A catchy motto can be a game-changer for organizations looking to plant the seed of their brand in the mind of customers. Take Google Pay’s “Money made simple” motto, for example. This short and sweet phrase perfectly captures what Google Pay is all about – making the process of sending and receiving money as easy and hassle-free as possible. But sometimes, a motto can become a little too real, as Google recently discovered firsthand. In an unexpected turn of events the app accidentally gave lucky users free money, bringing their motto to life in a way they likely never anticipated.
Uhhh, Google Pay seems to just be randomly giving users free money right now.
I just opened Google Pay and saw that I have $46 in "rewards" that I got "for dogfooding the Google Pay Remittance experience."
— Mishaal Rahman (@MishaalRahman) April 5, 2023
“Dogfooding the experience”
For tech experts, the root of the problem may be visible in the message itself. The message these lucky users received along with the free money was “for dogfooding the Google Pay Remittance experience”. Dogfooding is technical jargon for internal testing. It originates from a dog food commercial from the 70s. The Alpo dog food producer Lorne Greene openly feeds his own dog with the food he produces in the commercial. Years later, this term migrated to the tech realm when Paul Maritz sent a famous email under the same name to encourage more internal use of their products.
Internal use of your own products is frequent today, especially in massive environments like Google. The meaning of dogfooding adapted to our times. Today, it’s in relation to the testing of features internally before releasing them to the public.
While it is possible the money was meant to be sent to employees for using them to pay and test some features, the whole situation is strange. Dogfooding is usually about early testing of a feature that will eventually reach customers. If Google wanted to test the feedback of buying something using their app, this doesn’t seem like an efficient way. The fact that only a portion of users received the free money — and not all received the same amount — remains unexplained.
A Reddit moderator suggested this may be an unintended early release of the price guarantee or a similar feature. The price guarantee feature is supposed to “pay you the difference between the flight price when you book and the lowest ticket price”. This could explain why only certain users received the free money; only those that paid for flight tickets using Google Pay with a price above the lowest fee would be eligible. Others suggested this only happened to Google Pixel owners, so it might be Google’s way of rewarding people who bought their smartphones. Either way, the chances of it being plain free money are low, and it’s likely a result of a feature’s early release that would eventually give the same users that amount.
Google Pay has taken the money back and has sent an email confirming that the money was deposited in my account by error. pic.twitter.com/8RljrpJVyo
— Mishaal Rahman (@MishaalRahman) April 6, 2023
One of the earliest reporters of the strange issue, Android journalist Mishaal Rahman, later shared the apology email he got from Google. They mentioned that if they were unable to reverse it, no further action would be necessary and the user would get to keep the money. This gives credit to the theories that this was an early release of payments that are still eventually intended to be done, although we can’t be sure.
With the promise of making money transactions simpler and more convenient, Google Pay’s “Money made simple” motto continues to resonate with users, even if it occasionally becomes a little too real, for better or for worse.