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April 13, 2020

Deceptive Email Subject Lines Mislead Consumers

Filed under: Health,Retail — Edgar (aka MrConsumer) @ 5:46 am

With restaurants across the country closed, many hungry housebound people may be ordering takeout or getting home delivery from their favorite eaterie. And to get their share of business, restaurants are sending us enticing emails to increase business.

Promoting $5 or $10 off your next order is a great deal and a common theme of these offers. But, when you open the email the offer is not quite what you envisioned.


Panera $5 off

So, only if you spend $40 or more at Panera, will they give you $10 off.



$5 off Qdoba

MrConsumer’s hope that he could get an $8 burrito from Qdoba for only $3 with this $5 off offer was dashed when opening the email to learn that a $25 minimum purchase was required.

Restaurants are not alone in playing this deceptive $5 off game. The leading drug chains, CVS and Walgreens, are both trying to lure in shoppers with their own $5 off offers.



CVS $5 off


Walgreens $5 off

Why can’t these companies just play it straight and say in their subject line “$5 off a $30 purchase” or whatever the minimum purchase is?

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  1. This kind of discounting is very common. I see it all the time. I don’t find it particularly offensive or deceptive.

    Comment by Bill — April 13, 2020 @ 9:28 am
  2. You must be running out of things to report on. This entire article seems to be a bit of a stretch. However, I would advise everyone to support your favorite local businesses. Otherwise, they may just disappear for good.

    Comment by Jack — April 13, 2020 @ 10:30 am
  3. I go not problem with these…

    I would say if you put 10 bucks off of 40 in the email title you would get less people to open the email for sure.

    Edgar replies: And that’s the point, Richard. It is a misleading tactic calculated to get people to open the email because if they told the full truth, fewer people would be interested.

    Comment by richard Ginn — April 13, 2020 @ 10:53 am
  4. Ruby Tuesday’s sends me a BOGO every day. Tonight I will get a full rack of ribs and Burbon Salmon. Simple promotion with no BS.

    Comment by Rick — April 13, 2020 @ 12:00 pm
  5. I’m pretty sure the average Mouse Print reader understands there’s a minimum order. Especially when it’s clearly shown in the email (but not the subject line). It’s not like we don’t find out until after we order.

    If you want to talk deceptive, look at EDGAR’s comments above:
    One email clearly says $10 off of $40, yet Edgar says, “only if you spend $40 or more at Panera, will they give you $5 off.” Another email clearly states $5 off $15, yet, right under it, Edgar has to say, “$5 off a $30 purchase.”

    Edgar replies: The last line of the story is a summary comment by me about all these ads, and not specifically about the one ad immediately above that comment. I have added a phrase to make that clear.

    Comment by Randall Flagg — April 13, 2020 @ 12:13 pm
  6. Since everyone is doing it with different minimums, it’s hard to tell which one to go with until you’ve thoroughly checked them all.

    Meanwhile, I’ve been playing a game with InstaCart where you need $35 ([]) in your cart to qualify for free delivery. I get to $33, add a $7 item, find out it didn’t qualify and I’m still at $33. This goes on for a while until I’m fed up and switch to Target.

    Comment by Shawn — April 13, 2020 @ 12:34 pm
  7. Home Depot does this weekly with their Garden Coupons. You get used to it after awhile

    Comment by David Bookbinder — April 13, 2020 @ 1:24 pm
  8. I recently had that experience with Chewy, an online company that sells pet products and medications. Their ad says you get 30% off your first order. I thought that was a great deal so I tripled my prescription order. When the representative gave me the total, I told her that I was supposed to get the discount that was stated on their website. She said, “No, I can’t give you 30% off. But I can give you a 10% discount. The 30% off is only with autoship orders.” I don’t need the prescription filled automatically because my vet periodically changes the dose that both my dogs take. She dug her heels in. Ultimately, I re-read the online ad and realized that the miscommunication was my fault, not theirs. If I had taken time to read carefully, it says in plain English that the 30% is with auto ship orders only. Most companies will have some kind of discount policy because it’s cheaper and time-saving for them to autoship. I should have read the online ad more carefully, as should we all. The information usually isn’t buried somewhere, though it may be in smaller print. Getting a larger discount if you meet qualifications is pretty common and it’s up to consumers to read and understand the terms of a discount. Caveat emptor!

    Comment by Bluma — April 13, 2020 @ 2:00 pm
  9. Like the others, I don’t see a problem with these examples, it is up to us to read the offer BEFORE we buy.

    Also, who pays $8.00 for a burrito? And Panera is just a ‘jumped up’ Subway (which is awful).

    Comment by Gert — April 13, 2020 @ 5:54 pm
  10. Is this the biggest offense perpetrated on consumers by companies? No. But, it is a trick and the companies that do it know exactly what they’re doing. It is a tactic to which consumers have grown numb unfortunately.

    Comment by hmc — April 13, 2020 @ 6:42 pm
  11. I don’t think it’s unreasonable to have a minimum purchase but I agree that they should be upfront about it. And by upfront about it I mean they should disclose it prior to asking for your email address.

    Comment by Pierre — April 14, 2020 @ 4:20 pm
  12. I agree with hmc, it’s just a minor annoyance, but it’s obvious consumers would be slightly better off with the minimum purchase in the subject line (the only one I know who does it right is HobbyTown).

    Comment by Gordon — April 20, 2020 @ 1:26 pm
  13. I agree with those above that I don’t really see a problem with this. It’s not like the terms of the deal are hidden in some tiny fine print somewhere. It doesn’t take much to find out that there’s a minimum purchase, and most people are very used to this practice so it’s not like it will come as some kind of surprise. Plus I also question whether it’s in good taste to air this particular gripe aimed at the restaurant industry at a time when they are in such bad financial trouble due to the pandemic that many restaurants might not survive. I’d gladly be a little “overcharged” in order to support them, and I’m not going to quibble over something that’s pretty much standard even under the best of circumstances, especially right now.

    Comment by Renée — April 23, 2020 @ 7:25 am

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