Op-Ed: Free Chocolate a Sweet Deal Until You Read the Details Special

Posted May 26, 2009 by Sandy Sand
The Mars company is calling it Free Chocolate Fridays, so I went to the site that was posted in the business section of the Los Angeles Daily News to check it out and see if it’s a sweet deal, the real deal or a raw deal.
The candy is free, and what the Daily News story didn't say is that there are a bunch of hoops to jump through including a list of rules almost long enough to make a novella. There's no guarantee you’ll ever get a free coupon and you have to reapply every week between now and when the “give away” ends on Sept. 30.
The first thing is you can’t even get started until you type in your birth date on the home page that also has two click-on boxes: one for sharing -- in other words send to a friend -- and one to blog about the wonders of chocolate.
Next to the “type in email” box is a “remind me” box, and clicking on it is the only way to continue.
I guess I didn’t qualify to be one of the “lucky” 250,000 people a week who will receive a coupon via mail…in six weeks.
If I were a real chocoholic and had to depend on their offer as my only source of chocolate-craving-satiating I’d go choco-raving-mad waiting for the mailman. Besides, the only Mars candy that I like, Peanut M&Ms, isn’t on the freebee list.
I got started by typing in a birth date, and waited for their computer to do the math and figure out that I’m older than 13-years, and it flipped to the next page where there is a large digital clock counting down to the next entry time that’s above a slot in which to type an email address and a notice saying:
Come back May 29 at 9:00AM ET and every Friday through September for a chance to get a Free* Real Chocolate coupon for your favorite Mars product below. If it’s Mars, you know it’s Real Chocolate.
I put the "chance" in bold face; it's not that way on the site that's been set up for this special free offer, and it's easy to miss.
I clicked “remind me” and got this message:
Thanks! We will remind you a day before the next giveaway.
I had to go through those hoops to get to a place where I could read the rules and regs that include the Friday times to submit a lotterized chance to get one the the 250,000 free candy coupons by submitting an entry between 9 a.m. ET and 11:59 p.m. ET on Fridays.
Is all this hoop jumping any way to sweeten the deal and promote good customer relations?
Mars would be serving the public better and be building better customer relations if they simply put freebee coupons in the Sunday papers, or give everyone who comes to their Web site one free coupon and be done with it.
Since I only did this as part of an “investigative report” to confirm what I suspected…nothing is ever really free…by the September end date, the inbox of the email address I gave is going to be full of reminders that I’ll have to delete, or I can take the time to go there, something I rarely do, and spam them.
That seems kind of appropriate, because spam and chocolate really aren't good go-withs.