Thursday, April 7, 2011

How To Be A Responsible Couponer

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I have not said much about the TLC's "Extreme Couponing" but, after finally watching the show and wanted to highlight a few things that when it comes to couponing. 

Be a responsible couponer. Ever heard the old adage that one person spoils things for the group. With couponing it takes a few more than just one, but the same principle applies. Here are some tips on responsible couponing.  (I personally don't want it to be ruined for all because of a T.V show.)  My friend Melissa over at West Michigan passed on a few steps that I wanted to share with you. 

Make sure you know the coupon policy before you head out the door. This will save a lot of headaches when you're at the cash register. If you don't know if your store has a coupon policy, you can usually check with the service desk. Due to the economic downturn, more people are starting to redeem coupons so more stores are finding the importance of having a set coupon policy to refer to. Carrying the most up-to-date policy in your purse or coupon organizer is a great idea if you're able to get your hands on a hard copy or printable copy.  I also have a copy of Rite Aid, Target and Walmart's Coupon Policy for you.

Make sure you read the coupons before you redeem them. I know -- you're probably thinking "duh". I myself have been caught up in an unexpected snafu at the register when the coupon is scanned and I realize that it was for $1.00/2 items and I only have one of that item. Or that there is a limit of 4 like coupons in a single transaction and I have 6. Simple things can catch you off guard at the register and then fluster you during the checkout process. I have had it happen to me and then it feels like your 'deal' wasn't really a deal anymore -- and in some cases it isn't.

Redeem the coupon only for the specified item listed on the coupon. If you're scratching your head on this one -- simply put, if the coupon says $1.00/2 General Mills Cheerios (in the yellow box) and you purchase a Cinnamon Cheerios and a Honey Nut Cheerios and the coupon scanner doesn't seem to notice, you are hurting yourself and the other couponers. Why? The store is only reimbursed by the manufacturer for the coupons that are used for the items that are indicated. If it just so happens to work and the store misses it, the manufacturer won't which means the store doesn't get their money back, which means the prices on items go up and the coupon policies get stricter.

Never photocopy an internet printable coupon. Internet printable coupons have a print limit for a purpose. Within every company there are marketing strategies that are thoroughly researched and budgets that are put in place for the redemption of coupons. Abusing printed coupons not only hurts the companies that created them but once again it limits the stores abilities to get reimbursed and the stores will create stricter  coupon policies. Many internet printed coupons also have information on them that can be linked back to the computer it was printed from. Around the perimeter of the coupon in fine print there is usually information like the time and date the coupon was printed as well as the coupon's value and sometimes even information that can be traced back to a computer's IP address. It is retail fraud and it is illegal.

Too good to be true coupons. Usually, as with most things in life, if it sounds too good to be true then it probably is. Rarely if ever will you see any free item printable coupons that don't require a purchase of something. If you ever have a question regarding a coupons legitimacy, make sure you check out the list of fradulent coupons before you hit the checkout lane. A little bit of research will save you a lot of time and frustration.

How to handle coupon rejection
– It has happened to me and my coupons were always legitimate. If you are told you can not use your coupons for any reason, try to stay calm and ask to speak to a manager. Ask the Manager to explain which coupons you can not use and why. If you have a copy of the stores coupon policy that indicates your transaction would be allowed, by all means whip it out and use it! You should stand up for yourself in a professional manner.  Then, unless you need the item, have the cashier remove the item from your transaction and give you back the coupons. If you are upset with how your situation was handled, contact the corporate office to file a formal complaint. If you are following all of my above instructions you should never feel in the wrong for using coupons. After all, that is their intended purpose!

Using coupons is every consumers right, but it is also a privilege. Please follow the rules and regulations set in place by the Manufacturers and the Stores so that we can continue to enjoy the great savings (and fun!) that couponing brings. Be a responsible couponer!
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