EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

Lifestyle

September 21, 2012

The case of the phantom coupon

Dear Jill,

I am growing frustrated with manufacturers that require shoppers to input a fair amount of personal information before we are able to print a coupon. More often than not with manufacturer websites I hand over personal info. but then never receive the coupon. Either the print campaign has already ended or there were too many printouts from other users. I understand why manufacturers create limits and of course I understand why they want my valuable demographic information. But I think it is disingenuous for them to say, “Give me your personal information and we’ll give you a coupon,” then when I live up to my side of the bargain they do not send what they promised. Have you received other complaints? Do you think, like me, that this practice is totally unfair and increasingly common?

— Kara M.

Dear Kara,Oh, the frustration of having to jump through hoops for coupons! Unfortunately, I have experienced issues similar to the ones this reader describes. Perhaps you have, too. A manufacturer’s website advertises a nice, high-value coupon for a product you’re interested in, but in order to print it the site requires you to fill out a form and divulge your name, address and other demographics. You sigh, fill out the form and click Submit. Instead of hearing your printer whirr to life and print the coupon you selected, you receive the message, “There are no more prints available in this campaign.”

Why does this happen? There are two likely possibilities. One, the coupon campaign was much more popular than the manufacturer anticipated. You filled out the form to print the coupon somewhere between the time the manufacturer posted it on its website and the time that the number of prints in the campaign ran out. Manufacturers set a print limit for nearly all printable coupons they make available. A manufacturer can specify, say, 10,000 prints in a campaign. When that number of prints has been reached, the campaign automatically ends. However, the manufacturer doesn’t automatically take down the web page advertising the coupon.

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