Yes, You Can Make Money Buying Blood Sugar Meters. Should You?

This week Bayer meters used by diabetics to measure blood sugar are a $5 moneymaker at Walgreens. Reader Tracy asked me to explain how this works, and I will. I'll follow the walk-through with a little discussion about whether it's ethical to make money buying this kind of item.

Here's how it works:

1. The meter is on sale for $14.99, so if you use the $30 off coupon from the 10/25 RedPlum, they'll adjust the coupon downward and you'll get the item for free.

2. Walgreens will give you a $5 Register Reward coupon for buying it; it should print when you pay for it. Like Catalinas, those RRs are good on your next purchase (Although they expire faster than Catalinas you get at other stores, and they have other restrictions too that make them my least favorite kind of Catalina coupon.)

3. There you have it: You spent $0 (Are there tax on these things?), you got $5RR which you can now spend on just about anything in the store. $5 moneymaker.

4. There is also a full mail-in rebate offered on the box, but I'm pretty sure they will only refund the actual price paid on your receipt, less the coupon. So that would get you nothing.

Now: These money-making blood glucose monitor deals come up all the time at CVS and Walgreen's. There is some debate out there over whether it's actually ethical to go out and take free glucose meters from the store if you don't need them, just to get the ExtraBucks or Register Rewards.

The main argument is that some poor, elderly diabetic person will come hobbling in to take advantage of the deal, only to find that you've cleared the shelf. Another argument would be that it's wasteful and environmentally hostile if the meters you get don't end up being used.

I don't worry too much about that first scenario. I have relatives who are diabetics, and they tell me that they get their free meters right at the doctor's office. The manufacturers want to get these meters into the hands of diabetics for free, so the patients will buy their brand of test strips, which are very expensive. And after all, since there is always a full rebate on the box, granny could hobble in and get her free meter anytime. In fact, Bayer offers a printable coupon so anyone with a prescription can get it free anytime they want.

Maybe I'm just cold hearted.

Waste is more of a concern for me. I have "bought" multiple Bayer Contour meters from CVS (it's always a great deal because if you have gotten down to zero ExtraBucks, this is a way to get more with no investment). I successfully unloaded all of them on Freecycle and to Goodwill, and the people who took them on Freecycle seemed quite excited about using them at clinics and such. But I don't really know if the clinics they wanted to use them at had the appropriate, prescription test strips. It could be they're still sitting in the box in a church storeroom or something.

I actually feel better about the meters I sold for $1 each at a rummage sale last summer, because the people who bought them were the actual patients and wanted to have an extra to keep at work or whatnot. For them, it was worth $1 not to do the legwork of sending in a rebate or whatever.

Personally, I won't be doing this offer at Wag's this week, but only because I want to save my coupons for the next time it comes around at CVS. I do, however, hope to drop by Wag's to get some free Kleenex and some cheap chocolate chips for holiday baking.



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