HP free Nook promotion, and the cost of fine print

A Nook Touch.

When is a free Nook not a free Nook? Ask HP. (Photo Credit: CC BY-SA/Tthaas/Wikipedia)

Sometimes, free isn’t free. For instance, a merchandise promotion may claim that if you buy an HP Ultrabook computer, you can receive a free Barnes & Noble Nook e-reader. Such was the case on Cyber Monday 2012. But when one customer had to return the Ultrabook, they found that that Nook is far from free. It went for retail cost, $99 plus tax. Let this be a warning to you, as many free Nook offers are out there – read the fine print.

Returned Nook makes nothing free

The Consumerist tells the tale of Brian, a consumer who was in the market for an HP laptop. He purchased an Ultrabook as part of a Cyber Monday promotion that included a free Nook e-reader. Everything was fine until Brian decided the Ultrabook wasn’t exactly what he was looking for. When he went to return the computer, Brian was actually charged $99 plus tax out of the return funds from the laptop. It was the cost of the Nook, which HP wouldn’t take back.

A free Nook problem that isn’t unique

Free Nook promotions aren’t entirely free, according to HP, and Brian isn’t the only consumer to run into this problem. Looking at the fine print of such promotions, it becomes clear that the “free Nook” actually costs $99 plus tax. HP has claimed that the price listing as it appears also on a consumer’s receipt is merely the way HP systems process orders – the consumer isn’t charged the $99 at the time of purchase.

According to a source within the HP returns department, the company will not take back a free Nook obtained through such holiday promotions, and the consumer “will not receive the $106 they were charged for (the Nook).”

Wait, wasn’t it a free Nook?

Not according to HP’s fine print. The Nook was sandwiched in as part of the laptop purchase price. This information was reportedly well-hidden, but because it was publicized somewhere, the consumer was bound by the terms of the transaction.

The Nook can’t be returned, but it can be sold at the consumer’s discretion – albeit at a loss – or given as a gift. That doesn’t take the sting of the “free Nook” away, however. So take the experience of others to heart and be aware that free isn’t always free. Read the fine print!


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