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Have you taken a few minutes to familiarize yourself with your favorite stores’ coupon policies? Most stores have a written coupon policy, which you usually can find on the store’s website or at the customer service counter inside the store. Coupon policies are invaluable tools for coupon shoppers as they contain the answers to many common questions. Can I use two coupons on a Buy One, Get One Free sale? Will my store accept a competitor coupon? All of this is spelled out for us in the policy.
The coupon policy is an excellent tool for clearing up confusion in the checkout lane. Imagine this: You have an issue with a cashier refusing to accept a coupon, but you know that according to the store’s policy, they should accept it. Simply pull out the coupon policy and show the cashier, and it becomes easy to resolve. Over the years, many readers have told me that they like to carry a printout of the policy in their coupon wallets, or pull up the policy on the store’s website using a smartphone.
But what happens when your store doesn’t have a coupon policy? It becomes more difficult to plan shopping trips, because you don’t know what your store will accept. And, in the case of cashier confusion, you’ve got nothing to refer back to in order to support your argument that your usage is correct.
Here’s a question I haven’t seen in your column before. What do you do when your store has a great coupon policy but is threatening to get rid of it completely? Here is what happened. The biggest chain of stores in our area recently got sold to a new owner. The new owner announced they are going to take away the corporate coupon policy and let each store decide what kind of coupons to take and what not to accept. This is my worst nightmare as a shopper! It takes time to plan a coupon-shopping trip, as you know. This chain’s current policy is great, they accept competitor coupons, let you use a dollar-off on one item and a BOGO coupon on the second. I love shopping here. But you would not believe how often the cashiers don’t know the store’s coupon policy at all! So many times they gloat and say “no, we don’t do that,” and I pull out the policy and nicely say, “yes, right here it says you do.”
Now, the new owner is saying they want to give the stores the freedom to accept whatever they want because each location is in a different community and they should set their own rules for different stores in different towns. That’s ridiculous. Vindictive cashiers will gloat now that they can say, “we can do whatever we want.”
I’m aware of this situation because it’s happening to one of my favorite chains where I live. A new owner bought the stores, announcing that they don’t feel a “one size fits all” coupon policy is appropriate – strange, considering there are more than one hundred stores in this chain in my area. I don’t agree with the change any more than this reader does. Policies and rules exist to maintain order and consistency among stores. In a way, they’re the “laws” of couponing. Ditching a good, already-in-place policy in favor of a free-for-all is akin to a state allowing each town to make up its own traffic laws.
You’d learn the rules in one town, then drive to the next one and find something completely different going on! Not good.
Smart Living Tip: Rules exist for a reason – in life, and in couponing! Removing the rules can only create confusion. If things become too inconsistent at the store level, know that you can always shop at another store — one with a solid coupon policy to refer to and abide by.
Jill Cataldo is a coupon workshop instructor and mother of three.