My Extreme Couponing Career Was Short-Lived And Embarrassing Thanks To Kroger

Image courtesy of Free. Except not.

Hell hath no fury like a grocery store cashier who thinks you’re trying to rip off the store. Sarah was terribly embarrassed when she was accused of doing just that at Kroger. Right in the store, she saw a coupon, part of a display hawking the DVD of the latest reboot of the Spiderman movie franchise. The coupon for a free 4-ounce bag of the delicious snack Pirate’s Booty didn’t say that a purchase was required, like the other “free stuff if you buy this DVD” promotions. So she tore one off and tried to get the free snack. This was, of course, the Crime of the Century as far as Kroger was concerned. Now she doesn’t really want to use coupons anymore at all.

I was at Kroger the other day on a quick stop to pick up my prescription, when I saw this display (see attachment). It was a Spiderman display which said that you could get “all this” when you buy a Spiderman movie. I looked at the coupons and saw that one said that you could get 1 pack of Energizer Max batteries with purchase. It said “with purchase” repeatedly on this coupon. The other tear off coupon just said “Free” and there was no language indicating any purchase was necessary anywhere on the coupon. It was for a strangely named popcorn product called “Pirate’s Booty,” so I thought, what the heck maybe they are trying to spread the word, I will pick up a bag for the kids. Again there was zero language anywhere on within the perforated manufacturer’s tear off coupon indicating a purchase was necessary, unlike the Energizer tear off coupon (see attachment).

Free. Except not.

I entered the line, and handed the cashier the coupon. Immediately, she said in a confrontational tone that I could not use this coupon and I had to buy the movie. I told her that I understood, but that read the coupon entirely and I didn’t see any language indicating that a purchase was necessary and politely asked her to take another look. She immediately picked up the phone to call a manager. I was already embarrassed as I didn’t want to hold anybody up in line over some Pirate’s Booty.

The assistant manager came over and seemed irate that I was trying to use this coupon. She said “What- do you think we just give away free popcorn here at Kroger?” I repeatedly asked if I could just step over to the customer service counter to avoid holding people up, but by this time they were ignoring me. I was completely mortified by now, so I asked her to read the coupon because there was no language indicating any purchase was necessary on the tear off coupon. Finally, seeing that I was not going to get anywhere, I said just forget it, and went over to pick up my prescription, red-faced with no Pirate’s Booty to show for it.

After picking up my prescription, I was on my way out the door, when I saw this assistant customer service manager mocking me to another employee, acting like I was trying to rip them off, holding up the coupons that I had tried to use. I have never been so embarrassed in my life. I went over there, and asked her what her name was so I could talk to the manager about this whole experience (her jacket was zipped up, covering her nametag). She would not give it to me after several requests, and finally she told me.

I went out the door and immediately called the manager. He apologized for the [cashier], saying that she was usually such a nice person and when I asked him about the coupon, he told me I had been wrong. Later, I emailed corporate about the coupon, but they just gave me generic response thanking them for feedback without any reference to my comments.

I attached the coupons for your viewing (including the segment about the tear off). Maybe I am wrong? I don’t even know anymore. I thought it was very, very clear that one coupon required a purchase and the other did not. Yes, the display said you could get all these things free with the purchase, but I don’t see how that precludes the ability to just get the Pirate’s Booty free without a purchase. One thing I know for sure is that I am definitely not eager to use a coupon at Kroger again after my experience.

We can’t say definitively, because Sarah’s scan makes the fine print unreadable. It seems to us, though, knowing how customers like to look for every possible loophole, the designers of this Spider-Man promo really should have known better.

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