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Coupon 201

Tuesday, September 15, 2009 |
Are you Ready for More?
Okay, so now you have read through the "coupon 101" section, you have ordered one newspaper for every person in your home and have checked out the grocery smarts lists! Here are some tips that should help you maximize your coupons and help you avoid some of the common mistakes people make when using coupons.

How to Use the ABC list we post each week
One of the most frequent questions we get at our classes if how do you know if you have already used a coupon in the inserts when it appears on the list again? My answer is usually, I don't know. I end up flipping through the insert looking for it, and when I can't find it I assume it's been used.BUT my answer is NOW much BETTER! We had a great reader, Pam make the best suggestion to us! Print off the ABC list, paper clip it to the first insert and when you clip them out, cross it off! When you get home from the store and you were unable to use the coupon because the item was out that week, attach the coupons with the inserts and make a note to remind yourself that you didn't use it!Also, if you decide to only use one of your multiple coupons that week, write down the number next to the item of how many coupons you used that day!!!!How genius is this tip!
In the next coming weeks we will take pictures of what we are talking about and add it to the blog.

Where to find other coupons
The other place we love to get coupons is the All You Magazine. To see the ABC list of coupons in the All You Magazine click here. You can order your copy from the link on the left side of the blog.

How to Use Expired Coupons
Ever wonder what to do with all those expired coupons! Here is a great idea. Show your Patriotism and donate them to military families. The families in the military are able to use expired coupons up to 6 months after the expiration date! Click on this volunteer ran website to read more and find out where to donate!

Coupon Trading Ideas
Are you name brand picky and when your brand goes on sale you wish you could have MORE coupons?
Do you hate seeing coupons go unused?
Do you find coupons and tear pads while you are shopping and wish you knew someone else who could use them?
Then here is a great idea for you! I personally am not one who likes to get together one night a week and coupon swap, but I do like getting and giving different coupons. What I recommend is a coupon train!
A group of 5 people would work great. My suggestion is to have people with different household needs and different locations. Here is how an awesome train would look:

  • Sally in St. George (It is just her and her husband at home and she enjoys cooking)
  • Jill in Provo (Newly Wed student and her husband is a toothpaste and toilet paper snob. Her and her husband both eat lunch out on campus during the week)
  • Ashley in Logan (Young mother with 2 boys in diapers and is expecting another and has no need for feminine products)
  • Helen in Ogden (Has 4 young children all in school that LOVE lunchables and is always in need of a quick weeknight dinner)
  • Iris in Salt Lake (A grandma who only has her grandchildren over occasionally, but cooks a lot from scratch)

This to me would be an IDEAL train. Everyone has different needs and is in different places in their lives.
Sally and Jill would more than likely give their diaper coupons to Ashley and I bet Iris keeps a few of the diaper coupons for when her grand kids come to visit, but would also be happy to give some to Ashley. Ashley in turn gives her feminine product coupons.

Jill cannot have pets in her apartment, so she is more than happy to give hers pet coupons up who would most likely been taken by Helen whose children have a pet cat and dog. She also is not using her lunch able and fruit snack coupons, which are happily accepted by Helen.

Iris doesn't much care for boxed dinners so is more than happy to give those up to someone like Jill, Ashley or Helen who uses meals in boxes frequently.

The location of the girls is perfect as well. They all shop in different stores, therefore are more than likely to find different tear pads and coupons while shopping. Every time they see one coupon they grab 5 of each coupon, one for themselves and one to share with each member in the coupon train.

Someone would want to start the train by putting together a big manila envelope. Sally could mail it out to Jill and Jill would mail it to Ashley until everyone had a chance to see the envelope. When you got the envelope your job would be to put your unused coupons in the folder and any coupons you found around town. When you get the envelope it is also your responsibility to clean out the expired coupons. Then you would send it on it's merry way again.

This is a great idea if you are too busy to get together with your friends and neighbors to trade coupons. It is also a great idea if you want to meet new coupons out there. So start asking around and finding some friends to start your own coupon train!
Let us know how it goes!

ABC Index
Do you want to know every coupon you have in your hanging file box? Are you looking for a coupon for an item that isn’t on sale that week at the store. The use the ABC coupon index here. This is a great resource!

Making Checking out Easier
When I teach classes the most common concern I get is what the checkout process will be. People are always worried that the grocery stores will be mad at them for using coupons. Grocery stores actually like couponers (shock and surprise) because they get paid face value plus .8 cents per coupon. We make them some money!
However, when you check out with coupons there can be scary experiences. I tell people it isn't a reflection of the store because they do want your business, but rather a result of the person checking you out. People are human and can have good and bad days, but I have found that the nicer I am to my checkers and the store employees the better experiences I have! I typically shop at the same couple stores each week. I go in so often all the checkers know me by name and many of them have nick named me "the coupon gal". When I check out I try to be as friendly and courtesy as I can. I ask them how their day has been, how they are doing and in general just make small talk. In the process of being kind I could walk into the store with you and tell you the employees names, how many kids they have, and how closely they check coupons when you check out (you know some just scan them in, and others check every detail, are they expired, the right size etc.).
In the process of being kind to the employees they have gone above and beyond for ME. They never give me a hard time about requesting rain checks on the first day, asking if something is out and if they have more in the back, or asking when the restock their shelves. A lot of times they will give me a heads up about upcoming sales, other catalina offers and the less busy times to go shopping.
Emily had made a post about our price matching at Walmart at the beginning of the week. I am glad she made the post instead of me, because she was much more positive about our experience than I would have been. We had a checker that just wouldn't trust a word we were saying. They tried over and over to catch us in some coupon fib, and they just grew angrier as they saw we were doing things the right way (Thank you readers for all your comments. I feel much more comfortable about trying it again). I finished checking out and was exhausted. Emily followed up behind me and she broke that checker. She started by asking them how their day was, if they had tried some of the products she was buying and by the end of Emily's check out they were on friendly terms. I couldn't believe how the checkers mood had shifted just from Emily being kind and interested.
There have been several of you that have shared similar experiences with me. You have made friends with unlikely checkers who appeared nasty at the beginning of your shopping trips, but were laughing with you when you said goodbye.
Checkers do need to be on guard. There are couponers out there that do things the "wrong" way. Checkers have to be on the lookout for photocopied coupons, coupon usage with expired dates, and coupons with dates cut off and even couponers that try to scan additional coupons in the self checkout aisle. Can you blame them for being weary of coupon usage. If you keep doing it the "right" way your checker will know you do things honestly and will quit questioning your integrity. Until then if they question a coupon your using be calm, patient and friendly with them.
The moral of the story use coupons the "right" way and be friendly with your checkers. It will make all the difference.

Coupon Polices

I keep a copy of these with me when I go shopping just in case a checker tries to implment thier own coupon policy while I am checking out. Thsi also gives me a great reminder of what stores will accept what coupons.

Target Stores Official Coupon Policy
Coupons are a great way to save even more when shopping with us, and it's easy to use them at our stores.

  • Target accepts one manufacturer coupon and one Target coupon for the same item (unless prohibited)
  • Super Target coupons can be used in any Target store if the store carries the item
  • We gladly accept valid internet coupons

Because of the variety of coupons available to our guests, we do have some guidelines for how coupons can be redeemed at Target. When accepting coupons, we use the following guidelines:

  • We accept two kinds of coupons: Target-issued coupons and manufacturer-issued.
  • We'll accept one Target coupon and one manufacturer coupon for the same item, unless either coupon prohibits it.
  • Coupon amount may be reduced if it exceeds the value of the item after other discounts or coupons are applied.
  • We can't give cash back if the face value of a coupon is greater than the purchase value of the item.
  • We can't accept coupons from other retailers, or coupons for products not carried in our stores.
  • All valid coupons should be presented to the cashier while you're checking out.

Walmarts Official Coupon Policy

Wal-Mart accepts the following types of coupons (see guidelines below):
Manufacturer coupons (Cents Off)
Free merchandise (or manufacturer's Buy-One-Get-One-Free) coupons
Store coupons
Pharmacy (Advertising and Promotional) coupons
Internet coupons
Soft drink container caps
The following are guidelines and limits:
Wal-Mart only accepts coupons for merchandise we sell and only when presented at the time of purchase.
Coupons should have an expiration date and be presented within the valid dates. Wal-Mart will not accept expired coupons.
Internet coupons should be legible and say "Manufacturer Coupon." There should be a valid remit address for the manufacturer and a scannable bar code.
Only one coupon per item is permitted.
Use of 40 or more coupons per transaction will require approval by Customer Service Manager.

Price Matching Policy at Walmart
Our goal is always to be the low price leader in every community where we operate. Our customers trust us to have every day low prices ... there's no need for "special sales."
Our unbeatable promise:
Store managers make the final decision in always taking care of our customers, but we do have guidelines for matching our competition.
We do honor "Preferred Shopping Card" advertised prices. Must be like items, be advertised and require a competitor's shopping card, for the discount to apply.
We do not honor advertisements that require a purchase in order to receive the advertised price or free product.
We do not honor "Buy One / Get One Free" advertisements.
We do not honor double or triple coupons or percent off advertisements.
We do not honor other retailers' "Misprinted" advertised prices.
We do not honor Internet Pricing.
We do not honor competitor advertisements from outside of the store's or Club's local trade territory.

Walgreens Official Coupon Policy
Walgreen stores accept a variety of coupons everyday. The coupons fall into two categories:#1. Walgreens issued coupons and #2. Manufacturer issued coupons The following are some guidelines for accepting these types of coupons. We will accept one Walgreen issued coupon and one manufacturer coupon for the same item, unless either coupon prohibits such use. “Walgreens” Roto Ad coupons, IVC (Instant Value Coupon) coupons, and a manufacturer’s coupon can be used towards the purchase of any one item. Walgreens does not provide cash back if a coupon is presented from more than the purchase value of the item. Walgreens does not accept coupons from other retailers or coupons for products not carried in our stores. All valid coupons must be presented to the cashier at the time of sale. When purchasing a Buy 1 Get 1 free item, only one coupon can be applied towards the purchase because the customer is only purchasing one item. Customers must purchase one item to get the other item free on all Buy 1 Get 1 free offers. If a coupon states “good on any size of the product” and does not specifically exclude trail sizes of this product, the coupon can be used to purchase trial sized products. Internet coupons can be accepted whether they are printed in color or in black and white. Walgreens does not accept expired coupons. As a company we do not price match. If an item that was purchased with a coupon is returned, we will refund the price paid by the customer.

How Coupons Work

Have you ever wondered how coupon works after we use it checking out. Check out the coupon reedemption process article written by Jenny here at Southern Savers!

The Life Cycle of a coupon:
1. The manufacturer decides to run a coupon program and sends the coupon to a design agency that handles coupons.
2. You acquire the coupon through the paper etc.
3. You use the coupon, the store takes the coupon
4. The cashier adds up her coupons and cash to make sure the drawer balance.
5. The coupons are then bagged by the store and sent to the corporate office where all the coupons from all the stores are put into a bigger bag and sent to a big clearing house. Publix and Kroger use one overseas… (note some stores do this in house)
6. The clearing house puts all the coupons that are in good condition on a big conveyor belt and they are scanned, then an automated process sorts them by manufacturer and prepares an invoice for the manufacturer.
7. They are mailed from the clearing house to the manufacturer for reimbursement.
8. The manufacturer receives the coupons and an invoice stating how many are there (think thousands). They then pay the bill. Some will recount to check for clearing house fraud and then pay the bill.
**The stores have on average 6 months past the expiration date to submit a coupon to the manufacturer – while you should not plan to use expired coupons unless allowed do not fret, they will still get their money**

How the stores get their money:
They can be paid directly by the clearing house – then the clearing house gets reimbursed from the manufacturer

They can pay a handling fee to the clearinghouse and they get a check from the manufacturer
Reimbursement also includes .08¢ per coupon to cover handling fees and the manufacturer’s reimburse postage costs!

Now for the details we care about:
If the coupon scans in the store odds are it will also scan in the big clearing house’s automated machine – thus the store should get reimbursed.

If the coupon doesn’t scan, is damaged etc. it is labeled “hard to handle” and is hand processed. If it is the coupons fault (poor design, bad barcode etc.) the grocer can then charge the manufacturer a higher handling fee!

The store does not have to submit any information about what you purchased with the coupon. Therefore if you use a Prego coupon on Pepperidge Farm Toast (because the cashier told you too) the manufacturer will only care/notice if Publix submitted more Prego coupons than the amount of Prego they purchased. Since Publix purchases thousands of jars of Prego per year the odds they would have more coupons than product are pretty slim.

When does the store “lose” money?
Some Manufacturers have poor practices with redemption that has nothing to do with the consumer, claiming falsely that coupons are not eligible for one reason or another.
Copies/fraudulent coupons- After a coupon goes through the clearing house and is sent to the manufacturer the manufacturer can still deny the coupon. Internet printables that have unique numbers ( or smartsource) make it easy for the manufacturer to spot fraud. If a coupon does not have a unique number or security code then the manufacturer will usually accept the coupon (within reason - bad copies even a cashier should catch). Why? Because the store’s corporate office has a chance to challenge any denial and if the manufacturer cannot prove fraudulent use then the store will win the challenge.
Again remember you are talking about thousands of coupons from each store. Don’t think they are sitting around analyzing them (unless they are one of the bad companies which will falsely deny them anyway).

Store coupons:
These are processed in house. First, most people assume these coupons are the store being nice and just giving you money off an item… let’s think about that. This is a business guys, it’s not about being nice.
Stores are reimbursed for “store coupons” through various options:

The manufacturer can pay an advertising fee to place their product or coupon in the store flyer
The manufacturer can work out a discounted deal for X product, the store then decides instead of making the product the discounted price for everyone, to require customers to submit a coupon to get that price. This is the best plan overall, most shoppers would not care or know about the coupon so they only have to sell the product at the discounted price to a small percentage of shoppers. Therefore they make money on the other shoppers.
Fake Example (profit widely inflated): Fresh Express Bagged Salad gives Publix a discounted rate of $1 per bag for 500 bags. Publix decides to sell the bag for $3 and to put a coupon in the flyer for $2 off. 100 customers buy the salad with a coupon 400 customers buy the salad without a coupon ($2 profit per bag for Publix)In the end: Publix gave 100 customers the salad without making any profit, however overall they made $800 off the deal.

Lastly the store can have a special reimbursement policy with the manufacturer for the store coupons. So they are handled like actual manufacturer coupons above.
The only time they are not getting reimbursed for these coupons in some way is if it is for a house brand item. Keep in mind those are the items they make the most money on so they still aren’t out anything.

In closing: I hope that gives you some idea of how coupons are handled. The intention of this post is not to encourage improper use of coupons only to make some realize that the use of coupons puts money back in the pockets of grocery store. We are not taking these stores to the cleaners. They are doing just fine. About 10% of American’s shop with coupons (effectively), they get their money back from us through reimbursement programs. 90% of Americans pay through the nose for groceries and they keep the profit always growing for these stores.

1 comment:

DBA said...

I was actually price matching at the Walmart in Lindon this last Saturday and when I got to the checkout the cashier asked me if I had any coupons. When I told him I did he said that Walmart was no longer accepting Internet Printables. I'm not sure if this is now the policy at every Walmart, but it is at the Lindon one.

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