Dear Consumer Ed: 

What is the law concerning “buy one get one free”?  Specifically, I am wondering if I only want one of the item, isn’t the store supposed to charge me 50% off in lieu of getting a second item free?  

Consumer Ed says: 

Stores often devise promotions to entice consumers to purchase their merchandise.  One increasingly popular promotion is advertising store products as “buy one, get one free,” otherwise known as “BOGO.”  This marketing tool serves as an incentive for consumers to get two of the same or similar items, while only paying for one of them.  Consumers will almost always select two such products in order to take advantage of the advertised “discount.”  In general, these types of promotions are run to get more people in the door, or to reduce the store’s inventory of a particular product.

This promotion is especially popular in grocery stores.  Consumers arrive at the “check out” counter and notice that the first of the two products is often automatically scanned at half off of the original price, regardless of whether the second item is purchased.  This often creates confusion as to whether it is actually necessary to purchase two products in order to receive one product for free, or if one can simply purchase one of the advertised products at half off of the original price.  There is no law pertaining to “buy one, get one free” deals in particular, and a merchant is not necessarily required to give you a BOGO item at half-price simply because you don’t select two of them.  It’s best to ask a sales associate or customer service representative in advance about the store’s policy concerning BOGO deals.  This way, you’ll know what to expect before you buy anything.

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