When Free Is Expensive

Sometimes “free” is too pricey.

Last week I bought over $150.00 worth of stuff at BJs Club (our local equivalent of Sam’s Club). That qualified me to come back the next week for a free turkey. The coupon for it appeared in my phone app.

Today I went back to get it, along with a few other items. The lines were crazy-long, so I went through self-checkout (which I hate doing because I don’t work there). I scanned the other items but the turkey’s barcode wouldn’t scan. It set off a flashing alarm for a manager to deal with it. One came over, scanned his card, punched a few buttons and said, “You’re fine now.” So I finished the transaction and looked at my receipt. No turkey on it.

So I began a new transaction for just the turkey. The alarm flashed again. Another manager came over, asking, “What’s the problem?” I explained I went through the whole transaction paying for these other items but the turkey didn’t scan, another manager came over to deal with it but it still didn’t show up on my receipt. He looked at the receipt and said, “Your turkey’s not on here.” “I know. I just told you that.”

He tried scanning the turkey; the alarm went off. He tried punching in the codes. It took him five attempts before it registered. The checkout spat out a receipt. “Here ya go, you’re good,” he said, handing it to me.

I worked my way through the long line of the receipt checker. “You didn’t pay for the turkey,” he told me at the door. “I know, I got a free turkey from the coupon,” I replied, pointing to the second receipt in his hands. “That’s not it,” he told me. “This says TRANSACTION CANCELLED.”


He called the manager; I had to move aside while other people went through their receipt check. Finally he got back the message for me to take my cart over to Customer Service.

I got through another line. I explained what had happened and added, “You guys offer free turkeys. You just don’t want people to leave the store with them. That CANCELLED receipt wasn’t gonna get me out the door.” “No, it wasn’t.” She took my BJs card, pressed some buttons, and handed me another receipt. “That one will.”

I got into another long line to go through receipt checking again. By the time I loaded the turkey into my car, I realized that I’d spend more than an hour getting my “free” turkey. My hour’s time is worth more than the value of the turkey. I ended up on the down side of the ledger.


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