For the last few years, users of Kroger’s digital coupons have been searching for Free Friday Downloads. The trouble is that the one-to-a-customer freebies are sometimes nearly impossible to find. Recently, freebie cookies were readily available at a display near the bottle return at Kroger on Maple Rd., while yogurt was sensibly in the dairy case. However, inconsistent freebie displays have left bargain-hunters fruitlessly searching for a promotional candy bar or bag of tortilla chips before their coupons expire. While Maple Rd. employees do their best to locate freebies, they say the stock disappears quickly. What if the freebie just can’t be found? “Bring something similar, and we’ll ring it up,” says a cashier. “At least, that’s what I do.”

Rachel Hurst, Kroger consumer affairs manager, says the store is working to more consistently place freebie displays near the bottle return. And she endorses the cashier’s approach to no-shows, saying that “if a product is unavailable, our stores have the ability to make it right to that customer’s expectations.”

Why does freebie stock disappear so quickly? An assistant customer service manager says, “Greed. People are signing up for five cards, so they can get more than one per customer.” But that game may be folding: Hurst says, “We’re looking into it.”