Friday, April 03, 2009

Coupon Nazis Strike Again at Checkout Counter

A&P, Bed Bath & Beyond Busted for Going Out of Their Way to Piss Off Customers.

Coupon clipping is in my DNA. I'm not cheap, but I love a good deal.
Supermarkets ostensibly want the business of folks like me. The ones that operate where I live double my coupons up to 99 cents. So, a policy I found out about the hard way today at A&P is weird, to say the least, not to mention infuriating.
I printed out from the computer a 55-cent coupon for a half-gallon of Horizon organic milk. The coupon came straight from the company Web site. It's the only way you can get the coupon -- Horizon doesn't advertise in the coupon supplements that come in the Sunday papers.
Yet, when I gave my coupon to the A&P cashier, she wouldn't accept it. Why? Because it was an Internet coupon.
Thinking I got stuck with a lunkhead, I asked for a manager. Sure enough, no e-coupons. "I'm sorry, but it's company policy."
What's behind the policy. "I don't know," she said again apologetically. "It's policy. We've asked them to change it and they won't."
It's not like I'd photocopied an original coupon and brought it in for redemption. This was the coupon. But no matter. Suffice to say, I gave back the milk. A&P lost a sale and ticked off a loyal customer.
I went down the road to Shop-Rite, where they took the coupon without comment. A bonus: it was 50 cents cheaper too.
This was my second coupon caper recently. I had been to Bed Bath & Beyond, which I never enter without a wad of the 20-percent-off coupons that show up in the mail every couple of weeks.
The checkout was uneventful until the cashier told me I could only use five coupons in one transaction. Why? "I don't know."
That didn't sit well, as I had 10 items and coupons for each one. She said, "Well, you could do two separate transactions." And so I did.
But that took more time and made no sense. And it cost Triple-B more money too, as they pay a fee for each credit-card transaction.
For whatever lame rationale the company has for this policy, the only thing it does is anger shoppers, which is exactly the wrong thing to do during a recession. The store wasn't exactly overwhelmed with patrons when I was there. Coupons should be the least of their worries.

If anyone from either company would like to chime in, the space is theirs for the taking.


Anonymous said...

I've had this problem with Wal-Mart too. I got a coupon from a manufacturer that was printed on security paper and mailed to me, but the cashier said it was an Internet coupon and she couldn't take it.

The magic words: The manufacturer mailed it to me. I walked out of there with my product.

Anonymous said...

Back in my steak n' shake days, coupons were a nightmare. Usually the people who used coupons were, well, cheap. (I know not everyone is). But you bet your ass we would be tough about any policies, because for once, we were in control, you had to listen to us. And some of us just like to be dicks.

The Frugal Freak said...

I've had the same problem with Wal-Mart too. I've argued with a few cashiers at various locations in Delaware, Maryland and Alabama (where I live now) over them not accepting perfectly valid coupons. At the current Wal-Mart I use, over on Sparkman Drive in Huntsville, AL I've singled out the cashiers that are good about coupons. Its not like I'm trying to pass a bad one or anything.

However, Kroger is REALLY good when it comes to coupons and their policy of giving you the item for free when the price is wrong is really good. I didn't realize they even had one until I went to buy a loaf of bread that was on sale and it rang up at full price. I had just moved to the area and had only gone to a Kroger a few times.

Anonymous said...

Same issue with BB&B, but the cashier wouldn't take a printed coupon (that was sent to me via email no less).

Eric Rieman said...

I had problems with coupons over a dollar in value at the self-scan lanes at one local supermarket (Giant Eagle). After speaking with the manager he told me the reason was that a lot of fraudulent coupons come from the internet.

They still took the coupons but it required a manual override by a clerk. Now when I go into this store I rarely use the self-scan lane.

Anonymous said...

Walmart DOES accept internet coupons, you should not have a problem redeeming them there. They have no official policy that says they don't take them, in fact their policy says they do take them. If you do have a problem I suggest calling their 800 number and they will likely straighten it out. Its likely a nazi cashier that feels its coming out of her own pocket when you use a coupon if your having a problem with walmart.

However I have a problem with Rite-Aid. Their official "policy" is that they do not take any internet coupons if they do not have the Rite-Aid logo on them. I am missing out on quite a few deals because of this. But when I did find out about this policy I made sure I made it clear that I was not going to buy the item I had the coupon for and took the coupon back from the cashier.

Jan Scholl said...

My local Targets refuse internet coupons and Joann's (which takes competator coupons from printed paper sources won't take rival Michaels and vice versa if they are from the internet. But locally Joann's Micheals and Hobby Lobby only do internet coupons anymore. So out I go with money safely in pocket.

Holland Rhodes said...

I see the logic in both policies.

A&P is simple -- as internet coupons get disseminated wider than the manufactures' intended they will simply not reimburse the store for them. Further, people edit or other wise create totally fake coupons. If I ran a store that had been defrauded due to coupon fraud you bet I'd enact a policy of not honoring home-printed coupons either.

I don't know BBB's reason, but my guess is that it's another form of fraud prevention. An unscrupulous cashier could apply coupons to items on the purchase when no coupon was originally used. The cashier would pocket the difference.

What's more noteworthy about BBB however is that you can use more than one coupon. I always thought (too bad I don't have one of those coupons here to check) that you could only use one per transaction. Rather than bemoaning that they only take five at a time you should praise them for taking more than one, apparently as many as you have, just five at a time.

Kay said...

I've had the same problem with A&P - including a run-in with a manager explaining their policy against internet coupons.

Funny thing...if you go to the self check out any legit internet coupon WILL scan to their system.

A&P is just hurting themselves with this - I know I now favor other stores that aren't going to hassle me over where I choose to get my coupons from!

Anonymous said...

"Funny thing...if you go to the self check out any legit internet coupon WILL scan to their system. " Just because it scan does not mean the store will be reimbursed.

Anonymous said...

I understand the internet coupon thing. Target recently had a problem with this where people had been downloading the coupon, altering it on the computer and bringing it to the store. They lost alot of money on it. Most stores only take internal online coupons.

As for the Bed, Bath & Beyond thing, I've worked in retail before and I don't know about them specifically but I know that alot of registers just won't let the cashier do more coupons than their allowed. Think of it as a positive though, she offered you a way to cheat the system and use all your coupons as opposed to saying you could only use 5.

I hope my comment has helped temper the mood a bit.

Anonymous said...

Since just about every retailer has had a problem with internet coupons, are you really suprised that they are hesitant to take a coupon printed out from a computer? Hell, if you can photoshop Sarah Palin's head on some gun toting bikini chick and have people believe it, you don't think you could rig a few coupons? Besides not being reimbursed, the coupon clearing house dings you the face value of the coupon, plus a handling fee, which can be as one dollar per bogus coupon.

Anonymous said...

Here's the strange thing about coupons - for every customer who is just tickled pink about clipping coupons (hey, I guess everyone needs a hobby) there are probably ten others who think of coupons as a damn nuisance. You hate to just ignore them because that's like leaving money lying on the table, but at the same time you realize that you'd much rather be doing just about anything else instead of dealing with these lousy coupons. It's a hassle to cut them out, it's a hassle when you forget to take them to the store, and it's a hassle when Atilla the cashier decides that he/she doesn't like your coupon, for whatever reason.

Worse, in our area one of the two main chain grocery stores runs a frozen foods coupon circular every March and October (they've done this like clockwork for years). They make extra flyers available at the store, but the coupon state "one coupon per customer" or something to that effect. But the clerks would routinely ignore that (probably got sick of arguing with people) so the store (probably at the corporate level) programmed the registers to simply ignore all coupons for the same item after the first, but not overtly reject them. So you buy a whole bunch of some product (the coupons are usually for multiples of a product, e.g. $1 off 4 of some item) and hand the cashier your several coupons and she dutifully scans them and puts them in her register, but only after you get your receipt do you realize there's only been one coupon credited. Of course people started to catch on to that and threw fits, so now the cashier tell customers they can't use their multiple coupons unless each is used on a separate transaction - so you have customers tying up a register for 20 minutes, running a group of items through, handing over the coupon, paying for the items, getting them bagged and into the cart, then start over with the next transaction, sometimes through several iterations.

One of the things that drove me to buy more store brand products was forgetting to bring my coupons. My thinking process went something like this: "Well, I had a coupon for this name brand product, but I forgot my 25 cent off coupon. I don't want to pay the full price but I also don't want to waste the gas to go home and get it. But wait, here's the store brand for 30 cents less than the name brand - I can buy that and be even further ahead than the coupon price!" So I'd buy the store brand and quite often find that I liked it just as well, if not better than the name brand product. So because of the stupid coupon, the manufacturer of the name brand product actually lost a customer, which I'm betting was not their intent (I should add that there may be mythical places where stores double coupons, but that just doesn't happen anywhere around here - I haven't seen that promotion in about 20 years!).

My personal feeling is that coupons bring in a small but vocal minority of customers who are hardly brand loyalists - they'll buy anything for which they have a coupon. But the rest of us think of them as a gigantic pain in the rear - life would be so much better if the stores would just run sales on items and the stores and manufacturers would stop issuing the infernal coupons! So although I don't condone criminal activity, I have to admit that there is a small part of me that secretly hopes that coupon counterfeiting (or some other problem with coupons) becomes so prevalent that stores and manufacturers decide they just aren't worth the hassle and do away with them altogether.

Oh, and in regard to stores not liking coupons printed off the Internet - if your printer can handle it, I'm assuming there's no law that says you can't print your (legitimate) coupons on newsprint, just like the newspaper uses - I wonder if some cashiers and/or stores would have less of a problem with those? Find those huge ads with lots of whitespace, cut out a blank portion big enough to print a coupon on, and you can test the theory (some newspapers will even sell or give away newsprint roll ends). But be careful, because some printers will jam if the paper you feed in is too thin.

polish vodka said...

i don't understand why you're not grateful that you can use as many Bed, Bath & Beyond coupons as you want: those things save you a ton of money! So what if it takes a bit more time to do two transactions?

Anonymous said...

A Target refused internet coupons! Interesting, since they offer their own internet copons at their website! Fight for your right to coupon Jan Scholl! I even read that you could print out Target internet coupons at the gift registry . . . but have not tried it. My Target routinely accepts their store coupons along with an internet coupon for huge savings. Good luck.

Anonymous said...

Oops I mistyped up there . . . my Target routinely accepts their internet coupon along with a manufacturer coupon, for huge savings.

Anonymous said...

I know this is slightly OT, but what I have found infuriating are the sales in which some varieties are discounted, but others of the same brand/product are not. Yet its never stated clearly (in ads or in-store signs) which ones. For example this week Shredded Wheat was on sale, there are apparently five varieties all with the same regular price. Only three had discounted shelf tags. Neither the ad nor the in-store signage suggested the sale was limited to selected varities. It took twenty minutes of arguing with three different store reps before I got my discount.
I had similar problems in other stores/chains with everything from milk to vegetables.

Brad said...

i'm looking at a 20% off BBB coupon in Bellevue, WA. It says 'limit one to a customer per visit.'

Steve said...

Brad: You're right about that. The weird part is, I've never noticed that. Maybe that's because it's never been enforced in dozens of visits to BB&B.
It's also a poorly kept secret that the expiration dates on the coupons are there for show. I was told by a person who does PR for the company (my former employer was a vendor for them), that it was some kind of legal requirement per the FTC, but that the coupons never actually expire.
I guess the moral of the story is just because it says so on the coupon doesn't make it so.
The only ironclad rule I've seen enforced re BB&B coupons are the manufacturers cited who are excluded from the discount. The cash register would flag that in any event.

Tiffany said...

And the worst part of it all? Red Plum and other companies are looking at going solely to internet coupons. Most of the time they state "do not double" or some such language and are not nearly as helpful as print ones.

David Schwartz said...

"i'm looking at a 20% off BBB coupon in Bellevue, WA. It says 'limit one to a customer per visit.'"

That just means you can't use two of them to get 40% off.

It's a pretty standard rule that you can't apply more than one coupon toward the same item's price.

Anonymous said...

You are not CHEAP but you go to BBandB and purchase 10 items all with coupons???

And you are not CHEAP? You just buy whatever comes on the coupon booklet!

Come on! What you are doing is reasonable, but it is called CHEAP too.

Anonymous said...

Coupon abuse can be a real problem for stores. The policies don't always make sense, but some people might be shocked at how many customers are willing to use coupons/sales/whatever to scam money and product. They all have a sob story, and all are self-proclaimed loyal customers spending tons of money at the store. So there is some reasoning behind such policies.

As for cashiers being stubborn about such coupons, many stores track coupons, discounts, price adjustments, etc. If you are scanning too high a percentage of coupons to transactions, you can be disciplined or terminated. It might not seem like it would be a big deal to just do your bucket of coupons as a favor, but the customer behind you wants to do the same. So does the next one. And the next one. No store employee wants to have to sit through a couple of interviews with a Loss Prevention guy who has come to town just to see why you are scanning so many more coupons than anybody else.

Anonymous said...

This is why stores are such Nazis about coupons: people trying to use 10 coupons when they clearly state ONE PER PERSON PER TRANSACTION. I will never undertstand why people feel that they are exempt from the coupon wording, and that the "one per person per transaction/table" doesn't apply to them. If it says you can only use one, why in the world would you assume you could use more than one? Stores are cracking down on all legit couponers because of people who try to bend the rules, and it sucks when all you want to do is save some money for your family. We are made to feel like criminals and cheapskates!

Steve Gosset said...

To 11:01 a.m: If the coupons are made available to me, why would I NOT use them? That's not being cheap. That's being smart.
As for 3:15 p.m., it's as simple as this: BB&B has never enforced the one-coupon-per-visit policy that's stated. If it was fine, I'd accept it and move on. But they want you to use the coupons. That's why they send them out in such prestigious numbers and so often.
What I object to is them arbitrarily imposing a policy of "no more than five," if they are only going to allow me to do a second transaction with another five.
It makes no sense, and is not consumer-friendly. If coupon fraud is such a big issue, than stop issuing them, have old-fashioned sales, just like other stores or simply lower your prices.

Anonymous said...

I don't think you're being fair to BB&B. They let you use the coupons, even though the coupons say on them only one per customer and only one per transaction. Plus, the location I go to accepts expired coupons.

B. Y. Clark said...

BB&B's coupon policy is very generous, particularly compared with its competitors. I think your being a bit harsh. I agree with the previous poster...they say you cannot use more than one per transaction...and yet they let you use 5. Seems to me they are being plenty compromising.

Anonymous said...

i'm with the rest of the anonymous posters.

if the coupon states you can only use one per visit, you shouldn't get your panties in a wad if they only let you use five per transaction and don't limit your transactions.

just because they didn't enforce restrictions before doesn't mean they never could or should enforce them in the future.

one of the problems in the US today is the bold sense of entitlement of its citizens. too many people think they're entitled to do things the way they want or to get whatever they want.

Red_Eye said...

Ok what part of this do you folks not get?

Say for the sake of argument that he was buying 10 items at $10.00 each.

If I purchase all 10 at once thats $100. Minus 20% thats $80. So you pay BBB $80 on your visa and BBB pays their credit card transaction company say $.50 for the transaction.

Now lets say they fully enforced their coupon fine print. You would have to do 10 transactions. You the consumer would still get the same deal, however BBB would pay the $.50 TEN TIMES! So $5.00 in transaction fees. He is complaining because the policy does nothing but cost the company money and irritate the customer.

Anonymous said...

I'm not 100% sure about he BBB coupons but speaking from retail experience, most coupons have a limit X amount of coupons per customer. Hence the double transactions, so it looks like two different customers. Believe it or not HQ looks at these sort of things to help prevent theft.

SK said...

I've used coupons for Coca-Cola products, printed from the website, at Wal-Mart before. I've only had clerk give me trouble. That was a disagreement over whether I could use one per transaction (their interpretation) or one per item (my interpretation). I've learned to avoid that clerk and go to one of the others who have not given me trouble.

However, I can't use my e-coupons at Publix because they have a sign at the entrance, next to the "no heelys" sign, that says "no internet coupons".

Matt S said...

You should be thankful BB&B is willing to take multiple coupons per visit at all. Complaining about them taking 5 coupons when they clearly indicate only one per visit is absurd.

Steve Gosset said...

My view is the coupons have become one of the foundations for their business model.
Without them, BB&B would eventually go the way of Linens N' Things.
And you know what's really absurd, Matt? Putting meaningless statements on a coupon, such as limiting one per visit, when that's not the intent.
It's boilerplate language put on there by a lawyer, just like the phony expiration dates.

Anonymous said...

I once took a manufacturer coupon to a store who refused it because "we don't take their coupons" although they deemed to sell the manufacturer's product.

I sent a complaint letter to the manufacturer who sent me a polite apology letter and, for my trouble, sent me ANOTHER COUPON! The lights must have been out in their office that day...

Rick said...

Target won't take internet coupons. Wal-mart will. I am not big time coupon user. However, since I sometimes use coupons, I've gotten in the habit of only going to Wal-mart now.

Anonymous said...

just a reminder not to beat up on cashiers who have no choice but to enforce company policies. acting out at the register-and yes, even passive-agressive guilting is acting out-will only give the clerk yet another "jerk" story to take home at the end of the day. if you're unhappy with your transaction, ask to speak to a manager & calmly explain why. either way, politeness is key! those of us in retail are more willing to bend the rules for a reasonable customer. if we can't, please don't act like it's our fault!

John MacKenzie said...

I know of employees at a Papa Johns franchise (roysboys around Atlanta, Georgia) that would often add coupons to telephone orders. That is, after he orders been phoned in, the delivery run assigned, and the ticket printed, the driver would go into the system and add a coupon, to lower the price as far as the store in concerned, but the ticket/bill the customer gets still has the non-coupon price. the driver gets to keep the difference the coupon makes.

Franchisee Dean Thomas knows about it and doesn't care though. But then he's also the kind that would get one of his drivers to go outside their store delivery area, to deliver 80 (and sometimes more - can be as many as 200) pizzas to his church, or kids school, for a $5 tip (his church ownes Burt Reynold's old mansion in Loganville, Ga - uses it as an office)

So sometims, the coupon baddies are not the customer, but store policies are there to stop the employyes working the company (or in this case, the franchisee and their employees working over the customers and corporate)

OfficeDepot Coupon said...

there is lot of fraudulent coupons come from the internet so it is very difficult to find right coupon that why i believe in, and from where i get some nice coupon codes.

Anonymous said...

I have stood in line way too long at Walgreens while some rabid Coupon Nazi in front of me gives the clerk a bad time about, "oh, weren't those Scrunccis supposed to be buy one, get one free?", when the darn basket full of items was already reduced from $30 to $2.47 after a handful of coupons was handed over and scanned. I say, to HELL with these crazy coupon-ers. They ought to be banned from stores, period.