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Coach-cookie promotion crumbles under heavy demand

Matkahuolto’s Christmas promotion, which allowed passengers to use gingerbread biscuits instead of tickets on the company’s long-distance bus routes, has been overwhelmed by demand. Many would-be customers, clutching lovingly prepared ‘biscuit tickets’, have been left to make alternative travel arrangements after the gingerbread tickets ran out.

Image: Jari Vesa / Yle

Bus company Matkahuolto had said that people turning up with a home-backed, edible gingerbread biscuit including the departure point and destination would be eligible to receive a free bus ticket.

Hundreds of people were queuing at Jyväskylä’s travel centre on Tuesday morning, hoping to take advantage of the Christmas promotion.

Other coach stations saw similar scenes: Ilta-Sanomat reported a lengthy line at Helsinki’s Kamppi bus terminal, while Matkahuolto chief Jukka Ylitalo told Aamulehti that demand was also strong in Turku and Tampere.

The company doubled the number of "gingerbread tickets" available from 500 to a thousand, but that was still not enough to meet the exceptional demand. Just 20 of those who turned up in Jyväskylä were able to board their bus free of charge, leaving a large number of disappointed travellers.

Taking the train as a protest

"I was up baking the Matkahuolto ticket until 10pm last night, and I woke up today at 6 so that I could get a free ticket to Helsinki," Minna from Jyväskylä told the local Yle service. "Five people were in front of me when they put a note at the ticket desk. I am going to buy a train ticket to Helsinki as a protest."

"I knew that there was a limited number of tickets, but I didn’t know there were so few," said Minna. "I assumed that I would be in time."

Matkahuolto was left to face a social media backlash. Jari Järvelä noted on Twitter that "bread queues have become gingerbread queues for Christmas", while Sannikka Michelsson turned political, suggesting that "Matkahuolto's promotion is like communism: a lovely idea, but terrible in practice".

Twitter users were still posting photos of their lovingly-prepared gingerbread under the 'piparilippu' hashtag long after the free tickets had run out.

"Of course people are disappointed when they queue for a long time and are left without," said Matkahuolto's local director Merja Kilpi. "People had baked lovely biscuits, and we would of course have wanted to give tickets to all of them, but there was only a limited number of tickets."

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