Thursday, February 3, 2011

Crazy Coupon Non-Acceptance Tactics

I had a couple of incidents today with cashiers that I thought I'd share, partly to get them off my chest and partly as a public service announcement.

My first stop was at Walgreens. I was planning on buying 4 items (TP, Arnicare, Blink eyedrops, and Icy Hot). I had 4 mfr coupons, 1 store coupon, and 3 Register Rewards I wanted to use. Because of Walgreens' policy that the number of coupons used cannot exceed the number of items, I bought 4 "filler" items - Valentine's pencils that were on sale for $0.12. Eight items, eight coupons - good to go.

Or not. For some reason, the Arnicare $2 printable coupon wouldn't scan. (I admit that I have had this problem with pdf coupons - I think my printer automatically fits to page and I always forget to tell it to print actual size, so the bar code gets a little screwed up.) Grumble, grumble - but it shouldn't be a big deal. Usually the cashier will just verify that there is nothing wrong with the coupon and that I did indeed buy the product, and then enter it in manually. Occasionally, they will have to call over a manager to override the register.

Not this woman. Instead, the transaction went like this.
Scan. Beep. Scan. Beep.
Cashier: Hands coupon back to me. "I can't take this one."
Me: "Why?"
Cashier: "You have too many coupons."
Me: "No, I have 8 items and 8 coupons. Besides, you tried to scan this one second. You scanned 6 more after it and they went in fine."
Cashier: Glares. Counts my items. Counts my coupons. Studies all 7 suspiciously. "You must have gotten the wrong size."
Me: "No, I didn't." Shows her that I did, indeed, buy the right size.
Cashier: "The coupon can't be for more than the item is worth."
Me: "It cost $5.99. The coupon is for $2."
Cashier: Sighs. Scan. Beep. Scan. Beep. Looks at me expectantly, holding the coupon out as though waiting for me to break down, apologize, and take it back. 
Me: Returns her stare. I have stared down a room full of freshman learning Shakespeare against their will today. This woman does not intimidate me.

Eventually she relented and put it through. Here's what bugged me about this transaction: If the cashier had just admitted, "I'm sorry, I don't know why this won't go through," I would have just told her to set the Arnicare aside, ring me out for the rest of the items, and ask her to call a manager so I could do the Arnicare separately. Instead, she tried to lie to me to get out of accepting a valid coupon. If I hadn't been familiar with Walgreens' coupon policy, I probably would have gotten flustered and taken the coupon back. Whether she honestly didn't know and was just guessing to save face, or she was deliberately lying to get me to leave, she was the kind of cashier you have to watch out for.

Next stop, Rite Aid. I needed more ice cream (!) and I wanted to see if they had any more of the BOGO Stayfree. Yay, they did! And I still had one more BOGO coupon.

But when I got to the register, the cashier (who is actually very nice and has been very helpful to me in the past) got all aflutter when I handed her the coupon. Next thing I know she's taken it into the manager's office! When she came back, she said that there had been a "conference call" a few days ago and that they were no longer supposed to honor BOGO coupons in conjunction with a BOGO sale. They were only supposed to give you 1/2 the value of the item, since "you're really not buying any" and "the store was losing so much money."

This is where my bullshit meter started going off. First off, I double checked when I got home, and there has been NO change to Rite Aid's coupon policy. So this was clearly a decision by a manager at the store or district level. And it was a decision based on a totally faulty premise. The whole "store losing money on coupons" argument is baloney. Your store, like every other store, is compensated by the manufacturer for the full value of the coupon. It doesn't matter if I pay $3.99 in cash, or if I give you a coupon and you later get the $3.99 from the manufacturer (actually $4.07 - they get an $0.08 handling fee, too), the store still gets their money. Trying to make me feel guilty, like I am somehow ripping you off, is just another way of trying to get out of accepting a valid coupon.

In this instance, she did end up letting me use the coupon, although of course she tried to make it seem like she was doing me a huge favor. We'll see what happens next time, and I will keep an eye on Rite Aid's coupon policy in the meantime.

Whew! OK, I feel better. Like I said, part of my frustration is just in the wasted time, part comes from the feeling of being manipulated, and part of it comes on behalf of everyone who's following the rules, just trying to save some money, and getting lied to in the process.

Anyone have any cashier horror stories to share?


  1. Um, Target the other day. I am still trying to decipher my receipt, but I swear that they took all of my coupons and only gave me credit for about half of them.

    But, I was at Big Y today, and I had a coupon for a FREE 12-pk of K-Cups (up to $7.99 value). So I got a 12-pk, they were $8.39, but I figured $.40 for 12 cups of coffee wasn't too bad. The kid tried scanning the coupon and it must have been rejecting it, because instead of saying anything to me, he just took the K-Cups off of my receipt entirely (literally, I did not see them on my receipt at all) and let me go. I am blaming my adorable child.

  2. Big Y is usually really good. They're one of the few places that are actually more generous in actual practice than their coupon policy says. I can even forgive them their strict "Do not double" policy.
    Target, on the other hand... Oy.

  3. I was wondering about Big Y, I can't remember if you've addressed this or not. Their coupon policy says you can't use a coupon on a "free" item (ex. a BOGO item). So Dr. Oetker's frozen pizzas were on sale BOGO. Would they have accepted 2 $1/1 coupons, or just the one on the item I'm actually paying for?

  4. Technically, they do not have to honor coupons on items you're getting free. However, I have only had 1 instance where they have NOT accepted multiple coupons in a BOGO or B1G2 sale, and that was where she had to take off the free one manually. In every other instance, they have accepted coupons against the free items.
    So my advice would be to try it. It will probably work, and even if it doesn't they will just hand you the coupon back. In all my matchups I assume that they will take multiple coupons on a BOGO sale.