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November 28, 2011

Get $3 off, $5 off, Free Food … It’s Not that Simple

Filed under: Food/Groceries,Internet,Retail — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 5:50 am

ssmeat1Advertisers are fond of promoting an offer, seemingly simple in terms, that promises the customer a genuine bargain. What is annoying is that they sometimes tend to leave out a key qualification or catch in the original ad.

Here are three examples.

Advertisement #1

This ad is from the large supermarket chain in the northeast, Stop & Shop.

The lucky reader is being given a chance to get $3 off on any fresh meat. Even when one clicksthrough [see excerpted webpage below], the offer still seems to be as advertised — $3 off, period.


Only when you go to print the coupon does the truth emerge.



It certainly is a bit of bait and switch to promote getting three dollars off without in each instance stating clearly that the true offer is three dollars off a $15 purchase of meat.

Advertisement #2

Email ads tend to take a few too many liberties when they use deceptive subject lines, or the content of the email itself promotes the offer in a misleading way.

Pizzeria Uno recently sent out an email saying if you became a “fan” of theirs on Facebook, you would get a $5 off coupon:

Seems like a no-strings attached offer, right? Only after you become a fan of Uno on Facebook, do you see a small disclosure:


Where did the $15 minimum purchase come from? There was no mention of it all in the email. Isn’t this offer really, “Become a fan of Uno on Facebook, and you will get a coupon for $5 off a $15 purchase”?

Advertisement #3

In an email from a small mexican restaurant chain in New England comes this offer:

Great, a free appetizer. I’ll head right over. Trouble is when you go to print the coupon, you learn the truth:


You need a $10 minimum purchase in order to get your freebie. Isn’t the offer really, “Spend $10 at Margarita’s, and get your choice of a free appetizer or dessert”? And, shouldn’t it be advertised that way?

Failure to disclose a material fact in advertising is considered an unfair or deceptive practice under state consumer laws around the country. It is high time that advertisers played straight about these “free” offers. It is just as important to state the requirement, as it is the free bonus.

Incidentally, after Mouse Print* pointed out the problem with their email offer, Margarita’s changed the way they email such offers to include the qualifier “with a $10 purchase.”

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  1. I don’t know about anyone else, but when I discover that a business has been deceptive, I am LESS likely to ever spend my hard earned money with them. I have no problem with a minimum purchase requirement in order to take advantage of a coupon/discount, but they need to be honest with me up-front. Why do these businesses feel like they have to deceive me? If it’s a good deal, I’ll shop there – No tricks necessary.

    Comment by Eric — November 28, 2011 @ 9:54 am
  2. Anyone in the S & S area knows that the chain is a total joke noted for their very high prices. Market Basket just blows them away – not even close.

    Where I live they finally closed down S & S and Trucchi’s will open next month in the vacated store. A real blessing.

    Comment by rick — November 28, 2011 @ 4:13 pm
  3. There should be more disclosure, but at least they say “$x OFF” rather than “we’ll give you $x”
    So you know you have to purchase something.
    And $5 off $15 if not bad if the $15 is reasonable to start with.
    …but there are so many that say things like that then you see it’s something like $5 off $50 order, but only on Wed, and not during peak hours, and …

    So if they don’t want to disclose terms up front, I figure they are probably not worth the click…at least let me know where to find the terms before I commit anything, even a “Like”

    Comment by RS — December 1, 2011 @ 12:35 pm
  4. It never ceases to amaze me how bold stores have become with the way they try to mislead buyers.

    Coupons and packages are not the only places that contain fine print.

    Only last week I was in my local grocery store and noticed a sign –
    cheese $1.79 managers Christmas special – it was standing in a basket full of cheeses so I took a couple of pieces. It wasn’t until the checkout tried to over charge me for the cheese that the sign was checked again. Right at the bottom in tiny tiny text “per 100g”.

    I would probably have bought the cheese at full price but I felt stupid and that the store had tried to con me so I left it and will but it elsewhere.

    Comment by James Palmer — December 13, 2011 @ 9:58 am

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