Businesses say rail customer discount program not working

Local News

A program designed to draw more customers to struggling businesses along Honolulu’s rail line is not working.

That’s what merchants are telling us nearly a month after the “Shop and Dine on the Line” program began.Related Link: Shop and Dine on the Line’s website

Businesses on Farrington and Kamehameha highways are offering all types of deals.

“We’re offering a $1.95 pork adobo omelet sandwich,” said Linda Matsuo of Shiro’s Saimin Haven.

“Twenty dollars off any racket that you spend over $150,” said Thomas So of Pearl Kai Tennis Shop.

“If you order any plate, then you get a free soft drink,” said Reginald Espinosa of Blazin’ Steaks.

But customers are not taking advantage of it.

“Has anybody come in asking for that special?” KHON2 asked.

“No, not with the Shop and Dine,” Espinosa said.

Last month, the Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation, launched the Shop & Dine on the Line program, and about 65 businesses joined.

Customers can go online to find out about specific deals, but business owners say they’re not doing that.

“People don’t understand it. It’s too complicated because they come in with a card and they expect a 10-percent discount, which is not what we’re offering,” Matsuo said.

Matsuo says Shiro’s sells one sandwich special a week. That’s not enough to boost sales, down $86,000 so far this year.

“We turn off our lights when we don’t need it, we’re doing everything possible to save money,” Matsuo said.

On some days, sales at Blazin’ Steaks in Pearl Kai Shopping Center are slashed in half.

At the Pearl Kai Tennis Shop, business has plunged nearly 35 percent compared to last year.

Some business owners believe the program could work if HART advertised it or did more publicity.

“I thought they going to put an ad on TV and help us more. People know if you offer, they’re going to come,” So said.

HART is publicizing the program at more events, and is passing out brochures at some tourist attractions. HART also says customers and merchants call them with interest. In fact, 20 more businesses have joined the program.

As far as traffic to the program’s web page, HART officials say it’s received 8,000 hits.

Rail officials are also working on a trolley program to shuttle shoppers, which is expected to begin in November.

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