Lesson #1: How to Call BS on a Company Who Promises You Free Shit and Then Doesn’t Deliver

by Rachel on May 18, 2010

I just can’t help myself…and that means teaching you a thing or two! Today, let’s talk about some recent coupon folly.

You may recall that a few weeks ago, I won a contest through MaraNatha nut butters and received a free jar of any nut butter. Awesome. I was so excited. Yay, MaraNatha!

So I decided to use my coupon on a jar of macadamia nut butter. Then I forgot to use the coupon at the store. Stupid, stupid. I wonder if there are statistics on how many people do this and how much it costs Americans every year. I mean, not only did I spend the money on the macadamia nut butter, I also bought a bunch of other things from Whole Foods that I didn’t need, even though I only went there to use the coupon.

Coupons are probably a pretty brilliant marketing technique.

Anyway, I was looking over the coupon again, excited to use it on my next nut butter purchase, and I realized that it said, “On any nut butter” …and then in fine print, “Maximum value $4.99.” Well, none of the MaraNatha nut butters at my local grocery store were $4.99…but I assumed it was because sometimes there is a higher mark-up on specialty products at big grocery stores that don’t carry a lot of them. OK…fine.

So last weekend, I went back to Whole Foods with the coupon, bound and determined just to use it before I could forget. Nut butters have a long enough shelf life, so I figured I’d just buy something now. And I really wanted to use it on raw almond butter. I had had it once a long time ago and really liked it. Since I have every other kind of nut butter right now, I wanted to use my free coupon on something special.

Well, at Whole Foods — where the MaraNatha prices are definitely cheaper than my local grocery store — there still was not a single nut butter that cost $4.99. Even the peanut butter cost $5.99! The raw almond butter? $9.99. TEN DOLLARS for the smallest jar of nut butter I’ve ever seen.

[I think ten dollars is pretty steep for an eight ounce jar. Coconut oil is only $6 for twice that and coconut oil can double as lube. Unless you’re this one guy I know from college, nut butter cannot double as lube.]

OK — I’m calling BS on MaraNatha. I’m sorry, but you know the mark-up on your products. How can you design a coupon for a free product when you know damn well it will not, in fact, get anyone a free product? The only way this would have gotten me a free product is if I had ordered a jar of peanut butter from their Web site. (And then paid shipping…???) And it says “any” butter. Not “only peanut butter, which is not any kind of exciting at all.”

And I can sort of see scamming people with a coupon like this in the newspaper. Kind of a bait-and-switch? I mean, I think that’s illegal, but I can sort of see how that might happen. But I won a contest. You wouldn’t give someone a coupon and call it a gift card, but that’s pretty much what they did. And then said, “Congrats, lucky winner!!!!”

Here’s an idea: when someone wins a contest, e-mail them. Say, “You have won one free jar of any of our nut butters! Which would you like? We’ll have it sent right out.” Let me choose the most expensive option if I want to. I won the contest; if I choose to parlay that win into a bath in a $10 jar of ground-up nuts, then that is my right as a winner.

Back at Whole Foods, I just decided to try to use the coupon on the more expensive butter. Maybe the cashier would be super high on life like most Whole Foods grocery employees and wouldn’t notice. Unfortunately, she did; the best I got was a $4.99 discount on my raw almond butter.

And now they have gotten me with the second part of why coupons are so brilliant — because now I’m hooked on an expensive product!

Because really, it is delicious. It doesn’t taste like other nut butters. It tastes more like a great spread; I think it would be so good on a foodgasmic roasted eggplant panini.

But isn’t this how druggies get you? Like, “Oh, you, cute little rich white girl…you have won the contest for looking super vulnerable and open to ruining your life and the prize is…free cocaine! OK well actually you have to pay for half the coke and you’ll be back tomorrow for more because the high doesn’t last long but it’s so good you’ll be addicted…thanks for entering, lucky winner!”

My fridge is now overflowing with the delicious crack of MaraNatha, none of which was free.

The moral of the story: Do not get addicted to expensive shit via coupons and contests. And when a company does do this, call their crunchy asses out.

{ 22 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Jenny May 18, 2010 at 7:56 am

Way to have the balls to call ’em out! This is what social media is all about!

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2 Katdoesdiets May 18, 2010 at 7:59 am

Ya, that’s a pretty cheesy way to handle a contest.
.-= Katdoesdiets´s last blog ..Yay for Shopping! =-.

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3 Ashley May 18, 2010 at 8:14 am

So, is the delicious nut butter worth supporting a company that lies? :)
.-= Ashley´s last blog ..Cupcakes! =-.

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4 Rachel May 18, 2010 at 8:19 am

Nope!! I’m not buying it anymore unless they get their act together and stop pulling this crap. I’ll have to do without!!

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5 Audra May 18, 2010 at 8:38 am

Crap, I’ve really been wanting to try their almond butter for a while but I haven’t been willing to fork over $10 for it. And it’s not just at Whole Foods, even the grocery store on base charges that much for it and their stuff is usually much cheaper. I was really hoping to hear that it sucked so I wouldn’t feel the need to buy any :-)

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6 Anne Bender May 18, 2010 at 8:48 am

The Whole Foods here closed before I ever visited, but the Fresh Market has a grind-your-own option, or was it the Co-op store? Either way, for the cost you could just Magic Bullet your own tasty spread.

I have had several “free” coupons like that, but never with such a lopsided difference in value. The marketing genius who came up with that should be tossed out on their tush cause that’s no way to build long-lasting relationships.
.-= Anne Bender´s last blog ..Love and Marriage =-.

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7 sarah @ syrupandhoney May 18, 2010 at 9:08 am

I know not everyone is into making all their eats from scratch, but in this situation it sounds like making your own nut butters could be a good alternative. I looked up the stats on Maranatha’s Raw Almond Butter, and it’s just almonds. If you have easy access to bulk almonds, you could save a lot of money making your own butter in a food processor.

Either way, good for you for boycotting (going forward). The only way capitalism works is if the consumers believe their decisions affect the system.
.-= sarah @ syrupandhoney´s last blog ..Roasted Beets with Pistachio Butter =-.

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8 Rachel May 18, 2010 at 9:10 am

Sarah — I’m afraid to make my own nut butters until I get a new Magic Bullet!! Mine is on its last leg for sure. I don’t want to ruin it because then I’ll REALLY hate MaraNatha.

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9 Rachel Marlena May 18, 2010 at 9:32 am

Hahaha this is brilliant! Coupons really are all marketing. I know tons of people (myself included occasionally) who were not going to buy a product but then had a coupon for it so they did.

Regarding making your own nut butters — do you have a food processor? They really work better than a magic bullet/blender for things like this, they are not expensive, and they last freaking FOREVER (mine is a hand-me-down my mom bought decades ago and it is still going strong). I made homemade Nutella a few weeks ago and it. was. incredible. So good. So easy to make. Your life will change.
xoxo

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10 amanda May 18, 2010 at 10:04 am

I believe you can get this brand much cheaper at my local Target. I have personally seen MaraNatha nut butter for $10 and I live in the DC metro area. Crazy!!

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11 MaraNatha Nut Butters May 18, 2010 at 11:20 am

Rachel,

I’m from Hain Celestial Group, who operates the MaraNatha brand. We appreciate you bringing this situation to our attention and I wanted to get back to you promptly.

First of all, I want you to know that we’re removing your post to our page simply because of the language you use in the post, which is inappropriate for our site.

Second, the contest promised $5 in coupons. We sent you a $4.99 coupon plus a $1 off coupon, so the prize you actually got was more than the $5 promised.

Third, we don’t control retailer prices for our products, we can only suggest. We understand your frustration here, and we will be glad to send you an additional coupon for a value of up to $8.99.

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12 A May 18, 2010 at 11:59 am

Call me crazy, but somehow, I feel like language wasn’t the only reason you removed her post from your page.

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13 MelissaNibbles May 18, 2010 at 11:58 am

I’m curious to know what the “suggested” retail price is.

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14 loreejo May 18, 2010 at 12:12 pm

ok rachel, i was with ya til the cocaine analogy! LOL no really, i agree that this was a con job and we’re all falling for a lot of marketing crap for plain ole healthy food these days aren’t we? sarah has piqued my interest in maybe making some of my own nut butters….i don’t even have a lame magic bullet. wonder if the ole food processor would work?

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15 loreejo May 18, 2010 at 12:16 pm

ok, i should have read on in comments….i see food processors suggested and preferred. so, do you take the $8.99 coupon or not? ha ha ha i can’t wait to hear.

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16 Kendra May 18, 2010 at 12:23 pm

Take the $8.99 coupon and run!

Then buy and Kitchen Aid food processor and you’ll be happy for the rest of your life.
.-= Kendra´s last blog ..Welcome to Skanky Tuesday! =-.

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17 Dori May 18, 2010 at 7:38 pm

Dick’s Sporting Goods did this to me.. they promised me a $50 gift card if I promoted their contest, and once I did, they stopped responding to my emails. I think I will email them one last time before posting on my blog!
.-= Dori´s last blog ..DSB Posting Schedule =-.

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18 Rachel May 18, 2010 at 9:07 pm

Yeah seriously, that’s SO SHADY!!!

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19 Kathy May 18, 2010 at 9:33 pm

Shame on MaraNatha! I can’t believe you win a coupon and then you have to pay. I hate that! It defeats the whole excitement of winning something.

Coming from someone who works in marketing for a wholesale brand, we also cannot control retail prices. So for online contests and giveaways, we offer to send people free products directly from us. We held a facebook contest and let the users pick exactly which prize they wanted. However, there were still people who complained that we should have offered a different prize. Instead of removing their comment, or telling them off, we thanked them because we value their opinion. They are absolutely right. They’re the ones getting the prize, not us, so if they have a better idea, we encourage they let us know.

While it’s great that MaraNatha is trying to fix the situation, I think they could do a bit more. You’re not just an average customer, you’re a health blogger! You are a major influencer (heck you’ve made me check out tons of websites and products I never would have heard of before!) and I think that simply apologizing and sending you a coupon for the amount you should have received in the FIRST PLACE is just ok. If they really wanted to win you back as a customer and brand advocate (and repair the damaged reputation you caused) wouldn’t it make sense for them to send you something more substantial to make up for it? How about a free sampling of 3 different nut butters. You could try all the flavors you haven’t purchased before and write a review on them. Perhaps your attitude would have shifted and you discover one of the flavors to be your new holy grail nut butter you tell us all to go out and try! I mean, how much would that really cost them?

I understand they can’t go sending free products to everyone who bad-mouths them online, but seriously, how many people dedicate an entire blog post to how much your brand sucks at customer service? #imjustsaying

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20 Tara May 19, 2010 at 12:59 pm

I love how they offered to send an additional coupon for $8.99 when the nut butter you had to purchase was $9.99! That couldn’t be more clear in the post and yet, they attempt to rectify the situation (or have you remove your blog) by providing a coupon that is still a dollar SHORT. Obviously, they missed the entire message of the post to begin with.

Not to mention the snarky attitude Ms. MaraNatha was packing insinuating that you were asking for too much. I don’t happen to like their products, but, if I did, I would surely stop. Having a foodgasm over a nut butter- pretty awesome. Bad customer service- I’ll get off somewhere else. So…thanks MaraNatha, but NO thanks!

If anyone ever asked why I have been faithfully shedding it for the last few months, I simply need to link this blog! I wouldn’t expect anything less. You speak your mind, even if that means putting things on the line, and you were honest- you didn’t attack their product, well… cause you love it, but, you laid it down nonetheless.

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21 Rachel May 19, 2010 at 1:26 pm

Kathy and Tara, thank you for the AWESOME comments and for totally calling them out along with me! And Tara “I’ll get off somewhere else.” LOL…you’re a woman of my own heart!!

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22 elizabeth May 19, 2010 at 5:28 pm

oh man, that sucks! I guess it’s just because of where I live, but the maranatha peanut butter regular size jar is 4.99 at my grocery store and the same at my health food store. I hope you find someplace that you can use it!

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