Truth in Advertising – An Unreasonable Demand?

Pet peeve of the day: inaccurate coupon advertising. When I find a “Buy 1 Get 1 Free” coupon for my favorite jar of marinara sauce, I get super excited, because I know I can afford to serve myself another bowl of ravioli this week. That is, until I get to the store and realize that they simply doubled the price over what I paid last week.

I also get annoyed by those “Buy 1, Get 1 of Equal or Lesser Value Free” coupons. They always write that last part in tiny print, which totally messes up my budget: I get to the checkout line thinking I’m making out like a bandit by buying an 8-ounce jar of marinara sauce and getting the 64-ounce jar free (I really like marinara sauce), only to find out later that the cashier charged me for the 64 ounces and gave me a whopping 8 ounces free.

While writing this, my blood is boiling over a couple of packs from Philip Morris in the late 1980s. In order to promote the “New Marlboro Menthol” packs, the company distributed complimentary packs (i.e., “freebies!”) inside a “Buy 1 Get 1 Free” coupon wrapper.

New Marlboro Menthol Coupon

This sounds great, right? Your hotel gives you a free pack of six cigarettes to get you hooked on the new-fashioned cancer sticks (PSA: Collecting is great, but smoking kills), then you tear off the coupon flap and get two more packs for the price of one.

But I’m a nit-picky, uptight stickler for mathematical accuracy. (This is why I became a teacher – to torture students with math problems that are worded too vaguely.) You see, it’s not actually “But 1, get 1 free.” It’s “take 1, get hooked, spend too much for a 2nd and we’ll give you a 3rd at no extra cost because we already skinned you alive and we know you’re too addicted to walk away now.”

The pack should read, “Buy 1, Get Your 3rd Pack Free!” but only annoying teachers like myself will figure that one out and say, “I appreciate their honesty and I want to kill myself with their cigarettes, all while profiting them tremendously.”

New Marlboro Menthol Coupon

New Marlboro Menthol Coupon

If you’ve read this far, you are probably as stubborn as I am, so you’ll appreciate a little more mathematical nit-picking. There are only 6 cigarettes in the complimentary packs with the coupons on them, while most packs that you buy have 20 cigarettes. In other words, the coupon is really for 46 cigarettes at the price of 20, which is closer to two-and-a-third packs for the price of one. Make up your minds, Marlboro!

Hmm, I wonder, could I take one of these coupons to the store, buy a 20-pack and get a 25-pack free? That just boosted my cigarette efficiency to 51 cigarettes for the price of 20! Too bad I don’t smoke.

Also, the coupons expired August 31, 1988.

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