A coupon for a free item seems like a good way to market your business, doesn’t it? Maybe not, if the place you turn it in can refuse to honour it.

We have such a coupon, expiring May 31, for a free sub at Quizno’s. In our household, the subs are known as good, but pricey, so Son #1 set off for the local shop with high anticipation. He was back soon after, no sub in hand. It seems the coupon is only good at “participating” retailers, and the local store refused to accept it. When asked who would, the employee unhelpfully replied, “Nobody in Oakville.”

Contrast this with Harvey’s, which offered a free hamburger to anyone, no coupon required, between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. last Sunday. Son #2 and I went and joined a line-up at our local store. We had to wait a little while, but everyone was in good spirits and the line moved quickly. We added fries and a drink to our order, as many did. Son #2 normally gets chicken at fast food places, so if you can believe it, this was his first fast food hamburger. He liked it. We’ll be back.

It’s not too difficult to see which marketing was more effective.