Saturday, October 2, 2010

Couponing 101 - Coupon Code of Ethics

Couponing 101 - Coupon Code of Ethics

I’ve heard the mantra before – never assume, because you know what happens when you assume….

Well, sometimes I forget and assume you all know the basics of coupons, while some of you are sitting there with “?!?!” floating above your heads.

In general there are two types of coupons: manufacturer’s coupons and store coupons.

Manufacturer’s coupons
– The manufacturer issues these coupons and typically these coupons can be used at any store that accepts coupons and that sells the product specified on the coupon. The manufacturer reimburses the store at which you redeem these coupons.

Store coupons – The store/retail establishment issues these coupons. Typically they can only be used at the store that issued these coupons. For instance, you can use a Target store coupon at Target, but not at Walmart. In some rare cases, retail stores will accept “competitor’s coupons,” for example, you used to be able to use a Shaw’s store coupon at Stop&Shop (they discontinued this).

Couponing Rules:
1. Coupon Stacking – In some stores, you are allowed to “stack” coupons. This means you can use a store coupon AND a manufacturer’s coupon for the same item. For example, if Oreos are $3 at Target and you found a Target coupon for $1/1 pkg of Oreos and you also had a manufacturer’s coupon for $2/1 pkg of Oreos, you can use both coupons and get your Oreos for FREE! Always check your store’s coupon policy before attempting this.

2. You can only use a coupon once. If you bought four package of Oreos and had a coupon for $1/1, you cannot scan the coupon 4 separate times. Once you give the cashier your coupon and she scans it, you cannot use it again.

3. You can only use one manufacturer’s coupon (or store coupon) per item. Let’s go back to the Oreos example; if you have 2 coupons to save $1/1 pkg of Oreos and you only buy one package, you can only use one of those coupons. If you really, really wanted to use both coupons, you would have to buy a second package of cookies.

4. It is illegal to copy coupons. It is actually considered coupon fraud. I’m not sure if there is some secret Coupon Police, but I wouldn’t want to be holding up a long line of customers at Walmart because I tried to pass fraudulent coupons. There are legal ways of getting lots of copies of coupons.

5. Clearance and marked-down items are not exempt from coupon-use! I wouldn’t recommend going through your store’s self-checkout if you have marked-down items and are planning on using a coupon, but only because I’m almost guaranteeing the register will not accept the coupon without it being manually entered.

You can use coupons on clearance items because at the end of the day, the store will still be reimbursed by the manufacturer for the face value of the coupon. If you end up with a cashier who gives you a hard time, I’d ask to speak with a manager – in the end it’s totally worth it.

6. Ignore the picture on the coupon! The pictures on the coupon sometimes don’t even match what the coupon is discounting. It’s important that you read the entire coupon so you don’t buy the most expensive Suave brand item when you could have bought the $1 Suave conditioner instead.

7. Be confident! If you’re following all the coupon rules and the cashier is still giving you a hard time, stand up for yourself! Ask to speak with a manager or a shift supervisor. Many times the cashier is misinformed or the computer system isn’t working properly to ring in your coupons. If you still get nowhere, write a letter to the corporate headquarters after your shopping experience. In most situations, I’ve received a response and some sort of compensation for my troubles.

 Happy Couponing!
-Coupon Mama
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