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Thoughtless practices that make couponers look bad

Some people shy away from couponing because they think it takes a certain amount of pride-swallowing to hand over twenty coupons to a cashier.  Truth is, it doesn't have to be a humiliating experience if it's done right.  There is no reason to be ashamed. You are simply taking advantage of a money-saving opportunity provided to you by the store or manufacturer. In essence, it's no different from buying something on sale.

There are, however, bad practices involved in couponing that make cashiers hostile, make the folks in line behind you angry, and in general, make you and your fellow couponers look bad.  Here's how to avoid them.

  • Be prepared.  When I'm shopping, before I get in line (unless the line is very long and there will be enough of a wait time), I get out my credit card, any frequent shopper card I might have and my coupons.  There is nothing more obnoxious than someone who is talking on her cellphone when she gets to the front of the line, decides to get all of her coupons together as her stuff is being rung up, and then waits to dig in her enormous crowded purse to get out her credit card or check or exact change (grrrr) after all of her stuff is bagged.  If you plan on writing a check, have everything but the total made out before you get on line, and have your license ready in case they need to verify it.  Have your coupons physically in your hand. If you have a BOGO coupon, know the price of the free item (I always jot that on my Iphone while I'm shopping.  There are tons of excellent smartphone shopping apps that keep track of these things.)  Be ready to go.
  • Don't try to cheat.  I know you wouldn't try to shoplift or steal, so why would you try to pass off an expired coupon, or a coupon for a product that you didn't buy or a size smaller than what is specified on the coupon?  There are rules around couponing, and if you are going to play the game, you need to respect those rules.  Sometimes I'll have a coupon that is barely a week after its expiration date, and I'll point it out to the cashier and ask if they will accept it, (and they usually do), but always ask first. There are some stores that are known to accept expired coupons, like Bed Bath and Beyond and DSW, but most stores won't get reimbursed from the manufacturer for expired coupons.  Be cheap, but don't cheat. 
  • Don't coupon when the store is extremely crowded, if you can help it.  If you are shopping for a large amount of things that you don't really need immediately, and you see the store is packed with tired 5:30pm on-the-way-home-from-work shoppers buying essentials, put off your major couponing for a quieter time, if possible.   Honestly, my favorite time to hit Walmart for my major shopping is around 9pm.  Things have quieted down in my house and I'm not needed, so I'm not rushed. The store and parking lot is mostly empty, the lines are non-existent, the cashiers are in a better mood and so am I.
  • Cut out your coupons at home.  If you have coupons that you printed off your computer, don't hand over an entire sheet of paper with one coupon on it; cut them out beforehand. If you have coupons that you got from a newspaper or magazine, make sure they are cut out and don't start tearing through them or separating them when you get to the front of the line.  Be considerate.
  • Say please and thank you.  Remember that cashiers don't have the world's greatest jobs, and they sometimes have to put up with a great deal of rudeness from customers.  Don't be one of those people who ruin their day.  Ringing up your coupons is an extra step for them, and while it is part of their job, it's nice for you to acknowledge them for doing it. Greet them, thank them for ringing up your coupons and for packing your groceries, every time.   If you get into a disagreement with them about a coupon and you are right, be firm, but polite.  Don't say "I want to speak to a manager, now!"  Say "I know you are just doing your job, but maybe we can call over a manager to help figure this out."  Be a mentsch and treat them like the human beings that they are.
Good couponing practices will make you a better shopper and will make the entire experience much more pleasant.

1 comment:

  1. Rifky S.2/13/2011

    Amen! Just came back from a mini excursion to CVS, trying to use their self-serve checkout (disaster) and there was the long Sunday night line. I politely asked the register clerk if I would have to wait on the line; her first response was yes, and I walked to the back of the line. She then called me to the front of the line; my guess is her supervisor told her to. I thanked her profusely. I will try to email a copy of the receipt as my "brag of the week", but it isn't very clear.


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