Is Walmart Providing ‘Free Thanksgiving Dinner for All’?

We looked into how it could be that Walmart and a cash back company could afford to offer such a special deal for "free."

  • Published 18 November 2020

Claim

Walmart partnered with other companies to provide free Thanksgiving dinners in 2020.

Rating

What's True

Walmart partnered with Ibotta and other companies to offer cash back rewards on Thanksgiving staples, totaling $20.27 in savings on turkey, stuffing, and other items.

What's False

The offers are only good for specific items from specific brands, and shoppers will have to pay Walmart for the items before receiving the cash back rewards from Ibotta.

What's Undetermined

The offer is only available while supplies last, so it's possible some of the items may not be in stock at all Walmart locations leading up to Thanksgiving Day.

Origin

Thanksgiving in the U.S. has traditionally been a time to gather with friends and family to eat, drink, and be merry —including an after-dinner nap. In November 2020, however, things were set to be very different.

As COVID-19 hospitalizations spiked to all-time highs, many Americans prepared to stay home for the holiday, or only hold small outdoor gatherings, per CDC guidelines. At the same time, the coronavirus had led to tens of millions of lost jobs, leaving many with financial troubles and no second stimulus check in sight.

As the holiday approached, headlines such as this appeared to shine a bright spot during a year marked by the pandemic: “Walmart announces free Thanksgiving dinner for everyone.”

It is true that Walmart partnered with other companies to provide a special shopping experience for Thanksgiving that will save shoppers a bit of cash, including these items:

  • Butterball Turkey Breast Roast ($9.98 cash back)
  • McCormick Turkey Gravy, 0.87 oz Pouch ($1.12 cash back)
  • Great Value Stuffing Mix, 6 oz ($0.82 cash back)
  • Idahoan Mashed Potatoes, 8 oz Pouch ($1.88 cash back)
  • Campbell’s Condensed Cream of Mushroom Soup, 10.5 oz Can ($0.98 cash back)
  • Great Value Cranberry Sauce, 14 oz ($0.98 cash back)
  • Great Value Green Beans, 12 oz ($1.34 cash back)
  • French’s Crispy Fried Onions, 2.8 oz ($1.92 cash back)
  • Coca-Cola, 2 Liter Bottle ($1.25 cash back)

The offer is only available for these specific items from these specific brands, as detailed on the Ibotta website.

The Ibotta mobile app or browser extension (Google Chrome only) is needed to redeem the offers. Shoppers will need to pay for the items up front, but they will later be able to receive cash back via the app or extension. KRON4 reported on the offers:

To get your free Thanksgiving dinner, all you have to do is download the Ibotta app or download Ibotta’s web browser extension, click on the “Free Thanksgiving Dinner” offer and shop for your Thanksgiving items at any Walmart or at Walmart.com.

Once purchased, you can scan your receipt into the Ibotta app or link your Walmart Grocery account to verify the purchases, and you’ll earn cashback for your entire purchase (approx. $20.27).

Ibotta’s website explained how the company makes money: “Ibotta believes it is better to pay consumers than to advertise to them, effectively cutting the consumer in on the deal. We share a portion of the retailers’ and advertisers’ dollars directly with Ibotta users in the form of cash back offers redeemed through the app.”

Ibotta’s terms of service also states that accounts have maintenance fees. However, according to the terms, those fees will always come out of “amounts in your Ibotta account,” and never credit or debit cards, checks, or cash. Here’s how it works:

There are costs associated with the creation and maintenance of your Ibotta account, and those costs are covered by the fees Ibotta earns when you redeem Offers. Therefore, if you have redeemed at least one Offer during the prior 180 days, your account will not be assessed any account maintenance costs. If, however, you do not redeem at least one Offer during any 180 day period, Ibotta will deduct from your Ibotta account, on a monthly basis, the lesser of (i) $3.99 USD, or (ii) the amount then reflected in your Ibotta account (in either case, an “Account Maintenance Fee”). No Account Maintenance Fees will be charged or deducted during the first six months after you initially register for your Ibotta account. Ibotta will attempt to notify you before any Account Maintenance Fee is deducted from your account, or if the Account Maintenance Fee amount changes, by sending you an email to the address we have on file for you. Subject to Ibotta’s right to terminate your account under these Terms, Ibotta will stop charging your account for Account Maintenance Fees for six months if you redeem at least one Offer. Under no circumstances will you ever pay an Account Maintenance Fee with anything other than amounts in your Ibotta account – we will never ask you to make a payment for Account Maintenance Fees with credit or debit cards, checks or cash.

According to these terms of service, as long as shoppers using Ibotta redeem offers regularly (meaning more often than once every 180 days), account maintenance fees won’t be charged.

This special offer from Walmart and Ibotta is only available “while supplies last.” The COVID-19 pandemic is once again resulting in the emptying of some store shelves, reminiscent of mid-March when toilet paper, cleaning supplies, and hand sanitizer were hard to come by. Such shortages potentially may include food products needed for Thanksgiving.