McDonald’s Mondays: How bogus coupons hurt business

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Came across this one on Snopes earlier in the week and was instantly reminded of one of our more popular threads in recent months, the one about the Maple Leaf Foods coupon being invalid. On the one hand there were dozens of people claiming that stores were still taking the coupon and encouraging others to use it anyway. On the other hand were dozens of others calling those people dishonest thieves. While I won’t weigh in on the debate one way or another, I couldn’t help but have it in the back of my mind when I read the Snopes article.

It seems that back in 2003, a similar (albeit worse) situation had arisen for McDonald’s in the US. To coincide with the launch of their Premium Salads, a coupon starting circulating online inviting people to “enjoy a free McDonald’s new Premium Salad on us!” The problem? McDonald’s didn’t issue it. Not only did they likely lose out on all of that lost product before the issue was identified, but the issue became so widespread that a call to their 800 number offered “If you are calling about the McDonald’s salad coupon, please press #1” as an option! That means meetings, strategy sessions, attack plans, and all of the trickle down costs associated with getting everybody in the company up to speed on the issue. Sure they could afford it, but can you imagine how much they spent?

If this post has at all piqued your curiosity, you can check out the full article here.

23 responses to “McDonald’s Mondays: How bogus coupons hurt business”

  1. Shammy says:

    Jim, I think that while you raise a good point, it’s basically the nature of the beast with large commercial companies. I also think it it imprtant for the companies to come up with creative discounted solutions. I know subway always had an issue with ‘stolen’ and counterfit stamps in their old card days. They responded by having a new electronic subway card.

    Sucks, but it is the nature of the beast…

  2. benji says:

    I think that although any of us like a good deal, and want things for free (hey, who doesn’t!) We all have to remember that we don’t want to do anything illegal or illegitimately to do so.

    A niave cashier who may accept a coupon they shouldn’t doesn’t justify our actions. In order for companies to accept and embrace sites such as this, we have to be sure we’re all be honest and fair – just as we expect of them.

  3. kib says:

    How is there a “debate” over using fraudulent and invalid coupons, Jim? If you shoplift an item, or if you pay with counterfeit money, is it stealing if you get away with it? Of course, it is. What’s to debate?

  4. benji says:

    kib, some people were saying that if the store accepted those coupons, then they were “suckers” for doing so…basically.

    The coupons were legit that he was talking about – if you were a stockholder and received the annual report that had coupons in the back. That report for some reason was on an internet-available PDF file, so people were printing out the coupons and bringing them in for free items. THAT’S where the issue was

  5. Shammy says:

    When billion dollar companies screw us over for artificial prices to boost their bottom line, who’s looking out for the consumer?

    Kib – wake up and smell the reality!

  6. Mc Donalds says:

    Is this so called epidemic only taking place in the US or has it possible spread to canada? Im a mc donalds worker in canada and i have not heard of nor seen these coupons befor this point so does that meen that this situation is strickly running through out the us. Its been 6 years roughly since the first publication of anything on this, is there really still problems regarding this?

  7. kib says:

    Benji, I know about the Maple Leaf coupons. The originals were legit. The copies were illegit. Passing off the copies as legit coupons is like passing off any counterfeit currency, it seems to me. You might get away with it, but it’s still stealing. Stealing from suckers is still stealing. I was saying I didn’t see how that could be a question for debate.

    Shammy, thanks for the wake-up-and-smell call…though reality kinda stinks. 🙂 Justifying theft from billion-dollar corporations by saying these corporations are screwing over consumers is trying to make a right out of two wrongs. It’s blaming the crime on the victim. It’s claiming to be doing justice – “I am cheating this corporation out of a couple of dollars to punish them for screwing over consumers” – when the true motive behind coupon fraud is purely self-serving – “Mmm, free weiners.”

  8. tinad says:

    Companies should be careful with what they put out there. If they did start off as legit coupons, then that was their error. If they did stop accepting them, then they should have had a notice posted in all of their locations that they were not bein accepted and were no longer valid.

    For those that do use coupons that know aren’t legit, and they get away with it, well what can you do. I hope that they realize in the bigger picture that they are doing more harm then good, and that while they may be getting away with it in the short term, what they are doing is hurting all of us, because at some point, companies are going to stop having coupons available to us over the internet, or companies just aren’t going to be accepting it. I had the maple leaf ones, and when I found out that they weren’t legit, no way would I use them, even though I know people who did get away with them, I just didn’t want to be dishonest. I also know at a store that people had been using the coupons, when I tried to use other legit internet coupons, I had a helluva time getting them to accept them, because of the back lash from the maple leaf coupons. Personally I disagree with using coupons that aren’t legit, and I wouldn’t be using any, even if I could get away with it.

  9. Shammy says:

    Kib: “It’s claiming to be doing justice – “I am cheating this corporation out of a couple of dollars to punish them for screwing over consumers” – when the true motive behind coupon fraud is purely self-serving – “Mmm, free weiners.””

    What if the motive is the first primarily? Does that excuse it then? (ps. good discussion!)

  10. benji says:

    quote by tinad “Companies should be careful with what they put out there. If they did start off as legit coupons, then that was their error. If they did stop accepting them, then they should have had a notice posted in all of their locations that they were not bein accepted and were no longer valid.”

    But the McD’s coupons were NEVER issued by McD’s – they were always fraudulent. And the Maple Leaf foods coupons were only legit if they were the originals….not a printed off version. So originals were always being accepted. It was people photocopying or printing off versions that weren’t legit. Those ones SHOULD NEVER have been accepted to begin with, and it was cashier error – not the store in general, nor the manufacturer.

    So why should stores have to put a sign up saying “We won’t take fraudelant coupons”?

  11. tinad says:


    I simply said that if they did start out as legit coupons, they should do that. I never implied that these ones were, but then again, how can we be sure? How many times have companies said they didn’t do something and then they did? If they did they should just own up to it, and just say that they wouldn’t be accepting them. If they didn’t then they should make sure that everyone that works for them knows that these things are circulating and be aware not to take them, which they could put up a sign at the cash saying they wouldn’t be accepting them because they’re not legit.

  12. benji says:

    So are you a saying there’s a conspiracy? A cover up?

    I hardly think a corporation such as McD’s would put coupons out there that are legit, and then retract them, making up a story saying that they’re fakes.

    And for McD’s, it’s easy – one store, right? Just send out a mas communication to all locations saying there’s a fraud coupon on there (and there WERE signs at stores saying they were fraudulent).

    But for the Maple Leaf one…there are hundreds – maybe even thousands of different stores that sold their products…it’s near impossible to get it out to every Walmart, Loblaws, IGA, Pharmaplus, 7/11, etc.. etc.. to not accept printed/photocopied coupons. That’s why there was a controversy and debate here – because people knew it was too widespread and complex for every location that sold the product to know not to accept printed coupons – to accept only the originals. So the debate was about if it’s right or wrong to take advantage of this situation or not.

    Maple Leaf Foods never intended for its report and coupons to be used by anyone other than the shareholders. So what did Maple Leaf foods do that was so wrong? What people don’t realize necessarily, is that it’s not MLF that paid the price…it’s the stores, large and small, that accepted this coupon, because MLF would not reimburse the store for the cost.

    I’m sure once stores found out it was fraud, then they would perhaps put up signs saying they wouldn’t accept them. But until the stores themselves learned of the problem, it may have been too late.

  13. Adam says:

    Yet another poorly written post (I have avoided them for a while now but thought I would see if the writing had improved–it hasn’t).

    Apropos of the post though, I had a professor once that said, “ideologies are fairytales for fourth rate minds;” I agree with his statement, but would like to further it … Conspiracy theories are diversions for the mentally bankrupt.

  14. kib says:

    Shammy: “What if the motive is the first primarily? Does that excuse it then?”

    Well, it is an excuse, isn’t it? It may excuse the fraud in the mind of the person committing it and perhaps in the minds of some people reading that person’s forum posts or blog comments. But logically, no, “they had it coming” is not a valid excuse. The consumer’s retaliation is not equivalent to the corporation’s original screwing over in this sense: in agreeing to pay the retail price, the consumer consented to be screwed over (maybe not happily, but consented nonetheless). The corporation accepts a bogus coupon on the understanding that it is a valid coupon. The corporation does not consent to be screwed over.

    Also, justice requires that the recipient of justice understand the terms of the settlement (how the retaliation rights a wrong, or how the punishment fits the crime). The retailer does not know that getting suckered with bogus coupons is punishment for its screwing over consumers. The retailer just thinks people are scamming it and stealing from it.

  15. tinad says:

    I never mentioned anything about any conspiracy theories, I personally hate them, and that wasn’t my intention. This was just in reference to it being said that they were next to perfect copies.

    I agree that it is wrong to use them, if they aren’t legit copies, that is my take on the matter, but if other people want to that’s their choice.

    I also feel that it is people who take advantage of situations that can mess things up for the rest of us, who try not to do anything untoward.

  16. Joel says:

    There goes Adam again with his garbage….

    “Yet another poorly written post (I have avoided them for a while “. Heck, if I were you, I would avoid them all-together, and just leave.

  17. Sally says:

    Yay Adam’s back 🙁 Jim’s a great writer! You just have a complex!

    For 2008 Smart Canucks won first prize in best group blog, and 2nd in best blog. So I beg to differ that our articles are poorly written.

  18. Anna says:

    Someone once said…

    Any PR is good PR

    Although I suppose McD’s are so big that this kind of PR is kind of outside of their needs….

    With this worldwide recession, people are becomig more savvy shoppers and googling for coupons etc. Companies really need to get on the ball and cater to our needs! Yes there are some who really milk it and spoil it for everyone… but there’s not a lot we can do about that.

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