What Does “BOGO” Mean? A Primer For Your New Favorite Retail Phrase

Because apparently one of my functions in life is to let all of you out there in Internetland know when there are deals and promotions running for popular food and drink items, I often use the word “BOGO.” Occasionally, though, it leaves people scratching their heads: What does “BOGO” mean? So, as a matter of public service, I figured I'd do my best to answer any questions that might arise from the use of the word. Consider this your BOGO primer — may it stand you in good stead.

First things first: What on earth does it mean? That's an easy one. “BOGO” is an acronym that means “buy one, get one.” You'll rarely find it outside of retail scenarios — but within the retail world? Hoo boy. It's all over the place, functioning as a shorthand term for deals and steals, and in all sorts of industries: Food and beverage, clothing, you name it. They involve buying something and getting something extra alongside it.

However, not all BOGOs are created equal. Here's a list of the ones you'll probably encounter most frequently, just so you know what you're getting into each time you find one:

1. Buy One, Get Another One Free

Starbucks is a big fan of buy one, get one free (or BOGOF) deals, and it's no wonder why: They're perfect for low-value items like cups of coffee. The Teavana Oprah Chai Tea Latte deal they ran at the beginning of April? That was a BOGOF — if you bought one Oprah Chai Tea Latte, you got a second one for free. They ran another BOGOF deal called “Share the Joy” back when the Chestnut Praline Latte launched, too: If you stopped by a Starbucks between 2PM and 5PM on a certain set of days, you got a second drink free for every one that you ordered. The Share the Joy deal was good even by most “buy one, get one free” standards; you could get any two drinks you liked at any size, with only stipulation being that the cheaper one counted as the free one.

2. Buy One, Get Another One At a Discount

You'll also frequently encounter “buy one, get a second one at a discount” deals. The discount varies, but 50 percent off is a popular choice. I usually see it with regards to clothing; right now, for example, American Eagle is running a bunch of “buy one, get one 50 percent off” deals on T-shirts, tank tops, shoes, and so on.

3. Buy One, Get a Free Gift

I don't know about you, but I first encountered the “boy one, get a free gift” model in the department stores at my local mall when I was a kid — usually at the beauty counters. I'll admit that I don't usually find these kinds of deals to be particularly good incentives; I've typically found the gifts to be of low value and therefore not enough to make me want to buy something I probably don't need anyway.

Then again, maybe I'm just colored by memories of all those empty makeup bags and weird fragrances no one in our house actually liked that accumulated whenever my mom restocked her supply of PS by Design (she had no idea what to do with them either, because let's face it: There are only so many cheap cosmetic bags one person needs). From what I can see from the website GWP Addict, gifts with purchases may have improved considerably since my childhood in the late '80s and early '90s. Do with that what you will.

4. Buy One Item From Category A, Get One Item From Category B Free

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This type of BOGO deal sounds similar the gift with purchase one, but I'd argue it's slightly different. The free item isn't a predetermined “gift set”; it could be something like, buy a pair of shorts and get a T-shirt free.

5. Variations on a Theme:

Of course, “buy one, get one” isn't the only definition of “BOGO” out there; here are a few more you might find in the wild:

  • Buy One, Give One: It's better to give than to receive, right? That's the principle on which “buy one, give one” models operate: For every item you buy, something will be donated to a good cause. That's how TOMS shoes works — when you buy one pair of shoes, a second pair goes a community in need — but “buy one, give one” doesn't necessarily have to mean that the “give one” is a second version of whatever you just bought. Out of Print Clothing, for example, donates a book to a community in need through their partner, Books for Africa for every literary-themed clothing item or accessory purchased.
  • Where One Goes, The Other Follows: In this case, “BOGO” still means “buy one, get one” — but sometimes it's used to refer to pairs of people who never go anywhere without each other. Urban Dictionary describes as “when two friends are a packaged deal.”
  • Blackout or Get Out: Most of the rest of the definitions offered by Urban Dictionary are… shall we say, a little unsavory. If you're attempting to get blackout drunk (I don't personally think it's fun and don't recommend, but that's just me), apparently you're supposed to announce it by saying that you're “BOGOing.” Or something.

Want more nutty BOGO definitions? Head on over to Urban Dictionary — some of 'em will make your hair curl. Otherwise, though, the next time you see a BOGO coffee deal, go ahead and grab yourself a second cup. It's the little things, right?

Images: mementosis/Flickr; Giphy (4); Imgur