When a Coupon isn’t a Coupon at all

(I owe you a couple of recipes from my Zumba story. But I just had to write about this today instead.)

Picture it:

Checking out at the grocery store, cranky toddler in your cart, 10 people behind you, party plans for tonight brewing.

You’ve chosen your red wine based partly on a $3 coupon hanging from the bottle neck.

The cashier unhooks the coupon, peers at it, shifts his eyes up and apologizes, “Sorry ma’am. This one doesn’t scan. It’s a mail-in rebate.”

WHAT???? A mail-in rebate??? For three dollars?? Are you on crack?

I was sooooo angry. I wanted to put those bottles back and choose something else. But I had cranky J with me, there were people waiting behind me and I barely had time to pull together the party as it was.

I needed wine so I paid even though I was mad as hell and didn’t want to give the winery anything.

Note that there is micro-print on the front of the coupon: “Mail in Rebate. See back for details.” But I (of course!) hadn’t noticed it because it was way smaller than the “Save $3.00 on any Red Truck Wine” printed above it.

(The details on the back are ridiculous: 8-10 weeks to cut a check for three bucks???)

Am I wrong to feel wronged?

Have they intentionally made this a mail-in rebate knowing we won’t realize it until we get to the till and then we’ll suck it up and hand over the cash.

They must know that many customers will forget to send it in. Or, that they’ll throw out the cash register receipt and won’t be able to make a claim (= what I did).

In the long run, does this hurt the company because people like me will NEVER BUY FROM THEM AGAIN? Or do most people shrug it off and forget?

I guess I’ll be reading wine “coupons” more carefully from now on because I do not want to be that angry lady at the front of the check out line ever again.

Thanks for reading my rant,



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  1. #1 by Kristina on January 11, 2011 - 5:18 pm

    Those rebates make me crazy. Also when the cashier acts put out when you insist on paying the price marked on the shelf, not the price scanned (I also make my decisions based on the shelf price, not always brand). It’s very near false advertising.

    Here in Utah, wine is only sold in liquor stores, and heaven forbid there be a coupon, or a sale, or a mail-in rebate on wine. In fact, I probably shouldn’t even be discussing the subject because I might encourage the drinking of such!

    • #2 by cookthestory on January 11, 2011 - 7:31 pm

      Ah! Utah is like Canada (where I’m from). Only liquor stores. Sales are restricted. I think there’s a minimum price that bars can charge per drink. Florida seems much more liberal in terms of alcohol (if not in terms of many other things!).

      You’re right! The incorrect price on the shelf and the mail-in rebate ARE very much like false-advertising (well, except in the mail in rebate case there is explicit micro-print but it feels like you’ve been duped all the same).

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