen

Again, I was flabbergasted. I’ve always followed Rule #1, of course, as well as Rule #2. Stores like Best Buy have a 30-day walk-in limit, and there have been times I’ve walked just to shop there (ironically, because ShopKick has conditioned me to do so) in less than 30 days after my last check-in–but in all these cases I’d get a message saying that the app recognized me but that I wouldn’t getting points for that visit (which was fine, of course, as my main intention of going into the store was to shop).

I’ve always adhered to Rule #4 as well. My account is and has always been on one device: my iPhone 4S. I don’t give my phone to anyone, and while the ShopKick app is installed on my iPad (because my iOS apps sync across devices), I don’t think I’ve ever even logged in on that copy.

So that leaves #3 as the rule I ostensibly broke.

It’s no secret that ShopKick has recently gone through an app update that people didn’t like. Honestly, I wasn’t crazy about it at first, but it kind of grew on me. There were some features that were a lot harder to get to than on the previous app, but as someone who helps develop apps and Web sites myself for a living, I understand that as a business they needed to expand. Still, I can only conclude that there are some major flaws in their app that ultimately caused them to view my account as one that showed “activity outside their terms of service”.

They have a new feature in their app called “Scan”. From what I can gather, it’s this feature that is causing them think that I’ve broken their rules. I think I see what’s going on, but I can only hope that a product manager or IT person from ShopKick sees this and helps fix it to help others avoid the same nightmare I’m facing.

Here’s how the “Scan” feature works.  To use it, you click the middle button on this screen.

scan shopkick upc codes

This brings you to a list of products.

IMG_1619

Notice that when you scan an item, it gets greyed out. This is going to be an important thing to remember later.

Finally, you click on the product you want to scan.

shopkick scan individual product

When you select the button with the UPC symbol, your phone camera activates. You scan it and earn points (in this case, 25 kicks, which is worth about a penny.

I only recently “discovered” this feature and have been using it a lot, but all within the rules. In the last month ShopKick has been particularly generous with bonus point opportunities at Verizon and Sprint stores; plus, I routinely go to CVS to scan drug store items.

· Scan products at the store; in each store, only scan items that are featured for that store in the app

Here’s the first problem. The way the user interface is designed, it focuses on products, not stores. So when I see a product that’s on the screen above at a CVS, for example, I just scan it and I’m credited points for doing so. I actually didn’t realize that I could be penalized for scanning the same product in a CVS when I’m only allowed to scan it in a Target, for example. In all honesty, I actually only noticed the button that says “Where to find” (on the Charmin product page above, partially blocked by the SCAN TODAY FOR 25 KICK message) that tells you where to find the product–but even there, I admittedly haven’t checked that every single time; I’ve just assumed that I could scan all the products I find at CVS.

If a product manager from ShopKick is reading this, I urge you–if you want to put the rule in place that only certain items are scannable at certain stores, then put that store name or logo right on the product page. Otherwise, consider changing the rule.

A part of me is also wondering if my recent scans at Verizon or Sprint stores is what’s triggering a penalty. Again, I’ve walked and driven completely out of my way in search for these stores when a bonus points opportunity hits. Sometimes (actually, very often) one Verizon store wouldn’t have a certain product, so I’d walk or drive completely out of my way to find another one. I wonder if ShopKick is interpreting this as some kind of fraudulent use, even though it’s just me walking and driving and discovering every Verizon store around me.

· Each product has a limit to how many times you can scan it in a day and in a 30-day period

Something tells me this is also a possible reason for my getting banned. I have relied completely on the ShopKick app to tell me what I can and can’t scan, based on what’s greyed out at any given time. But there have been times that the icon would become active again in less than a 30-day period. I just assumed this meant that I could scan it again. I didn’t realize that I was supposed to be calculating the number of days myself and that I was supposed to assume that the app was inaccurate. Again, if a Product Manager at ShopKick is reading this, I hope for the sake of future kickers that you can fix it so that either a button you’ve scanned becomes permanently disabled, or you don’t allow it to become enabled again for a full 30 days.

I wrote back to Eileen with these explanations, but in all honesty I’m not sure if ShopKick is going to listen. If they don’t, it’s a really, really sad say because I’ve been one of their most ardent supporters, advocates, and fans for a very long time, and I’ve tried my best to follow the rules very carefully. I understand they probably have a lot of problems trying to deal with cheaters, but if they throw out the baby with the bathwater and penalize honest users (especially when it may be glitches in their app causing the problems), that’d be a real shame.

 


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COMMENTS ( 2 )

By rj
posted on 21 April at 16:21
Report spam/abuse

I also got the message and was dumfounded as well as I make it a point to visit my local walmart and Target 2-3 times a week to scan

By Shannon
posted on 07 April at 22:04
Report spam/abuse

This happened to me also. I went out of my way and thought I was winning by exercising and getting points at the same time. I also encouraged others to join. I thought I was the only one this happened to. I guess they did not anticipate people using the app with such enthusiasm.

Add a comment

By Muning Hu
posted on 28 May at 19:38

me too. This stupid app became harder and harder to use each time. They are penalizing their users for their own glitches?

By Alpesh Vaghela
posted on 19 April at 03:34

They flagged me on login itself, maybe some kind of racial profiling

By Susan Nguyen
posted on 25 February at 22:17

I recently got banned! They don't even explain why we get banned either like which specifically we did wrong?!?! They should be sued for this. I also went out of my way to shopkick as well. This is completely ridiculous. I feel ur pain!

By Gretchen Neuble
posted on 28 January at 21:54

My whole house was banned and I think it's because of some glitch with apple devices. We didn't violate any rules either. My husbands account was banned as well and he barely uses the app unless I'm with him and remind him. His lifetime kicks were 8000 so----I agree with your analysis as to why we were banned and I call foul on Shopkick and will not recommend it to anyone else.

By Jason Fritz
posted on 26 January at 06:26

There is a solution if you have been banned on an android device.

If you email my name d2dtk{at}hotmail.com I'll help get you a new account on your ban-ed device.

Don't waste my time and I won't waste yours. You have to have some knowledge of how to use your phone. I can't help you if you can't follow instructions. Your device will need to be rooted.

That being said once it's successful, I do accept donations via Bitcoin, ZetaCoin, etc or PayPal.

By Melanie Cichy
posted on 20 January at 18:59

I also got the unwarranted flagging as of this morning for no reason. I'm furious because I've done everything in adherence to the rules. There is no reasoning behind their motives. All we can do is speculate. What kind of business model are they practicing by banning clients?

By Kimberly Klug
posted on 08 January at 06:01

If it makes you feel any better, you only lost out on closer to $40 than $100. 5,000k's = $20