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Walmart Pampers deal

“Paying it forward at Walmart”… “Random act of kindness goes viral”… “Mother ‘sees God’ while buying diapers at Walmart”. Internet headlines like that practically compel you to click on the story, and share it with friends. And over the past week, many have.

Not to go all Debbie Downer on you and squash the warm fuzzies, but behind this heartwarming tale repeated by media outlets across the country, is something slightly more sinister.

The story began last weekend, when young mother Katie Kanefke of Sioux Falls, South Dakota went to Walmart, attempting to buy four boxes of Pampers diapers for her four-month-old son. 73-year-old Carol Flynn, who was behind her in line, watched as Kanefke set three of the boxes aside, after the cashier told her what the price would be.

Flynn leapt into action, putting the three additional boxes back on the belt and paying for them herself. Another shopper, intrigued by what he was witnessing, captured the scene on his cell phone and shared it on Facebook (watch it below):

The video went viral, and the rest is history.

“A stranger who saw a mom in need putting aside diapers that Walmart refused to price match rushed forward to pay for them herself,” the Associated Press reported breathlessly. “Carol Flynn’s choice to help a young mother in need this week has ended up touching the hearts of thousands around the globe,” the Huffington Post gushed.

But those stories, and others like it, missed one very important detail – one that was known to couponers, avid price-matchers and Walmart workers across the country last week.

In its weekly circular that began last Sunday, Dollar General had advertised a sale on Pampers – $9.50 for “all counts and sizes.” Dollar General’s ad referred to the smaller soft packs of Pampers that it carries. So $9.50 for “all counts and sizes” represented just a small discount off the packs’ regular price.

Walmart, however, carries giant 148-count boxes of Pampers that sell for about $35. And Walmart offers to match the prices of products advertised in its competitors’ weekly circulars. So some shoppers immediately saw the potential for a gold mine in cheap diapers – $9.50 for “all counts and sizes” at Dollar General was just an okay deal, but at Walmart, it meant scoring huge 148-count boxes for 70% off. “All counts and sizes” meant exactly that, they reasoned.

The problem is, Walmart only ad matches “competitors’ ads that feature a specific item for a specified price.” According to most Walmarts, “all counts and sizes” is not a “specific item”, but an entire category of products. According to loophole-seeking shoppers, though, “all counts and sizes” is as specific as can be.

By the time most Walmart stores caught on to what was happening, many shoppers had already made off with boxes and boxes of $35 Pampers for $9.50 each. So some Walmarts began posting signs announcing that they would not ad match the Pampers deal (while pointing out that their “everyday low price” on the smaller bags that Dollar General carries, was already lower, at $8.97). Other stores compromised and offered to ad match just one box and not multiples.

So what exactly was Kanefke attempting to buy? You guessed it – four giant 148-count boxes of Pampers, and nothing else. What Flynn witnessed, was the cashier telling Kanefke that she could only ad match one box, and the rest would be charged at regular price. So Kanefke set the other three aside.

And poor unsuspecting Flynn jumped in and paid more than $100 for those regular-price boxes that Kanefke wouldn’t have picked up at all, if she hadn’t hoped to take advantage of an ill-advised ad match deal.

Kanefke told her local newspaper that a “friend” had alerted her to the ad match deal. Kanefke couldn’t be reached for comment, so it’s not clear whether she had any idea there was anything sketchy about the deal, until she was told she couldn’t do it.

Her gratefulness does appear genuine – “I couldn’t believe it. I was shocked. I kept saying thank you and God bless you,” Kanefke told the Sioux Falls Argus Leader. And Flynn’s motives were certainly pure – “I just think we should do things like that. That’s kind of my thinking,” she told the paper. But the murky, shady ad match deal at the heart of the story does serve to tarnish an otherwise inspiring tale.

So, as with many things that end up being a little too good to be entirely true, the story that the national media so desperately wanted to be about a generous soul coming to the aid of a cash-strapped young stay-at-home mom who couldn’t afford diapers for her young child, is not quite as it seems.

Just do one well-meaning woman a favor – and don’t tell Carol Flynn. After coughing up more than a hundred bucks for a few mega-boxes of diapers that Kanefke wouldn’t even have in her shopping cart were it not for a questionable ad match deal – she’s already been through enough.

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4 Comments

  1. Pingback: Walmart Eliminates Ad Matching in 500 Stores. – Penny Pinching Coupon Addicts

  2. Being that most couponers I know are very generous, I would hope that the girl donated some of the diapers after this. So, hopefully, it was paid forward.

  3. Thanks for bringing out more from this story. I saw it and the red flag went up after the customer was price matching the diapers, leading me to think that she was a couponer and knew a deal. She knew what she was trying to do.

    Good to know that there are great people willing to help. I didn’t know that the diapers cost close to $100 for the other 3 boxes. If you are really in need of diapers you don’t buy the most expensive, so the story didn’t add up, even if she really needed them. Thanks for the update.

  4. I suspected there was more to this story. (There usually is.) Thanks for clearing it up!

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