Advertising Alert: “First (pick a number) customers get a free…” Advertising

first 50 ad 300x74 Advertising Alert:  “First (pick a number) customers get a free…” AdvertisingConsumers see it more and more  – businesses offer a special price, discount or free items to the first 10, 20, 50 or however many customers that come in the door for a special promotion.

Better Business Bureau of Acadiana has also noticed these ads too.

BBB regularly monitors these ads and regularly asks companies that use this form of advertising to substantiate that the advertised number of customers actually received the “special deal” offered in the ad to ensure the offer was not used simply as a ploy to attract more customers during that time frame.

BBB also asks local advertisers substantiate that the price offered to the limited number of consumers to arrive first was actually a substantial discount off the regular price that the item is usually sold.

This type of advertisement can be misleading, deceptive or insincere.  When combined with savings claims, it also tends to cause a false sense of urgency to make hasty purchases and can be open to misinterpretation.

Businesses using these types of ads are urged to use caution using this type of advertisement.  BBB is concerned that if the end date of the offer is not defined, consumers are unable to know if the products or services have all been sold.

Another concern is that if the product or service continues to be offered to all, then the ad is definitely misleading.

Further, if consumers are directed away from the advertised product to other products or services, they are more likely to allege up-selling or bait-and-switch advertising.

The Code of Advertising’s Basic Principals states:

  • The primary responsibility for truthful and non-deceptive advertising rests with the advertiser. Advertisers should be prepared to substantiate any claims or offers made before publication or broadcast and, upon request, present such substantiation promptly to the advertising medium or the Better Business Bureau.
  • Advertisements which are untrue, misleading, deceptive, fraudulent, falsely disparaging of competitors, or insincere offers to sell, shall not be used.
  • An advertisement as a whole may be misleading although every sentence separately considered is literally true. Misrepresentation may result not only from direct statements but by omitting or obscuring a material fact.

For advertisers to fall within these principals, all ads, including those offered to a certain number of customers that show up first, must be honest, transparent and clear.

Advertisers who offer special rates “to the first 50 customers” should be able to provide a standard price list and then substantiate with a record of sales showing the saver price to the first customers that purchased in response to the ad.

Please remember that before you do business with anyone, Start with Trust®. Check with the BBB.

Related Posts:


About Sharane Gott

Sharane A. Gott is the President/CEO of the BBB of Acadiana in Lafayette, LA. She is a certified mediator and has served on the Council of the CBBB Board of Directors, Bureau Operation Committee, as well as many other national committees over her 27 years with the BBB.