Coupon FAQ: Returning items purchased with a coupon, and paying full price!

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I often get questions submitted via email or in a comment, and while I try to respond to them, I just don’t always have time!  (I need a personal question-answering assistant!)  As long as there’s interest, I’ll start a regular featuring answering your questions about bargain shopping – that way, instead of answering your questions privately via email, I can answer in a blog post so that it’s helpful to others that may have the same questions.  Email me your questions at springsbargains@gmail.com.

What if I need to return or exchange something that I purchased with a coupon?

- Amber, via email

I think this is a great question, and get ready for a coupon ethics talk. :) If you need to exchange something that you purchased with a coupon, it should be as simple as taking the item and receipt to customer service, telling them you want to do an exchange, and just going to get the product you want to exchange and doing it right there at customer service. I know sometimes it’s easier to just do a return and then buy the product you want, but when you purchased the original item with a coupon it’s probably best to just do an exchange.

Here’s the coupon ethics talk: if the item you want to return was on sale because of a specific promotion for that flavor or you had a coupon specifically for that flavor, it’s dishonest to try to exchange the item for a different flavor that was not included in the promotion or on the coupon.  To put it simply, I think to be honest, you have to exchange for a product that you could have gotten with the exact same coupon or the exact same promotion, otherwise you’re cheating the system.

If you’re trying to return something purchased with a coupon, the store may or may not give you the cost of the item minus the coupon. They should give you back the purchase price minus the coupon amount, but since most stores don’t match up the coupons to the items, they have no way of knowing whether or not you used a coupon.

However, you know if you used a coupon on it, so the honest thing to do is to tell them this and receive your refund minus the coupon amount.  I’ve done this before and the store’s perspective was that it was easier for them to just give me back the full purchase price than to mess with adjusting it for the coupon.  Whatever, I just want to know that I at least tried to do the honest thing!

Update: a lot of you have brought up some great points!  The store will probably still get reimbursed for that coupon, because they can’t dig through every coupon to take that one out and not submit it for redemption just because you returned an item.

Technically, I believe that the store matches up items sold versus coupons.  So, if they sold twelve bottles of ketchup and received 13 coupons, they woudn’t be able to submit that one extra coupon for redemption.  But, of course, not everyone uses coupons, so I doubt they ever have more coupons submitted than products purchased.

So, I guess it’s up to your conscience!  From my perspective, it would be awfully easy to abuse the system by purchasing items with coupons and then returning them.  I think I would personally still say that I generally couldn’t in good conscience return an item for the full amount if I know I used a coupon and would be getting back more than what I paid.

Also, stores are starting to match up coupons to items on the receipt (like Target) and I’m guessing they will only give you credit for the purchase amount minus the coupon – I can’t remember how Target words their receipts, but on their deals where you earn gift cards you can definitely only return it for the purchase price minus the gift card amount.

Which brings up another conondrum – if you buy something at Walgreens that earns a RR and then need to return the product, do you return the RR, too? :)

Do you only buy stuff on sale/with coupon or do you pay full price for certain items?

Dwell, via Facebook

Um, yes! My goal is to always have a stockpile of the things we need, purchased at the lowest price possible, so that I don’t have to pay full price for anything. However, that is just impossible, so occasionally I’ll have to buy something at normal price.

Actually, I’m guessing I buy one or two things at full price every week – usually something that I need to complete a recipe that I have all the other ingredients for (purchased at rock-bottom price, of course!).  I do try to stretch myself and do without a particular item if I can, but sometimes it can’t be helped.  When the budget’s tight, I’ve been forced to stretch myself farther than I knew possible and realized we could do without cheese for a certain recipe just once!

I don’t think there’s anything that I routinely purchase at full-price, though. Wait, maybe my husband’s hair gel.  If you know where to get Got2B Glue on sale, let me know!

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If you’ve got a question you’d like answered on a future post, please email me at springsbargains@gmail.com and I’ll try to answer it!  This will be a regular feature as long as you have questions.

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8 Comments
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Comments

  1. Carrie-I also tell the store when I’ve used a coupon, but aren’t they still getting paid for the orginal coupon by the manufactuer? It isn’t like they are going to go dig through their millions of coupons to find that one…so wouldn’t they be makeing double off of the product you return and the manu.? Another tip I have is if you realize right away that a cashier made a mistake on a transaction, or even if you did…it is much easier to ask them to void the trasaction and return your coupons to you.

    • Jennie, yes, but in my opinion it’s always better to choose to be the honest one and leave the store to figure it out for themselves. :)

  2. I honestly think the store should give the full amount back if a coupon was used. As another person mentioned the store is getting their money from the manufacture for the coupon and your out the coupon. So if they give you back the amount minus the coupon amount then they should give you the coupon so you can use it again. Otherwise if they give you the amount back minus the coupon with no coupon you are actually out a coupon now. You can’t purchase the item again for the same price because you don’t have that coupon so you would be spending more. If they give you the full amount back then you can purchase the item again for the same price. I hope that makes sense. I have been told by different managers that they are to give you back the full price because they will submit the coupon and can’t give it back to me.

  3. I’m with Crystal on this one….if the store is getting the value of the coupon from the manufacturer, I don’t quite understand where it’s dishonest to return an item and then buy the replacement at price (since you no longer have the coupon in hand).

    That said, I never return food items. If it’s something we don’t like or the ‘wrong’ flavor, I donate it to a food pantry. So it doesn’t really apply to me…heh.

  4. Wow, great discussions, guys! I updated the post with some further comments, but figured I would post them here, too.

    A lot of you have brought up some great points! The store will probably still get reimbursed for that coupon, because they can’t dig through every coupon to take that one out and not submit it for redemption just because you returned an item.

    Technically, I believe that the store matches up items sold versus coupons. So, if they sold twelve bottles of ketchup and received 13 coupons, they woudn’t be able to submit that one extra coupon for redemption. But, of course, not everyone uses coupons, so I doubt they ever have more coupons submitted than products purchased.

    So, I guess it’s up to your conscience! From my perspective, it would be awfully easy to abuse the system by purchasing items with coupons and then returning them. I think I would personally still say that I generally couldn’t in good conscience return an item for the full amount if I know I used a coupon and would be getting back more than what I paid.

    Also, stores are starting to match up coupons to items on the receipt (like Target) and I’m guessing they will only give you credit for the purchase amount minus the coupon – I can’t remember how Target words their receipts, but on their deals where you earn gift cards you can definitely only return it for the purchase price minus the gift card amount.

    Which brings up another conondrum – if you buy something at Walgreens that earns a RR and then need to return the product, do you return the RR, too? :)

  5. I’ve never returned food to the grocery store but I have purchased things at Walgreens with a coupon and had to return it. The one thing that comes to mind is when I bought some body wash for my husband to get home and have him remind me that he breaks out when he uses that kind. :-( So I went back to the store and they were out of the brand since it was a sale and they only had so many to begin with. They refunded me the full price because the previous day’s coupons had already been filed away and they do not return coupons.
    I would imagine that the stores match up the product sold with but I’m sure if they go back to compare with products returned and take those coupons away. I’m guessing that’s what your saying in your example of 12 bottles sold and 13 coupons that is what you are referring to. But is that how it would show? I’m not sure. I try not to have to return things if I can. It’s more time and hassle alot of times than I have. But in the case where it’s something that I need but got the wrong one I will return it or exchange it. I much prefer exchange. :-)

  6. kentishmaid says:

    I work in retail. On a daily basis guests bring back goods with a receipt lookup or a gift receipt. I would say that half of the guests are genuine coupons users. The other half are guests that make a living out of buying high dollar items with coupons and then returning them for the full amount. It is true that the store gets money from the manufacturer but usually these guests do not return them to the same store. Each store has its own budget, payroll etc. On these large returns usually a third of the items have to be thrown away as they are medicines and health related items ($5 dollars plus coupon on each packet)

    As stated by other viewers it is not an illegal transaction but an immoral one.. These guests are causing time, product and coupon wastage. Eventually the stores will come up with an answer and it will spoil coupon usage for everyone.

    Think about it. I bet you work very hard for $7.25 to $15.00 an hour. These guests are averaging $500 dollars a day abusing the coupon system.

    It is definetely a shame as they are going to ruin it for everyone.

  7. Kimberly says:

    I work for Wal-mart as a customer Service Manager. My input from the business side is this. The manufacturer or “vendor” as we call them knows how many products they have sold us. When the coupons are tallied and sent on a weekly basis to each manufacturer, we pull the reports on how many have been sold/how many returned/how many are left at that point to sell and that amount of coupons is sent in. In short we only get money back for the items that have been purchased. We have many people that come to our store (I am a price matcher and coupon-er myself) purchase items with coupons specifically and then go straight to customer service to get the full refund. This is actually fraud as they only paid “X” amount for the item that is what should be returned, the store takes the loss in this case in a way….if it’s not defective it goes back on the shelf obviously and will be re-sold with no coupon hence we only make the original amount that it was to be sold for less the amount we refunded less the coupon. So, if the item was 2.49 and you had a 2.00 off coupon you paid .49. We refund the .49 and resell the item for 2.49 for a loss of .49 and the coupon is not returned to the “vendor”. I hope this clears it up for everyone. Just be honest or realize that prices rise due to consumers that abuse the privilege for personal profit.

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