Welcome Back to Coupon 101!
To read the rest of the posts in this series, click here
In order to use coupons effectively, you need to understand both store policies and basic coupon policies. I wish that I could tell you that after reading this post you will have all the knowledge you need to never have a problem using coupons again. Unfortunately, there is "the way it should be" and "the way it is". You are going to run in to a store manager or (more frequently) a cashier who doesn't understand coupons and gives you a hard time. Perhaps this post will help you in those frustrating cases where you find yourself needing to explain a store's coupon policy to a store employee!
One of the best things I can tell you to do is to check the websites of your local stores to see if they have a posted coupon policy. This should help you with about half of the stores. Beyond that, you can try emailing the coporate offices and ask them their policies. While most stores do give their managers some latitude (limiting quantities, etc), the larger chains expect their stores to adhere to a set policy. Pulling a printed copy of their coupon policy (either in an email from corporate or printed directly from the website) is often an argument-stopper!
Let's talk about a few basic rules:
1. Most stores will allow you to combine a store coupon with a manufacturers coupon. This is what is known as "stacking". How can you tell the difference between a manufacturers coupon and a store coupon? The most obvious difference is a lack of a "Remit To" address. Another is a lack of numbers under the bar code (or a bar code that starts with letters or isn't the standard 10-digit code). Grab most any coupon out of the Sunday inserts and you will see both of these. Now grab an Easy Saver Coupon from the Wags circular or from the RiteAid circular and see the difference.
2. Limit One Per Purchase simply means that you cannot use 2 of the same coupon on 1 item. It doesn't mean that if you have 15 items you can't use 15 manufacturers coupons. It means that if you have 15 items, you can't use 25 manufacturers coupons on those 15 items. A purchase is an item. A transaction is a group of purchases. You will occasionally see the coupon that says "limit 1 per transaction", but they are very rare.
3. Internet Printable coupons have 2 "bar codes" on them that prevents their misuse. The first bar code is the one that gets scanned at the point-of-sale. The second is not really a bar code, but the Veri-FI seal with an individual ID number for that coupon....and no two coupons have the same number. One of the biggest reasons that cashiers try to give for not wanting to take several like-IPs is because they don't know if they are photocopied. A quick look at the Veri-FI codes should prove that they weren't (or else they would have the same Veri-FI code). For more information on Veri-FI, click here. Of course, if the corporate policy is to only accept one like-IP per transaction (grrrr...Genuardi's!), the only recourse you have is to write to corporate and ask them to change their policy.
4. You can combine an "off 2" (such as $.50/2) coupon with a BOGO sale. The coupon doesn't actually require that you PAY for 2. The coupon just wants you to get 2 and the store is giving you one for free as part of their store sale.
5. In most cases, stores don't mind you taking "peelies" or hangtags off of products for future use. They are provided by the Manufacturer and all they care about is that you use it at some point to buy their product. Of course, I hope that I don't have to tell you how rude it would be to grab every single peelie off the shelf at once.....but I've been known to grab 3 or 4 one day...and then 3 or 4 more a few days later, etc. So grab some peelies to wait for a better sale, but don't be a Peelie Hog...leave some for other customers.
6. Internet Printables are valid no matter if they are printed in black & white or color ink. As color ink is more expensive than black ink, set your printer to grayscale (medium quality) and print away! Many IPs even say "valid if printed in B&W or color right on them. The fear that many have over B&W printed coupons is that they are afraid they are photocopied. See #2!
What other coupon questions do you have? Post them in the comments (no matter how silly or basic you may think they are. This IS Coupon 101, after all!)