“Ma’am, it won’t take this coupon.” After scanning the coupon for the third time and hearing an annoying beep, the cashier presses the total button on the cash register and hands me back my coupon with a sorry-can’t-help-you smile dripping off of his face.
I hold my hand out towards his, pushing the coupon back. “You just need to insert the amount that the product is for. That’s why it is beeping.” He looks at me, then at the manager making his way to the front of the growing line. Reluctantly, the salesman scans the coupon again. This time when it beeps, he keys in the amount of the product. Presto: the amount comes off of my total. All is well.
Over the last eight months I have become a dedicated couponer. And more times than I can count I have excitedly prepared my coupons at home for the perfect transaction, ran to the store with high hopes, only to be turned away by a disgruntled cashier who can either not figure out how to use the coupon, or who does not know their corporate coupon policy. The first two times my coupons were not accepted I was too embarrassed or intimidated by growing lines to say anything, so I just paid for the merchandise and quickly left the store. However, after several failed attempts I decided to start suggesting to the cashier how to input the coupon based upon my growing expertise from all of the other successful experiences I have had. By paying attention to cashiers, seeing which buttons they were pushing, discerning between the various toned beeps and asking my fair share of questions, I have become a bit of a scan artist.
As an official scan artist, I have compiled some information that might save you some frustrating trips to the cash register. First of all, the following are a few common beeping noises you may come across, and what they generally mean. It is a little difficult to discuss the different toned beeps through writing, but if you read them out loud I think it will help to clarify the sounds.
- Blip-Blip-Blip: The melodious sound of coupons being scanned through (successfully) and your total coming down, down, down.
- Blip-Beeeep: Typically this happens when a coupon needs the cashier to input the amount of the product purchased in order to redeem the coupon. This type of beep also results from a coupon exceeding the amount the product is being sold for. In this situation, usually the cashier can adjust the value of the coupon down to match the cost of the product (again, they have to input this price themselves). In any case, it means the cashier must manually override or input something. Be aware that some cashiers do not have the authority to manually override, and must call their manager in order to do so.
- Beep-Beep-Ba-beeeeep: That beautiful sound at CVS stores which means your ECBs are printing out. If you do not hear this beep at the end of your purchase at CVS, make sure to check your receipt because this means your ECBs have not printed. If you were supposed to get ECBs, talk to the register clerk and/or double check the ad to make sure you have bought the correct product (size, weight, shape, type, etc.
Another issue that you may come across at the cash register has to do with whether or not your cashier is knowledgeable about their corporate coupon policy, or whether or not the manager for the store you are shopping at has specific policies for coupon use. It is best to educate yourself on each store’s coupon policy. To help you do so, I have emailed each of four popular stores (CVS, Walgreens, Target and Walmart), in order to obtain an official copy of their coupon policies. The following is the information I was given:
- Accepts manufacturer’s coupons that have been obtained from an approved Web site sponsored by the manufacturer. The coupon should be complete and contain a bar code that can be scanned at the register.
- Visit www.cvs.com and go to the ”Save With In-store Coupons” box and click on “start printing now”. To print coupons, check the box next to the Clip! icon, (or click ”Select All Offers”) and then click ”Print Now”. Please note that these coupons can be redeemed at CVS/pharmacy stores only and all manufacturer requirements must be met.
- Registers are set to allow 1 CVS coupon and 1 manufacturer coupon per item.
- CVS Extra Buck coupons are earned when you make a qualifying purchase. These print out instantly at the register upon reaching the threshold for the offer.
- Free coupons or “offers at the register” are unearned and issued to you as a valued member of the CVS/pharmacy ExtraCare program. These coupons take the form of “open ended” coupons such as $3 off $15 or a certain dollar amount off a specific item. In any given transaction our registers will allow only one “open ended” coupon per transaction and more than one Extra Buck coupon provided the purchase threshold has been met for each offer amount on a per-transaction basis.
- In the case where a particular item is on sale for “buy one get one free” (BOGO), you are only allowed to use one manufacturer’s coupon. For instance, if Revlon lipstick is on sale for BOGO, you can use one manufacturer’s BOGO coupon. You would get both items free & pay any applicable tax. The Store Manager can limit quantities.
Questions: Call 1-800-SHOP-CVS (1-800-746-7287)
I spoke with a representative on the phone, and she said that there is no actual coupon policy written down, and that each store has the leeway to change their coupon policy. She suggests that you go to the store you shop at most often and ask them for their particular coupon policies.
Here is what I have found for Walgreen stores in my area in (Houston, TX):
- You can stack one walgreen’s coupon, and one manufacturer’s coupon together for the same product.
- If you use a register reward to pay for a product that is supposed to yield a register reward, it will not print out your register reward.
- You can only pay with one register reward per transaction.
- You cannot have more coupons than you have items in your transaction. This means you may want to find a favorite candy bar (mine is mint musketeers!), and each time go up to the register with one or two of them in order to increase your items if needed.
Questions: Call 1-800-925-4733
- Accepts two kinds of coupons: Target-issued and manufacturer-issued.
- Accepts one Target coupon and one manufacturer coupon for the same item, unless either coupon prohibits it.
- Cannot give cash back if the face value of a coupon is greater than the purchase value of the item; in this case, we’re able to adjust the value of the coupon to equal the price of the item.
- Can’t accept coupons from other retailers.
- All valid coupons should be presented to the cashier while you’re checking out.
Questions: Call 1-800-440-0680
- Wal-Mart accepts manufacturer coupons (Cents Off), free merchandise (or manufacturer’s Buy-One-Get-One-Free) coupons, store coupons (which come from specific store chains such as CVS, Kohls, etc), internet coupons, and soft drink container caps. Internet coupons should be legible and say “Manufacturer Coupon”, and there should be a valid remit address for the manufacturer and a scan able bar code.
- Only one coupon per item is permitted.
- The use of 40 or more coupons per transaction will require approval by Customer Service Manager.
Questions: Call 1-800-WALMART (1-800-925-6278)
I encourage you to print out this post and take it with you; if the cashier you are working with does not know their coupon policy, you can use the information above as a reference. Your next step may be to talk with a manager or customer service representative. If necessary, you can use the above headquarter phone numbers and have your answer at your fingertips.
Also a little note about printable coupons. The internet has truly brought saving money to our fingertips; you no longer even need to purchase a Sunday paper to get many coupons on such sites as www.shortcuts.com, www.coupons.com, etc. However, many stores still do not accept these coupons. Why? Well, turns out that they do look like they could be photocopied, and for some managers, that is enough to deem them all illegal. And as the last KFC free grilled chicken fiasco taught us, it is always best to check with the store through a phone call first to make sure they will accept your printed coupons.
Just remember, the store that you shop at will be reimbursed the coupon amount from the manufacturer, and each manufacturer prints up a certain amount of coupons based upon promotional programs that they have money set aside for. Besides, experts estimate that only 3% of the billions of dollars worth of coupons printed each year are ever redeemed. So you should never feel guilty or ashamed for using legitimate coupons; only intelligent for embracing your frugal side!