The MyWaitrose in-store PoS clearly states that the deal offers the value of a newspaper off your shopping. The checkout staff, however, helpfully remind you to pick up your free paper when your bill nears £5.

Newspaper circulation bosses definitely don’t call them free in their communications to RN. Unfortunately, the papers they represent haven’t been towing the party line in their coverage of the promotion’s success in the past few weeks.

Waitrose treating newspapers like Tesco treats Easter eggs is a dangerous game if customers are being trained to expect to get their newspaper for freeWaitrose boss Mark Price can’t stop calling them free papers, and claims to give away a million copies a week. Combined with a million free hot drinks a week, Waitrose has attracted half a million new shoppers through its doors in recent months.

There’s been much debate about who’s paying for the promotion. A million free papers and coffees is a significant chunk of marketing budget being diverted away from TV advertising.

What sort of sales return could be expected from sampling a million copies a week? I was recently told to expect 6% from a similar exercise, which in this case would mean growing the market by 60,000 copies in the long-term. But at what cost?

Visit a Waitrose on a Saturday morning and newspapers aren’t displayed lovingly like valuable products. They’re stacked high in cages like cheap giveaways. Treating newspapers like Tesco treats Easter eggs is a dangerous game if customers are being trained to expect to get their newspaper for free.

Ultimately, newspaper circulation departments could end up paying the heaviest price.