Thursday, June 11, 2020

UPDATE #2: A Great Idea With Room for Improvement In Execution: An In-Depth Look at GetUpside (App)

UPDATE #2 (6/11/20): Following the issues highlighted in the previous updated review, I cashed out my balance and was just about to be done with the app forever...and then a pending receipt went through. Then another...in all, I've had four straight receipts go through with no issues. That's enough for me to re-recommend looking into the app, as the check in issues they claimed to be having seem to have been fixed. For now, at least.

UPDATE (4/4/20): Be careful what you wish for, because even though GetUpside has now gone receiptless, the transitioning process has made it even worse...and with little to no recourse when things inevitably go wrong.

WHAT IS IT?
A very, very stupidly named app, based out of Washington, D.C, and available for both iOS and Android. I even hate saying it out loud because it’s so dumb…what the hell does it even mean? And, I feel like it’s pretty terrible from a business perspective because you can’t even begin to tell what the app does just from the name, which is probably some kind of rule in Business 101.

Rant aside, this is a money-saving app that purports to save users quite a decent chunk of change at gas stations—and a random smattering of restaurants--across the U.S. Right now, availability is fairly limited, but with a couple deals with nationwide companies (Circle K chief among them), it seems to be spreading fairly quickly. If it happens to be near you, is it worth your time? Let's sit down and hash this one out, shall we?

INTERFACE/NAVIGATION
The navigation menu.
GetUpside is very easy and intuitive to navigate, with the ability to track local deals based on location settings, or via a city or zip search. The basic setup is very much like other “local savings” apps, in that the main screen is essentially a map of your current area, with nearby offers clearly marked.

A big annoyance to me is that the app requires you to have location on in order for it to even open. I get that if you’re trying to claim an offer, but why can’t I just punch in a zip or browse for things without the location service enabled, just to get an idea of what might be available? It might seem kind of nit-picky, but I don’t recall another app that I have that’s so stringent on their location standards. I'm not one to really care about the whole “tracking” angle (face it, we're being “watched” by anyone who wants to watch at any given time), but I get annoyed because I always forget to turn location off after using it, and that can suck battery life down a little bit quicker.
Don't want to grant GetUpside location permission? Sorry, can't use it at all.
Otherwise, everything is pretty well straightforward, with all available offers listed in order from closest to farthest away, along with how much of a discount they are offering at any given time. Should you need any information besides current deals, it's just a menu tap away, with the menu tucked neatly away in the top left corner—again, pretty standard stuff. If you have ever used an app before, you should have no troubles navigating through this one.

Lately, there has been an unnecessary addition, in the form of a mandatory 5-second splash screen that urges you to refer friends to the service, so that they can continue to offer it for free. It doesn't pop up every time, but it pops up enough to make it annoying as hell, especially since I know of no one that would want to sign up.

Don't have anyone to refer? Then get used to seeing this dumbass screen.
CLAIMING DEALS
UPDATE (6/11/20): Holy Lord I've never had a more frustrating overall experience with an app before--but hopefully those days are behind. After the below update, in which four straight receipts of mine were declined, I cashed out my $30+ balance and was about to delete the app for good. Then, a pending Check-In transaction I had forgotten about went through, so I tried it again, and again...in all now, four straight Check-Ins have been processed, with no issues. I don't know what the difference is (I'm using the same card at the exact same gas station I've used for months), but at least as of now, it seems the issues have been resolved. I did, however, still lose cashback for the four receipts that caused me an issue prior to the app all of a sudden working again.

UPDATE (4/4/20): Interestingly they have now gone receiptless, which I thought would fix all of the receipt-related issues I had. It has not. For starters, the card number it auto-saved for me for Check-In (which was different than my actual card number, yet was the only one I've ever used with this app) worked perfectly the first time, leading me into a false sense of security...it didn't work the second time, nor the third, and both of those receipts are still in limbo.

Even worse: once you opt in to the Check-In option, you cannot revert back to uploading receipts. I guess I kind of understand this mindset down the road - you know, when a virus isn't ravaging the globe, and when the system's bugs have been ironed out - but to not allow it as a fallback option, even when the customer service rep acknowledged that the Check-In process is falling well short of expectations, is a pretty curious decision akin to shooting themselves in the foot. 

MY ADVICE TO YOU: Do not accept the Check-In offer at this time, because you can't go back to uploading receipts should there be a problem. And there probably will be, with no recourse to fix them. Thus, the $4+ dollars I should have pending, have just expired. 

Assuming you’ve used an app like Ibotta before, the basic process for earning money back in GetUpside is pretty similar: find your gas station in the app, “claim” the offer, and then you have four hours to submit a receipt through the app to get your money back, which is done via your phone's camera. One small difference that I appreciate is that you can upload a photo from your photo gallery, rather than being forced to take a picture through the in-app camera. That's something you can't do with many similar apps, and a nice feature to have (although personally, I have no problems using the phone's camera to upload direct).

Claiming deals is as simple as clicking on that orange "Claim" button.
The processing time can take anywhere from mere minutes to 48 hours. My personal experience is rather clouded, because I have to contact customer support after every single receipt upload due to a difference in the address used in their app, versus the one that prints on the receipts, at the gas station near me (more on that later). In other words: I have no idea how long processing typically takes.

Submitting receipts is a pretty straightforward process.
Intriguingly, they keep mentioning in social media comments that they will be going receiptless in the near future—something that would make earning money back through this even more passive...and making this a no-brainer for virtually anyone who buys gas. (And fixing the issue many users seem to have where even clear receipt uploads seem to frequently be declined; or, as the one I have, where a location's address doesn't match the one on the receipt.)


HOW MUCH CAN YOU SAVE?
In theory the answer to this question is yet another question: how much gas do you buy? Considering there isn’t a limit (outside of 50 gallons per fill-up), and the offers are generally pretty good (around me, it averages around 10 cents off per gallon), the possibilities are endless. Between my wife’s gas-guzzling SUV and my moderate-sized car, we each fill up about once a week, and that would be enough to earn at least a couple bucks back each time.

But, savings can depend on the “wholesale value” of gas: there are times where GetUpside only offers 1 cent savings over the retail price. I’ve seen several complaints of this on their Facebook page, where people think they’re being “slighted”, or their savings “capped”; I thought this myself, at first (it was right after getting a large discount that the offered savings dropped significantly), but sure enough, it was back to 12 cents off a little less than 24 hours later. That’s unfortunately the nature of the beast—obviously these gas stations want to drive some business, but not at the expense of losing money, or negatively affecting their bottom lines. As such, depending on where you live, the offers might hover around the penny mark more than others in other areas...again, it just depends on a variety of variables to ensure that gas station revenues (and GetUpside's own) take top priority over consumer savings.

I don't typically do this, but feel free to sign up
via the above referral code.
There are a couple of additional caveats that might prevent you from earning your maximum: 1.) Outside of recently forging a partnership with Circle K, the app hasn’t rolled out to all gas stations nationwide yet, so there’s a good chance you might not have any valid gas stations near you; 2.) Your possible savings are cut down if you use this in conjunction with a gas station's reward program; and 3.) Their support team is wildly uneven: sometimes they get back to you quickly, and sometimes they don't get back to you at all. Even though, in my experience, they eventually do get back to you, it can be a very discouraging experience for those trying out the app for the first time.

You can also make money with referrals: you get $7 the first time someone you refer uses the app, while they get an extra $.20 off per gallon. On that topic: feel free to use mine, which is "Aaron32226". I don't typically do this, but hey, they're virtually begging me to with that stupid 5-second splash screen, and I would love to make that go away.

SUPPORT
UPDATE (6/11/20): Although the app is working again, I'm not sure what (if anything) it has to do with their support staff, who I continue to have little faith in. I seem to always get some off-the-cuff statement from them that usually contradicts what someone else in the same department has told me before. The last discussion I had with them, they told me that GasBuddy can't be stacked with GetUpside due to a "long-standing partnership", even though I'd been stacking both with no mention of that being an issue for six months. Then, ironically, after that conversation, all my Check-Ins have gone through with no problem. All I'll say is: I'm relieved it's back to working again. For now.

UPDATE (4/4/20): Support is back to being a complete sack of shit. I understand the poor timing, and reduced staff due to the virus catching the world off guard, but that might be a great excuse to allow users to "downgrade" back to receipt uploads, especially if a majority of the support tickets are Check-In related. 

I have two receipts, one dated March 15th and one from March 22nd, that haven't gone through. On the one for the 15th, my Check-In was declined as soon as I tried it, and the app instructed me to upload the receipt. I did, and despite assurance that GetUpside support resubmitted it over a week ago, it still is sitting in a processing state. 

The second one might be my fault, as the credit card number it auto-saved for me was wrong, but still went through once, leading me to believe that things would be good going forward. However, it did not, leaving me no recourse but to send in a photo of my bank statement showing the specific transaction from the specific location that I got my gas...something that would still be declined, because, as I have told them a thousand times, the address the gas station uses on their receipts (and thus, likely, bank statements) isn't the same one that they supplied to GetUpside.

This is where apps either succeed or fail, and GetUpside's support is...very inconsistent, to say the least. I've had numerous problems, all stemming from - at least what I would consider to be - a relatively minor problem: a local Circle K uses a different address on their store locator (which must be where GetUpside takes their info from), than they do on their receipts (where GasBuddy must take their addresses from). As such, my receipts are frequently denied because I "went to the wrong location", even though it's very clearly the same exact place.

Need in-app support? It's conveniently hidden...and
doesn't do much good anyway.
For starters, don't use the in-app support option, which is actually way harder to find than it should be (solution circled in above picture). The first time I had an issue, I sent in a request through there first, and still had no responses after 72 hours, so I decided to follow up via email (support@getupside.com)...and got a response within hours. That started to be my go-to option, but then in early November, I had several support requests (all placed at least 48-72 hours apart, mind you, and all of them completely friendly in nature) fall through the cracks; the only response I got within that time was someone who just sent a canned explanation about how addresses need to match and that was the reason my receipts were declined. It was very frustrating, to say the least, and I was seriously contemplating getting rid of it, despite all the potential...upside(s).

Thankfully, since that fiasco, support has been much quicker, and much more consistent, in getting back to me within 24 hours. I understand it's probably a frustrating issue for them, as well, but I was also notified that there's nothing they can do about the address snafu, so contacting them after every receipt is auto-declined is literally the only way I can get my receipts approved...at least, until they go receiptless, which can't come soon enough for either party.

PROS (+)
+Under the right circumstances, it's an almost passive way to earn a good chunk of money back on something that you're going to have to buy anyway.
+Claiming and redeeming offers is pretty simple and straightforward.
+They will be going receiptless soon, which should eliminate the current issue many users have with them.
+Forged a recent partnership with Circle K, helping to spread the app to many of their locations nationwide.
+Pair it up with Gasbuddy for some additional savings. The newly-implemented Check-In process, which cannot be reverted back to receipt uploads once signed up for, might have just negated this feature, which would negate the only reason I signed up for this app to begin with. More details forthcoming as they iron out the kinks.

CONS (-)
-Email support response times can be pretty inconsistent (though they do seem to be getting better).
-In-app support seems to be very, very low priority.
-Outside of Circle K partnership, nationwide availability seems pretty scattershot.
-The receipt resubmission process doesn't offer a way to explain why you're resubmitting; thus, you're probably going to be re-declined, and have to contact support anyway.
-Only a four-hour window to claim offer and upload receipt.
-Address issues apparently can't be fixed, forcing me to contact support for every single receipt I submit.

I was very eager to check this app out after hearing glowing things about it online, and the potential for this to be a great app is there, but my limited time with it has been racked with constant, minor annoyances that somewhat detract from what should be an excellent, simple experience. If they can expand at a manageable but steady clip, GetUpside could end up being the go-to app for savings; as it stands now, it's definitely worth looking into, but should you find a need for support, or find yourself in an area with zero offers, there's a chance you may GetDownside instead.

RATING: 7/10. (+2) (UPDATE: 6/11/20): Holy Lord what a bizarre overall experience. After two straight months of rejected Check-Ins and physical receipts, and right after a conversation I had with support that said GetUpside and GasBuddy deals can't be "stacked" together (despite me having done that for six months and with no indications of that rule anywhere else online), all four of my last Check-In transactions have gone through with no issues. This is leading me to believe that, as an earlier customer service rep told me, it might have actually been a glitch with their Check-In program after all. I did lose out on the cashback for the four receipts I had pending through March and April, which is stupid, but as long as it keeps working going forward, I'll keep using it. Especially since the Check-In process makes everything even easier (assuming you remember to actually check in, that is.) 

Note: App reviews are ongoing, and are subject to change as the apps are either updated or abandoned.

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