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Who doesn’t love coupons that give you free items, or even overage?

Sometimes, the companies that issue them sure don’t.

Two companies that have been paying couponers to take their products off the shelves are now regretting it in a big way – and a third may yet come to the same conclusion.

The first case involves a recently-withdrawn coupon for Xyzal allergy medicine. The high-value offer included in September 24th editions of the RedPlum coupon insert gave users $8 off an 80-count package. That’s a large package of a pricey product, which sells for upwards of $25.99. So $8 off was a nice discount, though not enormous.

At least until the glitchers got a hold of it.

Coupon “glitchers” specialize in taking advantage of weaknesses in some bar codes, to use high-value coupons on lower-priced products for which they’re not intended. And word spread among glitchers that the $8 Xyzal coupon worked on other products made by manufacturer Chattem.

“The $8.00 Xyzal coupon is attaching to the $.97 gold bond lotion @ Walmart,” one Facebook “glitch group” member announced.

So Chattem wasn’t necessarily selling many 80-count packages of Xyzal. But it was sure selling plenty of 97-cent Gold Bond lotions – and paying glitchers $7.03 in overage for each one they bought.

Chattem officially invalidated the coupon last week, citing “widespread fraudulent activity”. “Individuals intentionally attempting to use a coupon on a product other than as specified in the terms and conditions printed on the coupon may be subject to criminal prosecution and/or civil action,” read a notice issued on Chattem’s behalf by the Coupon Information Corporation. “Individuals advocating these illegal actions on social media or other means may also be subject to criminal prosecution and/or civil action.”

Other lower-value coupons offering $6 and $4 off Xyzal products are still in circulation, still valid, and still subject to abuse by glitchers. A Chattem spokesperson said the company was “looking into” the issue, without elaborating – though you can be sure they will be “looking into” how to fix their bar codes before issuing any more high-value coupons.

Meanwhile, another company has been giving away freebies – but not because of a coupon coding error. High Road Craft Ice Cream chose to give away its premium products on purpose, telling fans “you deserve a FREE pint on us!” and issuing a free-item coupon earlier this month worth up to $6.99.

The small company invited shoppers in and around its Atlanta home base to redeem the coupon “at your local Publix”.

But the coupon didn’t say “ONLY at Publix” – and High Road Ice Cream is sold in stores across the country. And the company didn’t limit how many coupons an individual could print – because it issued the coupon in the form of a PDF file.

And you probably know how that story usually ends.

Couponers across the country began printing, saving and sharing copies of the coupon – and loading up on as many free ice cream pints as they could carry.

“I picked up four tonight,” one of the more restrained coupon users wrote on a couponing message board. “Cashier wasn’t thrilled with giving me all of them for free. I told him that I could have printed 20, but didn’t want to be greedy, so he gave them to me. I’ll be back for more next week!”

High Road then began trying to contain the damage. “We had a digital coupon (directed to very specific folks) get scanned and uploaded to some coupon aggregator websites,” High Road’s Chief Marketing Officer Nicki Schroeder told Coupons in the News. As a result, “we’re halting the online coupon.”

While the coupon is still valid, it’s no longer available to print from High Road. But PDF copies of the coupon are still circulating, and the coupon doesn’t expire until the end of October. There’s a chance malicious couponers could even modify the printed expiration date to ensure they can continue using the coupons well into next year.

So far, High Road has not withdrawn the coupons. In fact, in an unfortunate promotional confluence, High Road ice cream is buy-one-get-one-free in Publix’s upcoming weekly ad. That means, in stores that charge full price for the first item and give you the second for free, now all you need is one High Road coupon to get two for free.

“We’re honoring them (not all Publix stores are though),” Schroeder said of the coupons. “When we do another free offer it will be through Publix.com directly.”

When they do another free offer? Well, that’s thinking positively. After they’re done paying for all the freebies that are now filling shoppers’ freezers, the company will be lucky to still be solvent.

Finally, there’s the story of Arla. The Danish dairy company introduced its cream cheese products to the U.S. last year, and apparently decided to make a splash this year by distributing free-item coupons.

Lots of them.

It started with a load-to-card digital coupon for free cream cheese that was first offered last month, worth up to $2.99. Then there was a print-at-home free-item coupon on RedPlum.com, a 100% rebate offer on SavingStar, and a store coupon at some retailers (which can stack with a manufacturer’s coupon) offering $1.50 off. By combining the manufacturer’s coupon, store coupon and rebate offer, you could get up to $4.49 in overage along with your free cream cheese.

And if all of that wasn’t enough, now there are the blinkies. “Try it free today,” the company invites visitors to its website. “Coupon available in the dairy aisle at the stores below,” including Kroger, Albertsons, Safeway, ShopRite, Jewel-Osco, Winn-Dixie and more.

And sure enough, those stores have blinkie machines in their dairy aisles, filled with coupons offering free packages of Arla cream cheese. Just grab a cream cheese, grab a coupon, and take it home for nothing.

When was the last time you saw a blinkie coupon offering a completely free product? When was the last time you saw a blinkie machine offering a completely free product that had any coupons left in it??

“Go ahead. Take some cream cheese. Take ten. Take them all, we don’t care!” the blinkie machines seem to be saying. There’s nothing to stop greedy shoppers from emptying out the coupon machines, stocking their fridge with free cream cheese, or perhaps selling the stash of coupons online.

Perhaps the only thing stopping them from doing so, is the law of supply and demand. There are so darned many of the free cream cheese coupons out there, in so many forms – who would bother actually paying for any?

If there is a method to Arla’s madness – flooding the zone with freebies so every person in America gets to try its product, no matter the cost – the company isn’t saying. Arla representatives have not responded to a request for comment on this particular promotional strategy.

Time will tell whether the company lives to regret its coupon offer, the way Chattem and High Road now feel about theirs. As for avaricious shoppers who’ve taken advantage of these largely ill-advised coupons to hoard lifetime supplies of cream cheese, ice cream and Gold Bond lotion, no matter the cost to the companies that gave them away – they most likely don’t regret a thing.

One Comment

  1. Haters gon hate. Mad because you didn’t get free cream cheese? Damn, why are you always hating?

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