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The days of cutting out those little Box Tops for Education coupons from cereal boxes and other packaged grocery products are coming to an end. The General Mills-run program, which allows you to help earn money for your local school, is going digital-only.

Participating products have begun to phase out the traditional printed Box Tops from their packaging, in favor of a Box Tops receipt-scanning app, similar to Ibotta or Checkout 51. By the end of the summer, the majority of participating products will replace their Box Tops coupons with a new logo reading “No more clipping, scan your receipt,” with all packaging expected to have made the change by early next year.

“We’re making this change for many reasons, but primarily to modernize the program for the next generation of participants,” General Mills explains.

It’s a transition that’s been several years in the making. An early version of the Box Tops app was introduced three years ago. Users could upload their receipts to receive bonus Box Tops for their schools, but the program still primarily relied on paper Box Tops, each of which is worth 10 cents to the school that receives it and turns it in.

Now, all Box Tops will be uploaded digitally. Similar to how Kellogg’s Family Rewards transitioned a few years ago from printing codes on boxes to giving you credit for uploading a receipt, Box Tops will be applied to your online account any time you use the app to upload a receipt with participating products. No need to scan a bar code on the package or identify the products you purchased – the app will pick out the participating products from your receipt and give you credit automatically.

If you shop online, electronic receipts from retailers and vendors including Instacart, Shipt, Target and Walmart are accepted – you just have to email a copy of your receipt to Box Tops. Once you select a school that will receive the funds you collect, the app will show real-time updates on how much money your school has earned and how much you have earned for the school. Twice a year, the school will receive a check to use however it needs.

“When the program began over 22 years ago, sending in clips was really the only way to run the program,” General Mills explains. “Over the years, technology has advanced at incredible rates, opening all kinds of new opportunities.”

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Some early adopters are pleased with the changes, with reviewers calling the app “easy to use” and a “fun way to earn more for my child’s school.” One user even pointed out that the app lets you choose any school, regardless of whether you have any children there or have any connection with it at all, which will allow “those who live in more affluent areas to support schools in underfunded school districts.”

But many more participants aren’t happy about the shift to digital. “I would rather clip a coupon than scan a 3-foot-long receipt… Grandma sure won’t do this,” one reviewer wrote. “The only thing this scan option will do is stop me from participating in the Box Top program. Don’t try to fix what isn’t broke,” another commented. “Schools are going to lose a lot of money because people won’t go through the bother of all this work. And kids are missing out on clipping and being involved,” a third reviewer wrote.

Others have raised privacy concerns. “I am certainly not going to be sending you my entire grocery receipt. You have no right nor need to know what I am purchasing,” another reviewer commented.

The Box Tops program’s terms of use don’t say whether your receipt data will be shared with any third parties, as with other receipt-scanning apps that sell your anonymized data to marketers so they can analyze your purchases. A General Mills spokesperson did not respond to a request for clarification about whether your receipt data is used for any purposes other than identifying qualifying items you’ve purchased. So to those who are concerned about their privacy – that’s not necessarily reassuring.

While thousands of products from hundreds of brands will be making the move to digital, a handful won’t and will be retiring from the program instead. Finish, Hefty, Kleenex, Reynolds, Scott and Ziploc won’t be participating in the digital program. So if you buy those products in order to earn Box Tops, clip the existing paper offers while you still can, because once the printed Box Tops are gone from those brands’ packages, you won’t earn Box Tops from them anymore.

General Mills says there are practical reasons for making the change to digital-only. It will mean schools won’t have to appoint coordinators anymore who are responsible for collecting, sorting and mailing Box Tops. And “by eliminating the postage, transportation and shipping of clips, we reduce costs for schools, as well as help reduce our carbon footprint,” the company explains.

But with so many cash-back apps, rewards programs and rebate submissions requiring you to upload your receipt these days, there’s a risk that users could be suffering from receipt-scanning fatigue. Some users who’ve grown weary of uploading receipts to multiple apps have simply settled on a favorite or two. And if the Box Tops app doesn’t become one of those favorites, schools could suffer.

For now, paper Box Tops will still be accepted, until they expire. After that, the printed Box Tops will become a thing of the past. Since 1996, the Box Tops program has raised more than $913 million for schools. Now, organizers hope, they can raise millions more for a new – digital-first – generation.

17 Comments

  1. At this point, I do not intend to scan. When I cut, saved box tops, and turned them in to the school I was happy to know that specific individuals were given an opportunity to be part of helping the school by cutting, packing, etc. They may have done this task because it fit in their skill set. While I want to support the children and schools, I’m not interested in scanning. Enough of my personal information is online and accessible to big companies, and now there is no benefit to the unknown “helper” who enjoyed having a hands-on role in the process.

  2. My own personal theory goes like this:

    The Box Tops program was originally created as General Mills answer for generics: yes, it costs a little more, but think of the little children (pretty good marketing, actually, when you think about it).

    But now… enter our new age, with a new generation of young executives, who get their bonuses by cutting costs, and Box Tops is this big fat financial liability for the company. In fact, I’m sure some in the company probably suggested cancelling it outright, but no one would really want that kind of bad press. So…

    They did this, instead: (basically)… monetize the program. The turned it from a loss leader, to an actual money maker. I promise, the specific details of what is on your grocery receipts is worth a LOT more than 10 cents per receipt to them, not to mention what their “affiliates” might be willing to pay.

    Not only is our family not participating in the Box Tops program anymore, but we are specifically avoiding ALL General Mills products at the store as a result of this move.

  3. Well, that is just typical. Phase out the one way the people that really need them have to get box tops. You don’t have a smart phone and/or your own computer you are just out of luck. We’d prefer to save money and harvest as much personal information as possible using an “app”. Congratulations on showing your true corporate colors. Heartless is what it is. Hope you make your buck. I’ve been supporting and clipping for years—no more…

  4. Just finished reading about data mining as a byproduct of going with the scanning for coupons for education. The person above I believe was correct. GM will get information that they will use in marketing.
    I my former life I worked for the phone company’s directory department and sold the “new” connections (phone numbers, address, etc) to telemarketers. So you need to follow the money to see why things change.

  5. Just called General Mills / Cheerios about coupons for education. Was told the new system in place is for the next generation and had gone electronic. Great news for some people and bad for others.
    Called the option for coupons for education and found out that I need to call a school representative and need to call G M’s with information and register the school. I then need a smart phone to scan something to some number for our school to get credit.
    Who ever had this idea needs to get real. This doesn’t work for m a many people. It is easier to look for a breakfast cereal that may still have coupons for education.
    If not I see no reason to keep buying Cheerios as being a reason to help schools.
    I know this will not help in changing your product box but perhaps you will over time see a change in the bottom line (down) as a result.

  6. Once upon a time says:

    I agree with everyone on here. There are many good points made.
    Whatever happen to the days where these types of programs were designed to get the kids involved for whatever related skills that could be gained?
    This is actually more of an inconvenience and intrusion for everyone. And when I saw the mention of a carbon footprint, I actually laughed out loud.
    The privacy concerns are also valid, as any personal information about you is sold for profit and used without permission.
    Consider, also:
    Many people dont want or cant get apps. Many people toss out their receipts or need them for other things.
    Many people collect box tops from friends, family coworkers, recycling, and even things purchased by their employers.

    Really, if you calculate all the box tops you send to a school, it is really minimal, often times it is less than $10-$20, if even that high.

    How about just dont worry about buying certain brands and instead simply write a check to donate to your favorite school or donate supplies?

    Also I am in my 30’s, so it is not an age thing. (just in case anyone tries to go there)

  7. I too am not pleased with the scanning of receipts for box tops. Many people I know that have been sending in will no longer be participating. Our school has senior high rises that participate and they will no longer be doing. For me personally I have been volunteering for 38 years. BT for education was something I could do at home and had been doing since its inception so I am really disappointed. And it was a way for kids to learn to count. So this is just another way for kids to not learn to use their thinking ability

  8. Not everyone has a cell phone/desires to have a cell phone.

  9. Our church saves the Box Tops for a school in Kentucky for part of our missions, and since we are an older congregation, scanning the receipts will be very difficult. It has always been so easy for members to clip the box top and turn them in to be sent to the school. This change certainly will hurt many schools.

  10. I know a lot of people including myself that phone apps take up too much memory.
    Unfortunately, I will not be scanning receipts to an app for that reason.
    Time will tell if it’s a success or a failure.

  11. DON’T BE FOOLED. General Mills wanted a way to turn a small expense into a huge profit.

    In the old program, the customer supported the company with a purchase and, in turn, the company supported the school with a dime.

    In the new program the company gives a dime to the school and, in turn, takes the customers personal information from their account and receipts to be sold or otherwise exploited.

    The responsible people need to be fired, not for ending the program but for trying to pull a fast one on their customers.

  12. Yep, So sounds like this will be phasing out anyways down the road. Much prefer the cutting. Won’t be using the app. Thanks And am a grandma too .

  13. Maxine Gracy says:

    I do most of my shopping online with Walmart and don’t have a reason to print my receipt let alone scan it and e-mail it to General Mills. Even a small grocery pickup order is on two pages. I have saved these Box top coupons for years for my grandkids and now my great grandkids schools. I would however take a picture of the box top and use an app to send it IF the company is truly trying to go digital. Just an excuse to phase out this program or at least reduce the cost to the company. Shame on you General Mills.

  14. Ms very upset says:

    There is “No Way” I as a grand mom am going to use this digital program.
    #1. They will not see my receipts of purchases.
    #2. I will not do this program anymore.
    #3. After this has worked for so many years and the schools were helped in great ways, this program is just going to be taking money away from schools.
    They should be ashamed of themselves. They know it’s gonna support less money to the schools. That’s why they’re doing it. Don’t let them kid you. They know what they’re doing. ????

    • Big Brother gets bigger. Sigh…

      I’m saddened by this fiasco and surprised that Inhad to dig so deep in the internet search results to find anything contrary to this program “Going Digital! (Yay!….?)” being the greatest, most exciting news ever! ????

      I will, when/if I have the time, white out every non-boxtop-related item before I scan any receipt. They will get no extra profiling data from me. Thanks Big Brother, Monsanto, et. al; y’all know who you are, and it’s really too bad that the masses who continue to work this program for their schools will blank-stare smile and nod to your will, as clones on a conveyor belt—just as you wish them to do, in the name of education, because we’re suckers and succumb to “what ever’” for our kids’ benefit!

      Ed, who commented earlier, hit the nail on the head. This is so obviously a data mining and profiling ploy that the blatant intrusion is almost laughable. Once a generous and charitable program—this move to digital, in the manner required to retrieve “earnings”, is a shameful, selfish act, and yet it’s all part of the greater Fleecing (and dumbing down) of America.

    • Big Brother gets bigger. Sigh…

      I’m saddened by this fiasco and surprised that I had to dig so deep in the internet search results to find anything contrary to this program “Going Digital! (Yay!….?)” being the greatest, most exciting news ever! ????

      I will, when/if I have the time, white out every non-boxtop-related item before I scan any receipt. They will get no extra profiling data from me. Thanks Big Brother, Monsanto, et. al; y’all know who you are, and it’s really too bad that the masses who continue to work this program for their schools will blank-stare smile and nod to your will, as clones on a conveyor belt—just as you wish them to do, in the name of education, because we’re suckers and succumb to “what ever’” for our kids’ benefit!

      Ed, who commented earlier, hit the nail on the head. This is so obviously a data mining and profiling ploy that the blatant intrusion is almost laughable. Once a generous and charitable program—this move to digital, in the manner required to retrieve “earnings”, is a shameful, selfish act, and yet it’s all part of the greater Fleecing (and dumbing down) of America.

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