Let's look, shall we?
The Kindle with Special Offers has some ads on it, yes. A little ad bar on the bottom of your home page only, and then screensaver ads. But most of these ads have some sort of discount with them. You can check SlickDeals to see some of the recent deals.
So what codes did I use?
One recent offer was $5.00 of Amazon MP3 credit. Ever since I heard The Glorious Unseen's song "The Hope that Lies in You" from a free download from Tooth and Nail, I fell in love. Rather than wait for an eventual sale, I finally just actually bought it. Sounds good in my iTunes. Some heartbreakingly touching lyrics in Falling Into You (and I'm not even an emotional person!):
Why do I medicate? Why do I go back to the things I hate?
There’s something broken in me - I must be soaking in my apathy.
And You call me as your friend, as I drive these nails again. I’m falling into You.
You call me as your friend, as I break Your heart again. I’m falling into You.
All who are found in this place, come to the ocean of grace.
And all who have spit in His face, come and live!
Subtotal of items: $7.99
Discounts/Promotions: - $5.00
Total before tax: $2.99
Tax Collected: $0.00
Total for this Order: $2.99
$2.99 for 11 new songs (and 1 I already had). I consider this a savings because I had decided to buy the album anyway; it was just a matter of when. But you could argue the Kindle made me spend $2.99.
Then there was another code for $5 off any $10 item purchased from Amazon.com. I saved it for a good deal.
And then came another code for 50% off many grocery items. Most of the items there also have coupon codes you can enter at checkout to take out another 5-15%. So you can get the items for 55-65% off the Amazon price...pretty darned good if you want mass quantities of groceries.
Being one person with limited space, I only bought a few things: 36 tiny packs of freeze-dried apples, 6 8-counts of Quaker Breakfast Bars (also apple, hmmm) and 12 boxes of Lorna Doone cookies (my new office-mate's favorites; sssssh). OK, the 12 boxes of cookies was excessive, but they came out to like $8.10.
Shipping Method: FREE Super Saver Shipping
Shipping Preference: Group my items into as few shipments as possible
Subtotal of Items: $73.33
Shipping & Handling: $11.59
Super Saver Discount: -$11.59
Promotion Applied: -$0.90
Promotion Applied: -$5.00
Promotion Applied: -$36.67
Promotion Applied: -$1.88
Promotion Applied: -$3.66
Total for this Order: $25.22
Technically, did I NEED any of these items? Well, no. But would I have bought them if they were on a crazy sale at the grocery store? Yes (just not in such quantities!).
In theory, at least, someone with a big family could make a killing with that coupon. It's no wonder some people buy multiple Kindle Special Offers (to get multiple codes). Occasionally, I understand even people who don't read will buy just for the sales!