The Free Food That Wasn’t

A week ago I shared this deal.  As I mentioned on my original post, it was the first time I heard of free food from Amazon.  Well, like any other cynic out there would say: if it sounds too good to be true then it probably isn’t.  Yesterday I got a lot of emails from readers sharing with me that their entire order for this had been canceled by Amazon due to “an error caused an incorrect promotional code to be displayed on our website. We are not offering this promotion at this time.”  This is a flat lie, check out yourself this page on the Amazon website, the offer is still being offered in the month of February AND it has the very same terms.

This is not the first time last minute cancellations happen.  Crystal, the Thrifty Mama, shared that the same thing happened with the $10 promotional code QVC was offering to new customers.  Another reader mentioned the same thing happening with a car seat offer on Amazon last month.  If you remember too, a lot of people had their offers canceled or modified when the whole Omaha Steak deal happened last year.

Canceled offers are bad PR for companies.  The first consequence is that it hurts their customer base.  New and loyal customers alike are turned off when a promotion like this gets rescinded.  Second, it hurts their customer service reputation.  I have read many times about the outstanding customer service QVC offers but canceling a promotion like they did hurts their credibility.

I know a lot of people will say: “Well, what did you expect?, that’s what happens when promotions get abused.”  Maybe that’s the case but this is not the customer’s fault it’s the companies’ fault.  I will give two ideas of what companies can do to prevent situations like this from happening:

1) Set limits to your promotion.  Providing a promotion to the first 5,000 (or whatever) people sign up for is away to keep these promotions within limits you can fulfill.

2) Monitor promotions: set detective controls to identify unusual patterns of redemption.  If companies suddenly see an influx of people taking advantage of an offer they meant for only a select audience, then they can pull the plug on the offer immediately instead of waiting days to take action and upsetting customers along the way.

As companies they have the right to decide what’s best for their business, but as customers you also have a right to express your disappointment.  Don’t forget to take some time and email or call to complain about this.  In the case of Amazon, I would pinpoint that they have not corrected their problem and the promotion is still available on their website. I apologize for any frustrations this may have caused.

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  • Jill

    I don’t think Amazon is lying. The promotion is clearly listed as a buy one get one free scenario. That we were able to get it for free without paying for one was a mistake.

    What does annoy me is that they cancelled my WHOLE order, even though I bought over $50 worth of other things. I should still get free shipping on the other things. Now I do think Amazon has a right to cancel orders outright when they fall below $25 after cancelling the cranberry bars. I don’t think they are obligated to ship you that $6 other thing you bought just to get free shipping. I especially think those who signed up for Amazon prime just to get the free food don’t have anything to complain about. You didn’t technically do anything wrong, but you tried to work the system and failed.

    Overall I fall in the “if it’s too good to be true….” camp. Sure I would have loved to get free food, but I’m not out anything, and Amazon is a business not a charity.

    • Jill but then why did the code work then?, it’s an error they need to fix in their end.

  • Happened to me with curtains from Macy’s. I’ll never shop there again after that whole ordeal.

  • Jill –

    That’s what my husband and my argument was yesterday – so cancel the part of the order that WAS incorrect, but leave the rest to ship as it is supposed to.

    Thanks, Mercedes, for posting this. We did the deal the legitimate way: we bought a bunch of books per each order, and were looking forward to a few inexpensive Valentine’s presents for each other. It just seems like there are so many places that aren’t deal friendly/ coupon friendly these days, and in this recession, that is DEFINITELY bad PR.

  • Well, I don’t even know that calling will help. I called, and the representative’s attitude was that it was “…human error and that Amazon can most certainly pull promotional codes whenever they want.” The representative just didnt’ care, and that was VERY apparent. I’ll be sticking to Barnes and Noble from now on. This isn’t my first run in with poor service from customer service at Amazon.

    Pity, too. They saved me a lot of time and money in gas.

  • My husband will no longer order from Amamzon…not becasue of this reason but this just adds to his list of annoying thigs Amamzon does! UGH!!!!

  • I haven’t checked my husband’s email the past few days, so this was a new development for me. I just checked my amazon history and it appears that my order as also been cancelled. I agree with you completely. It’s the company’s fault and not the buyers. I will be complaining to Amazon as well. I do want to know how I need to cancel my amazon prime though. Any help?

  • Jill

    Mercedes – It worked because someone mistakenly put in the promotional code to credit the $19.00 regardless of whether it was a bogo or not. It should have only worked if you had 2 orders of cranberry squares in your cart.

    Many people will say that Amazon should just take the loss – they made the mistake and have to live with it. But everyone makes a mistake (even major companies), and they have multiple disclaimers in place to cover themselves. The same thing happened with the Britax car seats at Amazon and Target a few months ago, and while they angered a lot of people by canceling the orders, they had every right to. You could argue that it’s a bad PR move on their part. It might be, but it appears as if a lot of people ordered from Amazon just to get the free food and aren’t regular customers. I don’t think Amazon cares about those customers anyway – especially if the buyers are supremely frugal – because most likely they will break their resolution about not shopping at Amazon the first time that Amazon has something they want for cheap. For regular customers like me that are a little annoyed and might think twice about buying again, perhaps they have a problem. But they made a calculated risk decision as a business – lose thousands now or perhaps alienate a few customers. They know that we will most likely be back. Resolutions die in the face of good deals.

  • Mary

    I guess this is one of the pitfalls about bargain shopping online and having all these wonderful “deal” sites that alert thousands of folks to these “too good to be true deals.” I usually ignore most of the “too good to be true” deals, especially when my gut tells me that the company is not going to take that kind of loss. Even Amazon is in it to make money and even with the loss of business from a few thousand, they will still make enormous profits. I hate to say it, but as much as I love to get all the wonderful tips, sometimes I am selfish and don’t share great tips I find for fear others will take advantage of it and I’ll get my order canceled.

  • I had a similar issue with Amazon a few weeks ago, but through a third party vendor, They incorrectly listed a case of Mrs. Meyers Dryer Sheets for $9 (or so) which regularly priced are $87.72. Since the discounted price was only on one scent, I simply assumed they were discontinuing that scent. A few days after placing my order I received an email from Amazon and that my order had been canceled.

    Human error is understandable, but the company has to put safeguards in place for that. I believe if the company incorrectly lists something, they should fill ALL orders made prior to the mistake being discovered. If an item is priced incorrectly at a brick and mortar store they usually give you the marked price and then go correct it on the other items. In some states, they are legally obligated to do so. It’s time for web stores to provide the same service to their customers, loyal or not.

  • I placed the order thinking it may not go through.. I figure we take chances with deals like this, sometimes we are lucky, sometimes not. The promo did clearly state buy one get one free, not buy nothing get one free so I knew there was a chance it would be cancelled.

    I was lucky to have received the rest of my order still with free shipping intact so either way I came out ok… but I sure was looking forward to those free treats 🙂

  • Lorrie

    I placed an order with Amazon for the breakfast squares. I have not noticed a cancellation email. I will have to check my order history.

    I also placed an order with QVC using the $10 discount. It went through just fine and I have already received my item.

  • jen

    my squares were obviously cancelled, but the did NOT cancel the rest of my order and sent my other 9.99 order and credited me with free shipping, so it wasnt all bad.

  • Alex Baumgarten

    They canceled my order and to tell you the truth I didn’t really want the other stuff that I had to buy to get it above $25 and the shipped it to me an charged me as well! Not too happy.

  • Cj Sime

    I agree with your post.

    Although, I don’t believe I have ever disagreed.


    Keep up the good work.

  • A.Marie

    I also agree, Mercedes. Why did the code go through? And, although I don’t normally disagree with people, I do disagree with Jill’s statement “Resolutions die in the face of good deals.” I don’t care what kind of “deals” Amazon has going on. I’m not interested! All of us understand that Amazon is a business, not a charity. We aren’t out to get charity.

  • Megan

    I just got my QVC order today. $0.59 for a pretty paper lantern that I’ll give to my sister. Yay!