The Coupon Queen
---- — 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.
The second possibility is that the print campaign for a particular coupon ended long ago, but the manufacturer left the registration form page online. Perhaps the manufacturer removed the link to the coupon’s registration page from its homepage, but the page still lives on its server. People using search engines to look for specific coupons can stumble across the registration form, which still efficiently collects data then sends users off to print a coupon that no longer exists. These forms give users the impression that they serve no other purpose than to collect users’ names and info without offering a coupon in return.
What’s a couponer to do? In her email to me, Kara included more information about her experience. After she was unable to print a coupon for toothpaste, she emailed the manufacturer to let someone know that the “phantom form” was still collecting data and not rewarding users with the promised coupon. Could the manufacturer mail the coupon instead? Here’s the response she received:
“We’re sorry to learn that you have been experiencing difficulty printing the coupon. Offers expire if the total number of coupons that the manufacturer made available to print has been met. This can be the case with popular items. We have notified our technical support team of the issue. Unfortunately, the coupon offer is not available to be mailed at this time. We value you as our customer and again apologize for any inconvenience you may have experienced.”
What an unsatisfying end to this reader’s story. Collecting marketing data under the guise of offering a coupon then not delivering does little to inspire consumers to buy the product. I’d advise you to gauge whether it’s worth divulging personal information to a company online to print a coupon, and act accordingly.
Jill Cataldo, a coupon workshop instructor, writer and mother of three, never passes up a good deal. Learn more about Super-Couponing at her website, www.jillcataldo.com. Email your own couponing victories and questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.