Grocery Shopping Coupons

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Grocery Shopping Coupons - YMMV: Negative Couponing Experiences

the not-so-fun part of couponing
Using grocery shopping coupons and coupons for free products, while usually terrific, does have its ups and downs. Occasionally, a Coupon Queen will experience negativity from stores, cashiers, and managers, as many people do not understand frugal coupon living.

Learn what the term "your mileage may vary" means when it comes to smart shopping and stay at home moms.

There are two main types of problem situations when it comes to using grocery shopping coupons (assuming that the Coupon Queen is using the coupons as intended).

Problems occur when a cashier or store manager is ignorant about how coupons work, or when a cashier or store manager is jealous of the deals a couponer gets. Both situations can be frustrating and insulting for the coupon user.


Many store personnel simply have no idea how coupons work, and most are afraid if they mess one up they will lose their jobs. The sad part is that many cashiers are simply not trained on how to properly use coupons, so, consequently, they are left with their own interpretations.

Here are the most common myths assumed by store cashiers when it comes to grocery shopping coupons:

One Per Purchase
Nearly every coupon has some terminology that states "limit one coupon per purchase" or similar. The reason this wording is put on coupons is to make it clear to shoppers that they are not allowed to use multiple coupons on one item.

For example, if a bottle of shampoo is $4, and a customer has four $1 off one coupons, they may not use all four coupons on one bottle of shampoo. In order to use all four coupons, a Coupon Queen would need to purchase four bottles of shampoo.

Makes sense, right? But occasionally, you will get a cashier who thinks this means that you may only use one item per transaction (which isn't true), and will insist upon writing up each and every coupon in a separate transaction, wasting your time and the store's.

The easiest way to combat this problem is to simply ask, "So how many am I purchasing?" They usually understand at that point that each item is a purchase and does not require separate transactions. If that does not work, call a manager.

Coupon Value More than Item Cost
Many times frugal coupon living means hitting the clearance shelves. Often, using grocery shopping coupons with a clearance price makes a product totally free, or even more than free.

What does it mean when a product is more than free? Let's say some body lotion normally $7.99 was on clearance for 90% off, bringing the price to $0.80. If you had a $1 off coupon, you have a 20 cent overage on the product.

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Now, there are two ways a store SHOULD handle this type of situation: either they just credit you the 20cents on the rest of your purchase, giving you the overage (they will be reimbursed in full by the manufacturer) or they price adjust the coupon to the clearance price and then write on the coupon the amount they took for it.

Either of these methods will result in the store getting paid for the coupon and you getting the item for free. That is how it should work, and how all store coupon policies are written. However, Your Mileage May Vary (YMMV).

Sometimes, a cashier or manager will just flat out refuse to honor your coupon. They will claim that the registers will not allow them to do it (which isn't true) or that it's against company policy (which isn't true) or a number of other creative excuses.

Trial Sizes
Part of the fun of frugal coupon living is seeing what you can get for free.

As a rule, you should always use your grocery shopping coupons on the smallest size allowed. Unless it is written on the coupon as an exemption, you can usually use your coupons on travel size or trial sized products. Sometimes a store employee will complain or refuse to allow you to use such coupons, even when the coupon scans just fine.

Buy One Get One Free Coupons
I like to think of Buy One Get One Free coupons (B1G1F) as coupons for free products, as you can often combine them with a B1G1F sale and get two items for free!

This is very common, in fact. Nearly every store has on their coupon policy that it is acceptable to use such a coupon and get both items for free, but again, you may run into ignorant store personnel.

Beeping Coupons
When a Coupon Queen says that a coupon "beeps" what she means is that when the cashier scans one of your grocery shopping coupons, the register will make a beeping noise and show an error message. This could be for a number of reasons.

The purpose of the beep is to alert the cashier that something is wrong, most likely that the coupon does not have an item purchased that matches it. A lot of the time, the correct product is, in fact, purchased, but for one reason or another some stores do not recognize it.

The correct procedure for the cashier is to verify that the correct item is purchased and enter the coupon manually. Some cashiers will not do this however, stating that the machine just won't accept it.

Totally Free Items
Coupons for free products will always beep. They beep because the cashier is required to type the purchase price of the item into the register so that the customer gets the item for free. Because of counterfeit coupons, it is common for cashiers to be nervous about coupons for free products. Many times a manager is needed.


Though it is usually lack of training that causes problems with grocery shopping coupons, occasionally you will have an extremely unpleasant shopping experience because of the rudeness of staff at a given store.

It is a sad fact of the hobby, but many cashiers and managers get angry when a Coupon Queen gets stuff free.

They take it as a personal insult, and behave as though they personally are having to pay for your discounts out of their pocket.

Some store personnel are just negative, complaining that you are abusing the system, getting upset with coupons for free products, while others are downright nasty, telling you that they will "not allow" you to get these deals.

Many make you feel like a criminal for taking advantage of sales offered by their store.

What All Coupon Users Can Do

So what can the average Coupon Queen do to prevent bad couponing situations? First, understand that if you go down the path of frugal coupon living, you will encounter these types of situations. If that makes you uncomfortable, this hobby is not for you. Realize that using grocery shopping coupons is perfectly alright, and follow these tips to make couponing easier for everyone:

Don't Clear Shelves
There is nothing worse than going to a store on the day a sale starts and not finding a single product left to purchase with your grocery shopping coupons. I take that back.

The only thing worse than not finding a single product left to purchase in a store is going to multiple stores and not finding any product.

As an ethical frugal coupon living user, leave product on the shelves for the next couponer. Buying all the stock of a particular store does not make management happy, and does affect the way all couponers are treated.

The exception to this (and there always has to be an exception) rule: if you are shopping on the last day of the sale or there are just 1-2 items left on the shelf, then feel free to clear the shelves, if appropriate.

Don't Purposefully Use a Coupon on a Wrong Product
All grocery shopping coupons are coded for a particular product, as stated on the coupon. Occasionally, a store register will accept that coupon on any item in the same brand, or on one product when the coupon stipulates using it on two. Not following the instructions on the coupon, whether the register accepts it or not, is coupon fraud and unethical.

Carry Store Coupon Policy with You
It is helpful to email corporate for each store that you frequently shop at and ask for a copy of their coupon policy. Print these policies off and bring them with you to show management if you run into trouble. But, again, YMMV (your mileage may vary). I've found that while this works most of the time, you will still get managers who refuse to even look at the coupon policy, much less follow it.

Call Corporate
Anytime while using your grocery shopping coupons that you have a negative experience, it is often helpful to call their corporate phone number and report the situation. If you find that your stores are experiencing a number of employees that need to be trained on proper coupon usage, this is helpful so that they may get the training they need.

It's also sometimes helpful to call the corporate office from your cell phone in the store at the time of the incident. Sometimes employing this method solves the problems you experience once and for all, right there on the spot.

Stop Shopping at That Location
The best piece of advice I can give any Coupon Queen who runs into problems legitimately using grocery shopping coupons is to stop frequenting that particular store. Many of us live in an area where multiple stores in a chain are available; simply avoid the problem store.

If you are in a smaller area, and have only one of a particular store available, then having a heart-to-heart talk with the store manager or district manager is your best option.

Most importantly, realize that negative coupon experiences are part of frugal coupon living, and take it in stride. Don't let one bad apple spoil the whole bunch. Happy couponing!
Do you use store coupons? Tell us why or why not?

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Related Pages

  • Grocery Coupon Online Classes
  • Why Save with Coupons
  • How to Save with Coupons
  • Start a Grocery Price Book
  • Guest Bloggers: Frugal Coupon Moms
  • Coupon Deals Websites
  • What to do With Your Stockpile
  • Counterfeit Coupons

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