Thursday, September 17, 2009

Coupon Myths & Misinformation...and the Truth

If you use coupons for any significant length of time, at some point, you will probably encounter a cashier who may not want to accept your coupons, even if you're using a perfectly legitimate coupon in a perfectly legitimate way. Unfortunately, some stores don't train their cashiers very well when it comes to dealing with coupons, which can create frustration for customers who use them. Here are some common lines you might hear from cashiers, plus the truth about how coupons can really be used:

1) "One per purchase": This phrase is found on many coupons, and some cashiers interpret it to mean that you can only use one like coupon per transaction. However, the truth is that each item you buy is a "purchase" - this phrase actually means that you can only use one coupon per item purchased. Some coupons actually phrase it this way, which eliminates any confusion.

2) "No double couponing": Like "one per purchase," this phrase is also sometimes misinterpreted to mean that you can only use one like coupon per transaction. However, "double couponing" actually has nothing to do with the number of coupons you use per transaction - it refers to some stores' practice of matching coupon values; for instance, our Kroger doubles coupons up to $.50, meaning that a $.50 coupon actually takes off $1.

3) Coupons beeping when scanned: If a coupon beeps when scanned, some cashiers assume that you didn't buy the correct product. This can definitely be true, but not always. Sometimes coupons beep because they are not coded properly. A while back, I had coupons for "any RightGuard product," which beeped on every single stick of RightGuard deodorant I bought. At some stores, coupons will also beep if the coupon value exceeds the value of the item. This problem is usually solved by adjusting down the value of the coupon, but some registers do not prompt the cashiers to do this.

4) "You're not getting what's in the picture": Legally, what a coupon can or cannot be used on is defined by the wording on the coupon, not the pictures. However, some cashiers will tell you that they can't take your coupon unless your product exactly matches the item in the picture. Clearly, this is not true. For example, if a coupon is for $1 off any Pantene, it would be virtually impossible to include every single variety and size of Pantene shampoo, conditioner, and styler in a picture on the coupon - there is simply not enough room, so this is not a realistic expectation.

5) Coupons that equal or exceed the value of the item: Some cashiers object to coupons that equal or exceed the value of the item you're purchasing because then "you'd be getting it for free." Well, yes, you are. But that's okay! There's nothing wrong with getting it for free - you're just being a smart shopper. Coupons are really just another form of payment, since stores get reimbursed for them.

6) ____ won't print if you use coupons: Fill in the blank with Extra Bucks at CVS, Register Rewards at Walgreens, or Catalina coupons at grocery stores. If you were supposed to get some sort of promotional incentive at the end of your transaction but didn't, some cashiers will tell you that it was because you used coupons. This is not true. In reality, there are usually three main reasons why your incentive didn't print: 1) the store's system is offline or not working properly, 2) you didn't buy the correct item, or 3) the register system is not correctly programmed (if this is the case, the problem is usually chainwide and will have to be fixed by the corporate office).

If the cashier absolutely refuses to accept your coupon, you have every right to ask to speak to a manager. Managers *usually* know more about coupons, and they may be able to shed some light on the situation. Keep your cool and explain what you know to be true. If you don't want to hold up the check-out line, you can always pay and then go the customer service desk, get it straightened out, and get a refund as needed. If they still won't accept the coupons, you can also return the items if you don't want to pay full price.

It's true that using coupons does sometimes make the check-out process longer, and sometimes encounters with store personnel can be slightly stressful. However, if you use coupons a lot on a regular basis, you'll get used to it and develop a thicker skin. In my opinion, it's well worth it to spend a little extra time checking out if I can slash our grocery budget to a fraction of what it used to be!


  1. it seems to be great helpful information.itvery good guidelines when ever you apply for coupon

  2. Thanks for explaining that. I'm sometimes afraid of the cashier telling me no, and I absolutely hate holding up the line, especially at a place like Wal-Mart where the shoppers are always in SUCH a good mood anyway. :)