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What’s not to like about a coupon for free stuff? Well, how about having it rejected at the checkout and getting the side-eye from a suspicious cashier, who either reluctantly pushes it through “this time”, or hands it back to you and makes you pay full price?

Chobani is the latest company to join in what appears to be something of a “free item” coupon renaissance, distributing millions of coupons for free yogurt over the next few weeks. There are digital coupons, printable coupons, coupon handouts, even coupon codes redeemable on Amazon, plus a free-item coupon in that old standby, the Sunday coupon insert.

Just don’t be surprised if that particular coupon doesn’t work for you.

In most areas, this past Sunday’s SmartSource insert contained a coupon for a free Chobani product worth up to $2.19. Included are yogurt cups, Greek yogurt, drinkable yogurt bottles and Chobani “Flip” yogurt snacks.

But including so many different products on a free-item coupon can cause complications. Especially when Flip yogurt products have a different bar code than other Chobani products. Then it just becomes kind of a mess.

“Chobani used two different manufacturer codes for the free item,” writes Katherine Cary, founder of the QSeer coupon reader app. “However, that type of offer isn’t allowed under the coupon barcode design rules. As a result, your stores’ checkout computers weren’t programmed to handle this coupon, and it is unclear if this coupon will scan at checkout. Results are likely to vary from store to store and from product to product.”

A Chobani spokesperson has not yet offered a comment about the coupon, or what the company suggests customers and retailers should do if the coupon is rejected at checkout.

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You could always skip the insert coupon altogether and try using the coupon in one of its many other forms, since at least some of them appear to be coded correctly. Through March 4, Chobani has a printable version available on its website. Many stores also have free Chobani coupons in their digital coupon galleries. “Brand ambassadors” are handing out free Chobani coupons in public places across the country. And the company is even going high-tech with coupons redeemable on Amazon. You can ask Alexa for a free Chobani product using the Amazon Echo, or just visit the Amazon website and use a coupon code to get a Chobani product for free on your next AmazonFresh order.

It’s all part of a plan to celebrate Chobani’s tenth birthday, by getting Chobani products into the hands of as many as ten million people before the three-week promotion is over. Residents of Louisiana and New Jersey are excluded from the giveaway, unfortunately, because of dairy laws that restrict yogurt coupon offers in those states. Instead, they got insert coupons for 50 cents off – which is better than nothing at all.

“This way of saying thank you is something we’ve done since we first got started, and now we wanted to extend it to everyone in America,” said Chobani CEO and founder Hamdi Ulukaya.

Since the dawn of extreme couponing, and the internet-fueled rise of coupon counterfeiters, free-item coupons have been seen as something of a risky proposition. You don’t see them as much anymore, and several retailers won’t even accept them, since many free-item coupons have been copied, altered, used and abused in ways the manufacturers offering them never intended (just ask High Road Ice Cream, or Community Coffee, or Donatos Pizza).

But free-item coupons appear to be making something of a comeback lately. While some brands once made limited offers that went viral and busted their budgets, several brands lately are going all out, dedicating millions of dollars to giveaways that are intended to go viral.

For months now, the maker of Arla cream cheese has been giving away so many free-item coupons that some stores have even had to alter their coupon policies in order to accept them. The maker of KIND bars is still giving away 3 million coupons for free products. And Hershey is in the midst of an Olympic-themed campaign to give away free Hershey’s Gold bars.

Hershey got around any “free item” problems by simply making its printable coupon $1.50 off, the estimated price of the product. Some retailers sell it for more, which means it won’t quite be free, while other stores sell it for less, which means it could be “better than free” if your store gives overage.

So if you play your cards right, you could be munching on snack bars, candy bars, cream cheese and yogurt without spending a dime. Just as long as you don’t live in Louisiana or New Jersey – and don’t get tripped up by an insert coupon that may not be quite as good as it seems.

18 Comments

  1. Greg, all I did was clearify that the dicussion is about newspaper insert coupon. ‘honest couponer’ distorted it.
    Agreed , nothing to do with qseer. This article mentions it. Thats why I mentioned it and ‘honest couponer’ also mentioned it as being coded as BOGO per Qseer.
    Fake news? Indeed but it was spread by you in your response. You Misinterpreted my response as ‘it is due to bug in Qseer’ . It seems like ‘honest couponer’ has taken lessons of calling facts as fake news from ‘twitterer in chief’. See CNN’s ad. Even if you call apple as Bananas, Apples are apples. It is not the question of ‘being convinced’ but the facts I experienced and many others experienced. People put on facebook anything even on simple coupons so that does not prove anything. I like Chobani products and their efforts and their coupons they put out there year along and timely. They employ refugees and immigrants against the policies of the you know who and they are a company with good heart. Their rivals are jealous in a big way perhaps and are going to put bluffers on their payroll to distort facts.

  2. Greg, this is a newspaper insert coupon.

  3. I used coupon from Sunday insert at Walmart without any issue a couple of days ago and I saw today someone using same coupon at Target with no problem at all. There is no coupon error.

    • Consider yourself lucky. Check out the Chobani Facebook page. Lots of people finding the coupon doesn’t scan. Others are running into the issue that lots of retailers won’t accept internet free coupons.

      • Not really. No luck factor here. It did work without any problem. Some of my friends also were responded when asked ‘what error are you talking about, I got with no issue’. I spoke with a cashier and she says not even once that coupon gave error and she has seen several customers bring it. Their website coupon also works with no problem at all. People complain on facebook even on simple coupons or good products.

        • I had a coupon workshop last week where the topic of the non-working Chobani coupons took up a significant portion of the Q&A section of my class. I had a myriad of stores where it is not working mentioned by the 50+ attendees (Target, Walmart, Kroger, Jewel, Meijer among them.) My local cashier had to manually override mine when I used them at my local store as well.

          I am still getting a lot of email from readers saying this coupon simply does not work, or is scanning as a Buy One Get One Free. One woman said she bought four cups with four coupons – the first 2 coupons scanned, but the rest did not because the register took them as Buy One Get One Free offers instead.

          The Meijer Mperks offer (fully digital) version of this coupon did work automatically for me at Meijer.

        • Couponergeekster — no offense, as you probably aren’t all that close to the coupons world, but brands often issue variations of the same coupon. In the Chobani example, there were at least two versions. There was the one that you got, which was coded correctly as a free coupon. There was also the one that I and many of others got, which was clearly coded as a BOGO based on the Qseer read, which I’ll gladly share if you don’t believe me. When I tried to use the coupon on one, it did not scan and I was treated like a crook by the cashier. But when I went back and used it on two, it did work, but I ended up paying for one of the two. So please spare us with the “move along, people, nothing to see here” rhetoric. No one likes to be embarrassed at check-out. I’ll refer back to my original response on this thread and say it was a totally avoidable mistake and I’m surprised there weren’t more checks and balances in place to catch and fix this.

          • Qseer is obviously having a bug. Definately not a BOGO and never scanned as BOGO anywhere I used. Qseer admits in their blog that they did not program for this. As far as stores, that must be the flaw of POS systems of some stores. The walmart and Target have advanced systems and literally was a smooth validation and scan. I saw what I saw and I experience what I experienced and so did the people I spoke with. My eyes and experience can not fool me. So dont doubt me. I am very familiar with coupons. No offence but it seems to be mindboggling that you would doubt that.
            If the Qseer blog says that it is not recommended to do a free coupon on multiple products but Chobani had a good intention to do it anyway, no checks and balances can avoid situations on scanners at some retailers. In my opinion, they should have done a simple coupon such as $ off or 2 $ off. Or a simple coupon on only one type of product. But as Qseer blog says, that would be more expensive as it would involve multiple coupons on each products. Out of curiosity, I decided to put my geeky hat on, decoded the bar code digit by digit (since I am a geek. Cant help it) with the specs from the net and it is right. There can be alternative way to code this as it is in their on line version but both are right per specs which I saw.

          • Interesting you allege Walmart has an advanced system. Apparently, it’s either not that advanced or it doesn’t work or something else happened (life fraud, perhaps?). Walmart’s internet coupon policy is clearly defined as follows:

            We do not accept the following coupons:

            Print-at-home Internet coupons that require no purchase

            https://corporate.walmart.com/policies

          • Likewise, Target’s clear policy is as set forth here:

            https://couponsinthenews.com/2018/02/13/coupon-error-tarnishes-major-yogurt-giveaway/#comment-76531

            Internet (Print-at-Home) Coupons

            We do not accept internet coupons for free items with no purchase requirements.

          • Geekster is clearly not understanding the reality of the situation. This has nothing to do with Qseer. People are having trouble with the Sunday paper coupon at retailers across the country. Qseer doesn’t factor into what happens at check-out. Bottom-line is that there was a coding error in the Sunday paper coupon that is preventing people from executing a very simple transaction – namely, here’s my unit of Chobani yogurt and here’s my coupon to get it for free. As illustrated in numerous blogs, social media, and even the Chobani Facebook page, that simple transaction has not been working. So how at all is that related to a QSeer bug!? This brings a whole new meaning to the term Fake News!!!

  4. i hate new jersey!!!! too many consumer laws like blue laws and crap like that!!

  5. I live in PA and got the insert coupon for $0.50 off. In fine print it says “Offer valid only in LA and NJ from February 12, 2018 – March 4, 2018.” I wonder if it will work in PA.

  6. Coupon did not work at Jewel-Osco without cashier overriding it.

  7. I’m really surprised that any manufacturer would offer a print-at-home coupon for a free product. Surely the manufacturers know that most chain stores will not accept them. The Kind Bars coupon is a recent example. A much better alternative is to put these on the store electronic coupon systems, or put them on receipt scan apps like ibotta.

  8. Hard to believe something so simple got so screwed up. Is there no quality control in place? This is going to disappoint lots of shoppers across the country and create lots of awkward moments for cashiers when these coupons don’t scan against just one Chobani item.

  9. The coupon DOES NOT WORK at Harris Teeter and the store director would not override the POS beeps.

    • Sorry to hear that Greg. But according to Geekster, it’s due to a Qseer bug! Maybe tell that to the cashier to try and get an override. And if that doesn’t work, Geekster is so convinced he/she is right that he/she might reimburse you for the cost of the product!

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