Why Coke Rewards Is For Suckers

Have a coke and a smile -- just stay away from their rewards program.

I am absolutely mesmerized by VH1′s Celebrity Rehab and its companion program, Sober House. I find both show’s real-life peek at celebrity addicts’ half-hearted attempts at recovery absolutely, well, addicting.

You can preach all you want from your high horse about the exploitative nature of such a show, but the fact remains the concept is brilliant: Confine Sean Young, Heidi Fleiss, Gary Busey, Rodney King, Tawny Kitaen, Daniel Baldwin and a host of other celebrity addicts in a small building for three or four consecutive weeks without the booze and/or drugs they normally use to get by on a daily basis and then watch the fireworks.

Why bother with the contrived scenarios of those Real Housewives shows, when both Celebrity Rehab and Sober House guarantee genuinely compelling theatrics? Couple that with celebrity doctor Drew Pinsky’s dubious counseling and you end up with the equivalent of using gasoline to put out a house fire.

So what has this got to do with Coke Rewards, the loyalty program that rewards frequent Coca-Cola drinkers with the promise of lots of free merchandise and services?

Well, for almost a year and a half I was addicted to Coke Rewards. Of course, my addiction was not as devastating as those who are dependent on drugs or alcohol, but it was a powerful addiction just the same. And just like any other addiction, nothing really good ever came from it.

The Story of a Coke Rewards Addict

My addiction to Coke Rewards started on October 5, 2007 with a ten-point deposit into my account from a 12-pack of Coke Classic. After that it was a long, ugly decent into the depths of Hades.

At first, my need to collect points was orderly and rational. I would simply buy my 12-packs and dutifully enter the 12-digit codes printed on the inside of the cartons. I eagerly scanned the Coke Rewards website for items that I desired, and put them on my “wish” list.

Within a couple months, however, it was apparent that Coke Rewards wasn’t going to provide me with the nirvana I was expecting.

Items on my “wish” list were selling out before I could reach the required point values to get them and it became painfully apparent that, unless I was willing to settle for some sorry Coke key chains, or an occasional free 20-ounce bottle of Coke, I was never going to be able to get any of the truly big-ticket items that were being offered up.

The first signs of trouble were subtle.

I found myself getting chummy with the guy who fills the Coke machine at work, hoping for handouts that never came.

I started asking friends and co-workers if they would be kind enough to save their bottle caps for me. At first it was just my close friends, but it eventually spread to anybody I was remotely acquainted with that I saw with a Coke in their hand.

Usually, to deflect suspicion, I would pitifully make up a story that I was saving points for my daughter. “She needs 2000 points for a giant stuffed Coca-Cola polar bear,” I’d say with a nervous laugh, hoping nobody knew I was selfishly gunning for the iHome Desk Lamp (complete with an iPod dock & speakers!) for 3700 points.

After a while, the bottle cap hand-outs from my friends and coworkers became less frequent. So I started shaking them down in the hallways at work.

Eventually I became paranoid. “Hey, Bob,” I’d say, barely able to control myself. “Where’s my bottle caps? I know Clarence down in 201 is collecting them too. You aren’t giving my caps to him, are you?”

Soon, I found myself unable to avoid sneaking a peek at every trash bin and office waste receptacle I passed during the day, hoping to see an empty Coke bottle or, better yet, 12-pack carton that would allow me to feed my relentless addiction.

I eventually hit rock bottom after I caught myself early one morning shamelessly scouring every last inch of my colleagues’ office trash cans in search of discarded 20-ounce bottle caps. It was then that I made a pledge to come clean.

The Coke Rewards Program Is For Suckers

Of course, bottle cap collecting is not as big a problem as heroin- or alcohol-abuse, but it’s similar in one important aspect: over time, it takes more and more Coke Rewards points to get the same results. For example, I bought a Coke T-shirt in May 2008 for 370 points. Five months later, thanks to chronic points inflation, that very same shirt required 760 points.

When the Coke Rewards program started in 2006, rewards points were valued at roughly ten cents each. By 2009 that same rewards point was worth less than four cents. Today, one Coke rewards point is worth only two-and-a-half cents.

But points inflation isn’t the only problem.

As I noted earlier, there were too many instances to count where I would put an expensive item on my “wish” list only to see it be removed from the site months later. This is Coke’s version of Lucy pulling the football from Charlie Brown when he tries to kick it.

One day, I finally came to my senses.

After all the effort I put in saving Coke Rewards, I had only accrued a total of 1407 points and spent 753 of them — and all I had to show for it was two insulated Coca-Cola lunch coolers, and a lousy shirt.

The last time I checked, I had 654 points remaining in my account with 60 more still waiting to be deposited in the form of unopened 12-packs in my garage. If I’m lucky, that’s good enough to get me a red Coca-Cola ball cap, a “vintage” Coke bottle opener, and a couple of free movie rental coupons from Blockbuster.

Big deal.

If anybody wants to take advantage of my unused Coke Rewards codes printed on the cartons, they’ll be in the trash can; feel free to take them.

After all, the first taste is always free.

(This is an updated version of an article originally written on February 15, 2009.)

Photo Credit: Coca-Cola South Africa

Comments

  1. 1

    says

    OMG, I’m dying from laughter right now. I have a coke rewards, I have never ever perused the points section. I just enter our 12 packs all the time. Yeah my DH is a huge coke fanatic. I would totally have given you my points if we worked together. Hmm..maybe I should check it out. I am going to guess you aren’t a hard core coke drinker yourself? We run through a 12 pack a week easily, mostly my DH. One for lunch, one for dinner and maybe one more. If only I could get him to cut back.

    • 2

      Jen says

      I know it’s a long shot, but I’m saving the codes for my son. I have a 5 month old little girl, & no money to buy my soon-to-be 13 yr old son birthday presents. I saw a couple things on the sweepstakes section & have been entering everyday to try winning something for him. Like I said, it’s a long shot, but I’m desperate. He’ll blame his baby sister for a “crappy” birthday. I’ve been asking everyone to save the codes for me too. I figure, they just throw them out, & I’m the one wasting my time on it…so who cares?

    • 3

      says

      Hey you all you suppose to put the codes in immediately when you get home, not save them up for a month then put them in.
      say you got a 12 pack today, you should go home remove the caps from each soda type the codes in, and screw them back on and put your sodas back in the fridge. problem solved. of course we now they may go flat in a few days but that’s okay fountain soda is flat, so we are aleady used to it. :D

  2. 5

    says

    @ LAL,

    You’re in denial! Stop blaming your DH — I bet you two are co-dependents and in need of some serious help! I could see us all now, three Coke addicts pitifully huddled together against a brick wall on some skid row avenue, with our cups held out begging for bottle caps. Eventually we could save the 3150 points to get us a baby Weber grill that we could use to maintain a fire to keep us warm on those cold, rainy, winter nights! lol :-)

    Seriously, I love Coke. I avoid Pepsi like the plague — unless it is the only drink available, that is! I used to drink about a little over a quart a day, but I’ve cut back to between 12 and 20 oz daily.

    @ TPFP,

    Thanks for the love!

    Len

  3. 6

    says

    Touching story – I’m not a pop (or “soda” as you probably call it) drinker but I can certainly relate to getting sucked into rewards programs

  4. 7

    Benz says

    3 words for what to do with Coke Rewards: DON’T DO IT! My first and only experience left me with nothing–a coupon code that was invalid for a fitness video from a company that just kept telling me to resubmit it. I’ve called so many Coke #’s I’m batty. And nobody there cares one hoot! I thought it would be fun and easy and it’s been anything but; and when I pointed this out to the supervisor she had no response. Coke rewards is a stupid, worthless marketing ploy and way more trouble than it’s worth!

  5. 8

    says

    I’d take Coke over Pepsi any day, but never did the rewards program. It would take me years to get even a tshirt anyways. Still, I can relate to the points program addiction as I’m married to an addict. From Air Miles to HBC Rewards, gas points, Aeroplan, Shoppers, Sears club, everything you could imagine, she has. Her purse has like 30 pounds of rewards cards, and its starting to give her a limp on one side… Its pretty bad!

    • 10

      RayBanMan says

      If you are into points buy the 99¢ 12 oz bottles. Each cap is worth 3 points. Use promo code NCAATSHIRT before entering cap codes and you’ll get a free college t-shirt of your choice for only 6 codes and it doesn’t deduct any points. You can do this twice. Then do the same thing with promo code NCAAMYTEAM for 2 more t-shirts. Do coke! By the way, you can use cap codes from any size bottle of Coke products for this deal.

  6. 11

    George says

    I do agree with you on how the items you want sometimes go away. But that doesn’t mean to stop saving your points just because you can’t get an item any more! You can get things in return from Coke. Does other soft drinks do that? No! All you do is buy their products, drink them, and get nothing in return. It’s also free to do my coke rewards all you have to do is sign up, so they don’t rip you off. You can also find free points on the road somewhere were people don’t keep them so you get those points for free! So all I’m saying is keep your points and go to my coke rewards and get free stuff.

    • 12

      says

      Well, George – Coke doesn’t have a monopoly on rewards programs for drinking soda. Pepsi has a rewards program. Dr. Pepper used to, although I am not sure they still do. Oh, and if you are looking for orphan Coke rewards, not only can you find them on the side of the road, you can also find lots of them in my trash can. :-)

  7. 13

    Em says

    If you’re not afraid of a little dumpster diving, Coke Rewards are awesome. My friends and I have gotten so many magazines that way.

  8. 14

    says

    You know, I have to agree that the inflation sucks and the rewards never stay up long enough to save for. However, I finally just gave up on the big stuff and started using my points every 200-300. I’ve gotten several good magazine subscriptions and several songs from Napster as well as a three-month membership.

    I’m addicted to Diet Coke so I don’t really have to go out of my way to collect the points, though. I do think that a lot of those awesome, massive-point prizes that were on the site for the first year or so were about this close to false advertising.

    • 15

      says

      I’m a big Coke drinker myself, Sara. Still, I just got tired of collecting the codes for things I knew would never get either because of the price inflation or them removing the item before I could save up enough points. If I were still collecting today – which I am not – I would probably save my points for those coupons good for $1 off 12-paks. I think it was 35 points for a $1 off coupon. Do they still have those?

      I agree about the borderline false advertising suggestion regarding those earlier big-point prizes. Totally unrealistic.

    • 16

      Elaine says

      Actually I knew someone who was a counselor at a sober residence for dozens of men. He shook down the men for their points. You know recovering alcoholics guzzle caffeine instead. Anyway, he got some of those awesome first year rewards before points inflation took over, prizes got cheaper,and point limits came into play.

  9. 17

    Stephanie says

    I totally agree about the big point rewards- but if you go for the magazines (and drink lots of coke) it’s a pretty great deal. Of course, I’ve volunteered to help fill the Coke machine at work too, so there you go. ;)

  10. 18

    Jennifer says

    I did the Coke rewards for awhile, but quit after the coupon I spent points on didn’t work at the grocery store. Big let-down.:(

    • 20

      Len Penzo says

      Ha! Too late, Olivia. My father-in-law depends on us now to feed his own Coke Rewards addiction! Poor man. LOL

  11. 21

    jamie davis says

    its so funny how free stuff can be free but you have to spend so much to get it. its not really free if your spending hundreds of dollers on gift cards. it insane although i do it but i get the codes from my grandparents thats alll they do is drink it anyways.. yess this can get addicting just thinking that you could possibly have a chance at getting something for free. but why waste you money on something if you dont even drink it. five points and you get a free chance to win 500 doller visa card. their might be a chance at winning it. but its very unlikely. nobody i know does my coke rewards. it’s just insane and outrages. it is also addicting like he says.

  12. 22

    Todd says

    Wow do I feel like a fool…..as of 08/02/2011 I have 10,230 my coke rewards points in my account……and not a damn thuing to show for it…………..but I’ll keep saving……..and keep hoping for some nice prizes….

    • 23

      Len Penzo says

      That’s pretty awesome! So… What does 10,000 points get you nowadays? Hopefully you can get a nice Coke t-shirt and maybe have enough points left over to grab a ball cap too! ;-)

  13. 24

    jeff says

    I’ve been collecting coke rewards since 2006, and I just made my first purchase. I managed to amass 4000 points in 5 years time. My landlord would drink a 12 pack a day, and I would pull the box out of the trash and plug the code into the website. (Most of the points were from her, I’m sure). The trouble now is, the largest rewards you can get are 2000 points, and most of them are nothing I’m interested in. Hope my ab roller is not a pos.

    • 25

      Len Penzo says

      Let me tell you — it’s a relief not feeling the need to collect those points anymore, jeff. It’s really like kicking an addiction. (Um, not that I would truly know what that’s like.)

    • 26

      Elaine says

      Heck I collect 4000 points in one year with my own Diet Coke addiction. I must say I look mighty sexy in my free Snuggie. Everyone is sexy on the internet anyway, right?

  14. 27

    Pamela says

    what about the fact that the 1000.00 Walmart card is offered up I think it is a scam it looks real enough. but it popped up as if I won something and looked the same as the scam that truly turned up to be a scam,

    • 28

      Len Penzo says

      I’m not sure what you are referring to here, Pamela. Did Coke offer a bogus Walmart card in exchange for rewards points?

  15. 29

    Travis Oakley says

    You guys are crazy. I get tons of magazines every month for free, and I just enter all my 12 packs once or twice a month. Especially with an android app, it’s not hard at all. It takes maybe 5 minutes to enter 12 codes for 120 points, and a year of Entertainment Weekly is about 250 points or so. I mean, come on, it’s not like coke is gonna give out free cars! I just appreciate the fact that they throw me some magazines to read to thank me for my loyalty.

    Never had a problem like you guys are claiming.

    • 30

      Eric says

      I agree i mean my family gives me the codes and ive gotten 16000 points in a month and it cost me about an hour and a half on the computer i mean i got free movie tickets coming in the mail and a miniture mini fridge yay

      • 31

        Len Penzo says

        Come on now … really? 16000 points in a month!? That’s the equivalent of 1600 12-paks a month.

        You must have a very large family — or a small family at significant risk of chronic diabetes. Just sayin’.

  16. 32

    Harrier says

    Interesting, soda is sugar water. I don’t think the rewards folks make money on the items they “give” away. It is simply to promote products and build brand loyalty. Anything you get and like is a bonus beyond sugar water you purchased. From Coke’s stand point, if you go to the store and have a choice of brands to chose from, they hope you will chose coke and using rewards is a way to provide an incentive to choose or stay with their brand. If you are a consumer, you goal should be to chose what you want to get after you have reached the points max. There will always be things being offered and things being removed. If there is nothing you like being offered, you can always join Pepsi rewards. I’m on both and as I can, I enter in points for both. I don’t let rewards points alter my choice for the best deal I come across. Relax and take it slow and steady.

  17. 33

    Noah says

    Wow, GUILTY as charged! I work at UPS and while I don’t see many coke bottles I see a TON of Powerade bottles lying around. I literally POUNCE on them when I find them. When it’s on sale for .50 etc. they are common & I’m always telling guys I work with that I’ll take the caps when they’re done. The strategies that make the program pay off for me are 1. Save most Powerade caps when they offer “double points” 2. Enter the points while watching sports (lots of commercials) 3. Every Wednesday is a 1/2 off deal 4. Every now & then they have bargains such as DVD box sets for under 400 points & $5 subway gift cards for 140.

    Since I get most of my points from work/friends it’s more of a time investment vs. money but I rarely just sit there and watch TV so this is yet another great “TV companion hobby”.

  18. 34

    Sheila says

    I didn’t really get this the first time you posted and I still don’t. I do realize it’s just for fun (to be funny), but why don’t you just get free Coke with your rewards points? That’s what I do. I have 4 free 12 packs coming my way right now. I have done a few magazines and also free blockbuster rentals, and it’s just nice to get a few free things for taking a few seconds to enter the codes. It’s better than a poke in the eye!

  19. 36

    Oscar says

    I’m curious to know, if you can’t stand to drink diet, if it is possible to get enough rewards to get something actually worth your time without getting morbidly obese from the massive amounts of sugar.

  20. 37

    Seth says

    I am not a soda/pop drinker at all. I used to be a heavy coke drinker in late grade school (circa 1995-ish). But I did dabble in their other products like Sprite. I never did any Coke Reward programs because I quit drinking soda at the end of the century. Just didn’t like it anymore. My friend Sadie in grad school was collecting points and always had me help her “dumpster” dive for them. The movie theater was a great place to collect many because they sold bottles along with their overpriced cups. I’m not sure if she ever won anything though. I did win an NCAA Mountain Dew jersey from 1997. Upon ebaying said jersey, it is going for a cool $20 these days. I should dig that up.

    • 38

      Len Penzo says

      Wow. Seth. If you told me about the movie dumpster diving idea at the height of my addiction, I bet I probably would have tried it out at least once to try and hit pay dirt.

  21. 39

    says

    Wow, I’ve never joined Coke Rewards, but for years I had an addiction to filling out online surveys for “points” that could be redeemed for gift cards. Roughly 10 hours of surveys = $25 gift card. You don’t have to be a mathematical genius to see that they pay is less than what a 4-year-old would deem acceptable, but it was just so hard to say no!

  22. 40

    Dave says

    That was totally totally me! I was a grad student when I found out about those, and it started with saving points from purchases to wandering round the lecture rooms while studying at night and rummaging through recycle bins. And all for what? A 1-year subscription to Wired Magazine and a $25 restaurant.com certificate so I could take my girlfriend to a nice new french restaurant – which she didn’t like anyway, and refused to go (topic for a very long argument). Anyway, I decided it wasn’t worth it. I’m sure the school security camera guy would be wondering who was this guy always going round the lecture halls at 2am and going through recycle bins.

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