Ever wonder why there’s so much fine print on your coupons, spelling out all the terms and conditions of how the offer can and can’t be used? It could be because leaving out just one crucial piece of information could change a coupon’s entire meaning, and make a potentially generous offer look like an insult, or some kind of joke.

Just ask bewildered shoppers in the United Kingdom, who have found themselves scratching their heads at one grocery chain’s seemingly less-than-enticing offer. “Save 6p when you spend £30 or more in store,” the Sainsbury’s coupon reads, which works out to be the equivalent of about 8 cents when you spend $40.

Why, that’s a 0.02 percent savings! Better drop everything and head to the store to take advantage of a deal like this!

“Sainsbury’s, this is a joke right?” one coupon recipient asked on Twitter. “This is really going to get me fighting to get through the doors,” another wrote. “Are you mad?”

The coupon instructed recipients to look on the back for the “full terms and conditions.” But it turns out there were some rather important terms and conditions missing from the coupon’s front.

“The voucher should say ‘Save 6p per litre of fuel when you spend £30 or more in store’,” a store spokesperson offered in response to confused shoppers. “This must be a printing error, I’m sorry.”

A printing error, indeed. That might be the kind of thing you’d want to spell out up front, instead of burying it in the fine print on the back.


Unfortunately, the “printing error” was replicated many times over, in packets of coupons that were recently mailed to members of Sainsbury’s loyalty program. Some shoppers received the “6p off £30” coupon, while others got an even less generous “6p off £50” version.

As bad as a coupon for the equivalent of 8 cents off your order might seem, it’s far from the worst, least valuable coupon ever issued. A couple of years ago, a shopper in Australia who had a problem with her grocery order was sent a coupon as an apology, worth “$0.00 off a $30 purchase.”

“I’m still trying to work out how I’m going to spend this!!!” the woman responded. The store, Woolworths, blamed a “technical issue” for the worthless coupon, and issued a replacement.

And unlike Sainsbury’s and Woolworths’ foul-ups, one semi-legendary coupon that was not quite worthless but close to it, wasn’t even a mistake. A New York coffee shop issued an online coupon good for up to ten “free napkins when you buy coffee.” Those who saw the coupon assumed it was some kind of joke, but the coffee shop insisted it was real. Perhaps concerned about wasteful patrons taking handfuls of napkins they didn’t really need, Otha’s cafe imposed a “limit on napkins,” and the coupon allowed customers to get a little extra.

How did that offer go over? Well, don’t ask Otha’s, because they’ve since closed down for good.

At least Sainbury’s seemingly stingy offer was an honest mistake. And that’s good news to shoppers who were already pondering how best to use it. “With offers like these I’ll soon be able to afford an extra half a carrot,” one coupon recipient wrote. “Aldi, you’ll need to up your game now that Sainsbury’s have started sending out coupons with massive discounts like this,” another shopper advised.

You have to do a double conversion to figure out how good a deal 6 pence off a liter of gas is. As it turns out, it works out to be roughly 30 cents off per gallon – which is actually quite a decent discount.

So you can’t judge a book by its cover, or a coupon by its incomplete verbiage. And if you find yourself in Britain and visit an in-store Sainsbury’s Cafe, you can even take all the free napkins you’d like – no coupon required.

Image source: Twitter/@howling_madmurd

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