Food Lion freebies

It’s always a nice surprise when a free-item offer appears in your digital coupon account. Getting dozens of coupons for free items all at once, however, is enough to make you drop everything, run to the store and fill your shopping cart without spending a dime.

That’s what Food Lion shoppers were thinking yesterday morning, as they logged into their accounts and found that Food Lion was practically giving away the store. Free Eggo waffles! Free Dawn dish soap! Free Clorox bleach! Apple juice, bananas, canned fruit, shredded cheese – free, free, free and free.

“I got 29 freebies,” WRAL-TV’s Smart Shopper Faye Prosser told readers on the Raleigh, North Carolina station’s website. “To see if you have them, go to the Food Lion digital coupons on their website and click on My Coupons. You will see the free product coupons already loaded to your card.”

“It was like Christmas morning to see them pop up this morning,” one eager shopper wrote on Food Lion’s Facebook page.

So was Food Lion just feeling especially generous? Several shoppers who received the coupons weren’t about to look a gift horse in the mouth and ask questions – they just made a beeline to the store. Unfortunately, before reaching the checkout, they discovered that the freebies vanished just as mysteriously as they appeared.

Turns out it was just a big boo-boo. Oops.

“Today’s error was a technical glitch in our system,” Food Lion spokesperson Courtney James told Coupons in the News. “From time to time, we do target customers for free items, but this was not the situation intended for today.” Fans on Facebook were told that “there was an error on the backend that caused these offers to automatically appear. Our team was able to effectively take them down as soon as the issue was noticed. Our apologies for the confusion.”

“My readers went from total excitement to complete disappointment,” Prosser told Coupons in the News. “As soon as I saw the 29 free product digital coupons on my Food Lion digital coupons account, I was skeptical. That is not something Food Lion does. They have issued single free product digital coupons when you sign up fast enough for their Facebook freebies but they have never issued mass quantities of free product digital coupons. So when they pulled them off of our accounts, I was not at all surprised.”

Other shoppers weren’t quite as understanding. “When you post items for free… it should be honored, glitch or not,” one frustrated fan wrote on Food Lion’s Facebook page. “It’s not cool that you put 29 free coupons on my account and as I was heading to the store they disappeared. Not sure if it was a glitch but you definitely got my hopes up for nothing,” another added. “This coupon fiasco is the very reason that, although there are 5 Food Lions within 5 miles of me, I drive 20 to shop at Harris Teeter. If Harris Teeter had made this mistake they would honor it,” a third commenter wrote.

James wouldn’t say precisely how the error occurred, whether the freebies were meant to be distributed one by one to select shoppers, or were never supposed to be free at all. If anything, the situation may give digital coupon proponents a bit of pause – if digital offers are meant to be foolproof and fraud-proof, as compared to more easily manipulated paper coupons – well, the Food Lion glitch shows that digital doesn’t always work out exactly as intended.

“Mistakes happen and this was clearly a mistake,” Prosser said. “I am sure that whoever is responsible for the incorrect coupon distribution feels horrible and I don’t think there is any reason to get worked up with Food Lion.”

In the meantime, an unrelated Food Lion coupon development could help make it up to disappointed shoppers. Food Lion will begin accepting competitor’s coupons in many of its stores beginning next week. “In select markets, including the greater Wilmington, Greenville, Raleigh and Charlotte, North Carolina areas, we will test the acceptance of competitor coupons in conjunction with our current coupon policy,” James confirmed. With Kroger-owned Harris Teeter nearby, and Publix and Wegmans beginning to encroach on Food Lion’s North Carolina home base, grocery competition in the area is heating up. Loosening up the coupon policy to finally accept competitor’s coupons could help make Food Lion a more attractive option.

Just as long as the competitor’s coupons are on paper. After what happened yesterday, Food Lion doesn’t need any more challenges involving digital coupons.

Image sources: WRAL Smart Shopper / Food Lion

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