Why I Hate Free Product Coupons

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So this is a subject that I have thought about for a while — and decided this would be a great example of why I hate free product coupons — before you comment that ” I am crazy” etc — check out the short video below where I explain where I am coming from πŸ™‚ Enjoy!! I would love to hear your thoughts on what I discuss in the video below! Thanks!

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  • Suzi

    In general i use coupons for products that I already like and want. So if a “fake” coupon is denied chances are I will purchase the product regardless. When I received my vans coupon I didn’t scrutinize it as much as you did. Maybe I’m just not a hard core coupner? I’ve never had any experience with a fake coupon, the coupons I have trouble with are the ones that have complicated rules/exclusions (fred meyer comes to mind)

  • jen

    Yes , I feel your pain… It is a pain at times and seems to be alot of the “smaller” natural brands… I always take the letter and envie with me and to date have used them at all my local stores ( both BIG box , National chains and Local ) NO issues …. Now the cardboard ones always have a issue outside of Walmart …

  • Kelly Crislip

    I would only be concerned about free product coupons, if I always got ones that seemed fake. The one you showed, yes seemed very fake and I would be concerned enough to point it out to the manager of where I was getting the free product. Otherwise……enjoy!!!!! I know I do!

  • carol

    I know sometimes the cashiers have no idea what to do with coupons. I used a coupon for $2 of tostitos chips or dip (I only bought the chips) and the cashier said no you have to buy the dip too. I had to read it to her where it said tositios chips or dip. She said she always told people they had to buy the dip too. What a pain.

  • Kristie D.

    I got a really high value coupon for Lamactin (sp?) lotion for completing a survey on their website, The cashier thought it was fake. Sigh.

  • Christine

    It happens very rarely, but I do have some coupons (e.g. Luigi’s Italian Ice) that have NO expiration date, and slightly less rare are coupons that expire beyond 6 months. I know how you feel though. I don’t like the thought of getting called out for something I KNOW is legit.

    Same thing with the sensor tags – I know I bought a product, but if the customer service rep/cashier doesn’t deactivate a sensor or if no one saw it TO deactivate, I get embarrassed as all get out when it goes off as I leave the store.

  • candy

    I just used that coupon the other day and had no problems. If you go to a store that knows you, you should have no problem. My local Publix knows I never use fake or the wrong coupons for a product.

  • Nikki

    I understand where you’re coming from because I get that same phobia when I received free product coupons from companies. But some of your red flags are some of the things I’ve seen on legitimate coupons that I received directly from the company for example the long expiration dates. Most of the coupons I’ve gotten have had long expiration dates. I received a Chung’s coupon that expires at the end of this year and I got that last year. The Kellogg coupon I received a few weeks ago expired next April. I say if you know its legit, don’t fret. The cashiers can smell fear and will doubt the coupon. πŸ™‚ Good Luck!

  • Shannon Hinkle

    Hi Sarah
    I’ve never had a problem with free product coupons. I used the Herbal Essence one and several Suave coupons too. Also a John Frieda for the free box of their new foam color. Never once have I had a cashier react suspiciously. They do check the coupon but then they scan it or put the numbers in and no problem. I don’t think you’re crazy for being cautious about them. Perhaps writing to the manufacturer and explaining that their coupon, although appreciated, appears to be a fake one based on the reasons you gave and ask them to think ahead before they release another one.

  • Susan

    I agree with how you feel. I am really leery when I send my husband to the store with one of those coupons that don’t look legit because he’d be embarrassed in the store and then have a fit about the situation.

  • brenda

    Agreed. When I get a coupon like that I always take the paperwork that came with it and if it is questioned I show the manager the papers that came with it.

  • Debra Barber

    I totally agree!! Even going to Walmart with a real looking coupon they put it under a magnifying glass! Everyone who does free coupons need to make them like Herbal Essence does. I believe they are changing the way they make coupons because of all the coupon fraud!!

  • Susan Sangster

    I just got back from Publix 30 min ago with my FREE Vanns power waffles. Have never tried them, but was no problem at all at Publix. I had no thoughts about taking it there – it came with an attached letter (was for taking a short survey), and stated in the letter the stores that had the products. Some, like you, however, I almost feel guilty putting up there because I think they’ll think they don’t look right, too. Whenever I am in doubt, I spend extra time B4 using them,checking out your’s and my other trusted coupon bloggers, and read through all the comments, to make sure nothing has been posted on there against using the coupon. Thanks for all you do!

  • Tammie McGinnis

    I, fortunately, have never tried to redeem a fake coupon….but I have had people looking at coupons, especially for free items, like they could be fake.

  • Samantha Rivera

    Thanks im still so new at this & I so far i just redeem only my free in mail products & i totally understand how nerve racking it could be if they try to charge you with fraud like how can u prove its a real coupon?

  • Hollie

    My bother with them is when a price needs to be written in the block. If I don’t write it in, someone has to go hunt down the price. If I write it in, they always double check. I hate being that person holding up the rest of the line πŸ™‚

    • Ashley

      That’s why when I have free item or buy one get one coupons, I like to put those items at the end so at least they don’t have to scroll all the way to the top of the order bc as a cashier that can be a hassle

  • Lynne

    As long as I know it’s real, I use it. If the store rejects it, I don’t feel embaressed because I know that I’ve done nothing wrong. I then contact the compay and let them know what happened, then hope they will make it right.

  • Jennifer

    I just used that Vans coupon today at my local Publix. I didn’t have any problems with them. I do get what you are saying, but here is something wacky….you know the Coke coupons that you get from turning in your coke codes? They are post card material, they are printed on both sides…the whole 9 yards of being legit. I once tried to redeem one at a Circle K and they said it was fake. I disagreed and I went to use it at Sweetbay and they were questioning me on how I got it, because “Coke doesn’t give out freebies”. I had to point out on the actual bottle that stated to use the cap codes for freebies and they finally took it. Just goes to show, the items that are cheap freebies are the ones that give me trouble and the freebie q’s that are over $5 (such as Glade’s Oil Diffuser Starter Kit) go through without a hitch….you’d think it would be the other way around!

  • Dawn Baker

    I also received the free Vans coupon. I have been using coupons,free and cents off, for 30+ years. I don’t have a home printer so I depend on the manufacturer to send these coupons through the mail . I have never had a problem using a coupon from a newspaper, or one that has been mailed to me. I certainly hope that these manufacturers do not quit mailing them because of complaints from consumers that have not tried to used them .

  • Jackie

    OMG! I just had an incident yesterday at Target with the Glade expressions coupons. The cashier didn’t know what she was doing at all. I had target and manufacturer coupons and also target had a sale b1 kit g1 refill. She didn’t understand how I was going to get the kit and refill free. She called someone else to do the transaction……….My husband was so upset! First time I have ever had a problem, mind you I had just gone to the same one the day before. I am always aware of policies and their coupons were limited to 4per day. Just t’d me off that she basically was accusing me of being dishonest.

  • Amanda G.

    My thought would be either they want to get away with being as cheap as possible and make a cheap coupon so one, it doesn’t cost them much to print and two, not many would or could redeem them saving even more money. They can be a pain to redeem and Walmart doesn’t make it easy with legit coupons as it is! Safeway doesn’t give me and trouble and same with Target in my area so it’s not a big deal for me.

  • Joy Ht

    Its so funny you posted this video, I just went through the same “angst” about a free coupon this weekend. I got the free coupon for any Plum Organics product and it expired on 9/30. The only store in my area who sells them are just really picky about internet and free coupon items. I ultimately just didn’t use it. They had a lot of great instant savings deals and I was able to use all coupons from inserts so I decided against the hassle.

  • Laura Gutierrez

    I know how you feel. I got one of the coupon’s for the FREE pack of hot dogs (Oscar Meyer) and I went a few days later to use it and they would not accept it. The paper was thin but it did have the hologram, good expiration date and the back side images were there as well BUT… They started questioning me and asking where I got it, did I have the proof and said if it was in fact REAL then they would have it in their system as a valid coupon.

    Another coupon I got was the $7.00 tena pad coupon. I don’t usually use pads but I like to keep them around because you never know – so, I went to the store (different store than above store) and went to the register with my pads and coupon (the pads were around $5 or $6) and the lady was confused. The coupon had come looking print out but it did look legit (to me, at least) and she called her manager over. Her manager looked at it and started questioning me and then said, “This cannot be real. When did they start making coupons that was more than the product? We would have to give you money back..” and I was not able to use my coupon.


  • Sherry

    No closed captioned? I cant understand you. You see I am Deaf and would appreciate if you could add closed captioned on your video.


  • Gayle

    I know how you feel. I get raked over the coals by many cashiers, (especially very young ones) who argue and argue until I ask for a manager…you’d think it was coming out of their pocket! And of course it’s always when there is a line behind me waiting and listening!

  • laura v

    I agree with you, if they sell at CVS or Walgreens i go there first if not i go to Walmart, yes your right about the cashiers check out the free coupons like i am taking away money from their paycheck. It is great when i get a free coupons, I did get the one from Van’s but i misplaced it, i did use the one Aussie sent me , but i had to pay the difference, but luckily i was able to use my 25% coupon from CVS, so it worked out.

  • Randi

    I’m with you! Although I am very grateful for free product coupons, or actually any coupons, I have anxiety every time I use them. I worry because I fear having cashiers accuse me of copying coupons (even though I show them how the unique codes aren’t even the same so how could I have photocopied them, they’ve still insisted I copied them just because I had 4 of them.) I worry because they change the rules from day to day and from cashier to cashier. I worry the coupon won’t scan and they won’t take it even though it’s legitimate. It can be very nerve-wracking, basically because if there’s a problem, they assume that you’re trying to pull one over on them. And I’m a nice person who never cheats at anything! πŸ™‚

    Another thing that is irritating about free -product coupons is that my local Walmart rarely carries the item for which I have a coupon. I have had to let slide free Jose Ole products, free Langer juice, free Old Orchard juice, a free Larabar, free Sierra Mist, free Welch’s sparkling cider, just to name a few.

    Thanks for letting me vent! By the way, you have gorgeous eyes!

  • Tara

    I agree with Randi…the whole coupon experience has become cumbersome for me to the point that I haven’t actively couponed like I used to (binder always in had, weekly organization, etc.).

    Stores are constantly changing their policies after a certain show became popular (I won’t name names). It’s just aggravating especially because I am the type of person who does not like confrontation & am an overall nice person…I have a high moral standard for myself & wouldn’t knowingly lie, cheat or steal.

    I have been in situations where the coupons weren’t accepted (even ones that weren’t for free products). I will knowingly hold up a line to wait for a manager to be called (all the while letting those behind me know that it might be a minute because I try to be respectful of others’ time). But because I don’t like confrontation, it’s a nerve-wracking experience when I have to do this.

    At one point, I would keep the coupon polices of all the stores that I frequented in the back of my binder for that “just-in-case” moment. Or if I didn’t have the policy…I would pull up the policy on my iPhone before going into the store.

    It’s sad that us couponers have to go to such extremes. It deters a lot of people from couponing…a lot of families who could really benefit from couponing (i.e. – low-income families, etc.) I guess it just goes to show what a little exposure can do for couponing as a whole.

  • nicole

    i understand your worry but i wonder if its just a different in manufacturers. i would be inclined to think that it would cost them more to make the herbal essences style coupon.. vs the vans. and it might just be a $ thing. vans doesnt want to spend more money on something thats going to give you their products for free… which is more expense for them. whereas those extra few cents is not as big of a deal for bigger companies. but i do understand what you are saying… people look at couponers like we are crazy anyway, but throwing in completely free stuff can be the icing on the cake. just make sure you come in with all the stuff you need to verify it (envelopes, letters, etc).. and i ALWAYS get the cashier to wait a second so i can put the coupons WITH the items. A… the cashier will have the coupon in hand when she scans it, so she can easily write in the total and B… if it doesn’t work properly or if its going to be a headache… i can just tell her nevermind, take my coupon back, and move on. but in my opinion… as long as i know its legit, im never worried about using it… because in the end, im usually the one walking out of the store smiling, with the free stuff in the cart πŸ™‚

  • Leslie G

    As much as I love getting stuff for free, the free coupons always bother me. I live in a small area and have only a few stores to choose from (but they are chain stores). One I shop at a lot has a policy that doesn’t accept any free coupons that are printed from the internet so that’s a problem for me when companies mail you coupons they printed from the internet themselves. The next problem I have had is the price limit on the free item. For example, the coupon will say free up to $2 and I was unable to find the item for less than $3 anywhere. I’m starting to notice it more and more lately. I really just try to match double coupons to sale prices now.

  • Jennifer J.

    100% agree and I have totally brought the envelopes and letters that come with the free product coupons to the store just in case they tell me they think it is fake. I get very embaressed when they have to call the manager over or the line gets backed up behind me because of coupon issues at the checkout because everyone starts staring, tapping their feet, looking at their watches, and the eye rolling thing. You are NOT crazy πŸ™‚

  • Suze R.

    I would also encourage writing to the manufacturer and expressing your concerns. They listen and will take your comments into consideration. The reason why they publish the coupons is to get more business. If we tell them that we hesitate to use the coupon because cashiers sometimes give us a difficult time, they may change the way coupons are issued.

  • michelle

    i think the companies only do it on the cheap paper cause they know the stores won’t take cause it doesn’t look real so the less they have to give out the better for them but not for us.

  • Tina Allen

    1st and for most I love all your hints and tips. You Rock! About the free coupon, I understnad your frustration but get your free product girl. and Enjoy it!! Almost nothing is free in life anymore!! Keep Rocking!!


  • neysa c.

    i also got the same coupon and i was skeptical to use it for the same reason you mentioned in the video. i actually thought it was a fake coupon since there are so many out there. i still have it actually. however, i am going to try using it later on today and i hope it works since i am also excited to try out free waffles as well.

  • tina

    Funny because back when they first gave out the free coupons for herbal essence and Aussie….I had a problem using my Aussie one at Walgreen’s! They wouldn’t take it!

  • Christine

    I agree that some free product coupons look fake. Horribly fake. I prefer the ones that have the hologram strip on them.
    What bothers me are coupons that have 2 scan bars, and the cashier doesn’t know which one to scan. If they scan the wrong one, it comes up on the register that it is an invalid coupon. That happened to me with a toy coupon I printed directly off of the manufacturers website. It may have been Fisher Price, not sure. But when they scan the wrong bar and the register says, “Invalid Coupon”…THAT is nerve-racking.

  • Kristy

    I take the envelope and letter with me, just in case. I got free hair dye up to 10.99 value and I didnt remove the coupon from the letter until I removed it. (I called the company because I was not happy with the product and they sent me the free coupon.)

  • Shanna H

    I know what you mean! I always bring the envelopes they come in when they are mailed. I haven’t had any issues using these. coupons. I actually had the Van’s waffle coupon you did, and I had no problems using it. I don’t ever go to Walmart when I have free product coupons. They scrutinize them, and I have gotten questioned. I got a printable coupon for free Lindt Truffles yesterday. I was so nervous to use that one. I took it to CVS, and was amazed that they had no issues at all with me using it:) I wish manufacturers would just send out a product rather than mail a coupon, but I know the shipping would be costly, so I get why they don’t.

  • iris

    I totally agree with you. Many of them do look fake and I would be weary using it but just take your envelope where it came in, just in case. Enjoy your free product, hope you don’t have no problems with the coupon.

  • Barbara Olmedo

    I LOVE coupons for FREE products. I am NEW to coupons, but I have NEVER had a problem. No FUNNY looks from cashiers, NOTHING!!!! Just yesterday, I went to Rite- Aid, & I got 4 FREE Nivea ” A kiss of Shimmer” lip chap sticks. NO PROBLEMS!!!!! LOVE your site, have tried sooo many of your recipes…………. SOOOOO EASY & SOOOO GOOD!!!!

  • monica

    That happened to me with the Van’s coupon & a few times with Udi’s coupons at Wegmans. Had my little ones with me and a long line behind.Its embarrassing & I havent used them since. I see a lot of free product coupons on Ebay but a friend said to stay away they’re most likely fakes.

  • Rhonda grundstein

    One of the main problems I have with free coupons, is some stores won’t take them at all. I went to Kroger with a coupon I got in the mail, and they wouldn’t accept it because it was an “internet coupon”. I explained that I recieved it in the mail…..didn’t matter. Have the envelope, didn’t matter. I was able to redeam it at Wagreens though. More and more stores are refusing them, and it makes no sense to me. I realize there are fake coupons that people have printed from the internet out there sometimes…..

  • Annmarie W.

    I can see your point. But as long as YOU know it’s real, that’s all that matters. If you know you’re in the right, then it shouldn’t be embarrassing if anyone at the store questions you…and if a manager does have to come over, just smile & be nice and not embarrassed. I don’t like the free coupons that are printable, though…those I would definitely question if I was a cashier.

  • Bethany G

    Once I got a FB printable coupon for Save A Lot that was $5 off a purchase of $20 or more. Obviously that is an awesome coupon. I went out of my way to go to Save A Lot and then they had no idea about it. They didn’t even know Save A Lot had a facebook page. The manager was out, but none of the cashiers had any idea. They took my info and said they would call me back if the manager said it was okay but never got a call. I was SO irritated about that!! Then I tried to go back and find it to complain to Save A Lot, but the app just kept telling me I already printed it and I couldn’t even look at it. πŸ™

  • Pinching Abe

    I had that happen to me at a Food Lion… with their own stinking printable coupons off meat. The cashier handed the coupon back and practically accused me of trying to use fakes. I made her get the manager. Honestly, most coupon drama at the checkout is because cashiers aren’t well trained.

    I did not attempt to get the Van’s because I have tried their gluten free waffles and did not like them.

    Worse, I hate companies that offer printable free coupons because no stores near me will go near them. πŸ™ It’s like they do that on purpose so most people can’t redeem. They get the hype of a freebie without the cost of coupon redemption. At least with a paper printable and an envelope from the company, you can more easily present evidence that it’s not faked.

  • Nancy Marsh

    Many stores no longer take printed coupons because people made copies of the original. Cashiers are suspicious of paper thin coupons with nothing written on the back..and you can’t blame them since some get into trouble for accepting such coupons. I don’t blame you for not liking that kind of coupon at all.

  • Chelsea

    I, like you, only get anxious when they don’t look legit. It also bothers me when I get a free Q in the the mail that is a printable coupon. The stores around here are so picky about those, it doesn’t matter if it’s legit. I usually just don’t use them because it can be such a headache.

  • Kristen S

    I don’t get them that much, it’s rare, so I don’t really think twice about it. Today I got two someone gave me for free head and shoulders product. It was one per purchase. So I did two transactions and then I realized the price was up to 5.49 and CVS had it for 5.99. The guy gave them to me for free, voided out the transaction and said he’d punch it in later. So he took the coupons and just gave them to me. And I also scored 4 coupons off the voided slip and he just gave them to me πŸ™‚

  • Amanda

    I love to print coupons but I was recently told that Wal-Mart, where I shop the most, no longer accepts printed coupons. But the I get facebook posts from walmart telling me to go to this site to print this coupon. So I am not even sure walmart’s policy anymore so I haven’t used any printed coupons in a while. But I love the free product coupons and have learned if they say it doesn’t work to just say OK whatever and still most of the time I will still but the product anyway.

  • Andrea

    I just redeemed a free International Delight coffee creamer coupon at Publix that did not have anything on the back, and they did not question it. I thought for sure they would! As far as the Van’s coupon that you showed, it has that big barcode, so if I was a cashier, I would probably think it was valid. Funny about the Clairol coupon – I had that one for the longest time, and I am at my CVS all the time and for some reason, maybe coincidence, they have been completely out of that product for weeks! LOL!

  • Anna K.

    im by no means trying to defend walmart, but as a former cashier it does come out of our pocket when the fake coupons and fraud occurs. the biggest issue we had was the magic cards and someone seriously tried to make an alcohol coupon. They r just being cautious because they can be fired over that.