I don’t usually have trouble with coupons for free items. Usually, manufacturers or stores send them on glossy paper or they are only good at a certain store, both of which make them hard to fake. This week, however, I had trouble with a freebie coupon that was poorly designed. I was persistent, however, and my persistence paid off.

The Tropicana Free Juice Coupon
As a promotion for its Juicy Rewards program, Tropicana gave away 50,000 coupons for a free carton of orange juice. In order to receive the coupon, I had to cash in five Juicy Rewards points, which I received for entering codes I found in the same blog post that informed me of the promotion.

A few days later, I received the coupon. It was formatted like an internet printable coupon, but was attached to a letter. I detached the letter and put it in the recycling, then tucked the coupon in my folder.

The Trouble with Free Coupons
Most stores have a policy against accepting internet printables for free items, due to fraud. It’s a shame, but I understand the policy. However, I didn’t know that when I want to use it, and I didn’t print it. It was mailed to me.

The first night I tried to use it, the evening manager absolutely refused to accept it. She sounded like she didn’t believe I had received it in the mail. She made all sorts of claims about it needing to be printed on special paper etc. I was in the express lane, so I removed the juice from my purchase and left.

When I got home, I examined the coupon. It was, in fact, printed on microdot paper with embedded security features on the back.

I went back to the store Friday morning and went directly to the manager’s station. I simply explained that although it looked like an internet printable, Tropicana had mailed it to me. He looked at it and explained their policy. I pointed out the security features, and he approved it. When I used the coupon at the register, I actually got 99 cents back because the juice was on sale!

Tips for Freebie Coupons
If you receive freebie coupons, here are a few tips:

  1. Use it at the designated merchant (if it’s store-issued), or use it at a store where you shop regularly.
  2. Keep the envelope and supporting letter with the coupon, especially if it looks like it might have been printed on your home computer.
  3. Don’t argue with the cashier. She doesn’t have the power to do anything. Instead, ask for the manager.
  4. Use a regular checkout, not an express lane. You don’t want to hold up the express lane if you have to get a manager.
  5. If you don’t get anywhere, ask for the general manager’s name and phone number. Call to ask for help, or return to the store when that manager or another high-level manager is available.
  6. Be polite. Don’t get into a heated argument or make accusations.
  7. Be persistent. If you don’t succeed on your first visit, go back until you do. If you strike out at that store, try another store.

My free juice coupon saved me $3.50. Actually, I guess it saved me $4.49. Even though it took a little extra effort, I think $4.49 is worth five minutes.

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