“Did you find everything you needed today?”
I cheerfully replied “yes!”, and chatted about this and that as she scanned my groceries. As I handed her my coupons, I cringed a bit, knowing that a couple of them weren’t going to scan. They were valid on the product I’d purchased, but were coded in such a way that they always beeped, no matter what.
Sure enough, they beeped. Item not found.
She stared at the coupon for a minute, looking down at all the fine print, and then up at the computer, trying to ascertain why they wouldn’t scan.
I pulled out the product from my bags and let her see that it was indeed the right item for the coupon.
“Well, I can’t figure out why these won’t scan and I can’t force them through or I’ll get in trouble. I need to get approval from a manager.”
I patiently told her no problem, and as we waited for the manager to come over, I silently let out a sigh of relief that I only had one child with me, and not all five. (Then again, if all five were with me and were bouncing off the walls, they might have been in a hurry to get us out of there!)
This scenario happened to me recently at Safeway, and as the scenario unfolded, I knew I needed to write a post about how to have a great shopping experience when using coupons. It’s easy to get frustrated with a store’s policies or lack thereof, but having your entire day spoiled by a bad experience at the grocery checkout just isn’t worth it.
Here are my tips for having a smooth coupon-shopping experience:
1. Know your stores’ policies, and abide by them.
Quite bluntly, if you are upset at a store because they wouldn’t let you use ten coupons when you know their policy is five, I don’t feel a bit sorry for you! Most stores do have coupon policies (there’s a list of most of our local stores here) and the rules are there to follow, not to break.
Even if you think their policy is ridiculous, you still have to abide by it.
2. Pay attention to the fine print on the coupons.
All coupons have fine print. Mostly, it’s just stuff like “use one coupon per item” (ie, not more than one coupon on an item), but increasingly, coupons are stating things like “one coupon per customer” or “limit four like coupons per customer”.
Pay attention to this fine print and obey it. If you accidentally break some of the rules in the fine print and the cashier points it out, then be humble, admit your mistake, and do not ask them to “push it through”. (Don’t buy the items if necessary, but don’t ask them to push it through.)
3. Keep your purchases reasonable.
You’re going to get a whole lot better customer service from the manager if you’re buy five of an item versus buying fifty. The manager knows that if you buy fifty of one item, they’re often going to have to deal with dozens of other customers who are disgruntled that there aren’t any more left on the shelf.
If you really want and need to majorly stock up on an item, you’ll have a whole lot better experience making a few trips over the course of a week rather than clearing the shelf. Trust me, it’s not cool to have a reputation as a shelf-clearer. The only thing it will get you is a stint on a TLC show.
4. Don’t embarrass yourself.
Guess what – sometimes the computer is right and you didn’t purchase enough items to get the instant discount, or the coupon was for a different size or variety than you thought. Don’t pitch such a fit about them not accepting your coupons that you are hugely embarrassed when you find out they were right, after all.
5. Realize the employee could get in trouble for scanning your coupons.
Yes, OK – there are a few checkers out there who do seem to get great joy into finding any possible reason not to accept your coupons. But they are the exception, not the rule. (And I advise generally just avoiding them if there is someone who really seems to have it in for couponers.)
Most of the time, if an employee hesitates to scan your coupon, or has to call a manager over, it’s because they are scared that they will get into trouble. A lot of stores have strict policies about which coupons they will accept, and if an employee breaks those policies, they can get into big trouble. Too many infractions and they could even lose their job.
Be patient when a checker hesitates if a coupon beeps. If needed, gently show them the product that you purchased for the coupon so they can match it up. Don’t roll your eyes when they have to call a manager over.
6. Always be cheerful.
Always have a smile on your face when you are checking out. Chit chat with the cashier and bagger about the weather, your kids, their kids, the beautiful produce, the new product you found, the unique spelling of their name, their new hair cut. If they don’t feel like chatting, then shut up – but always be cheerful.
Don’t try to sweet talk your cashier into doing something they shouldn’t, but do try to make their day a little brighter with a compliment to them or a comment about something you might have in common. They get lots of grouchy people through there every day, so it’s not hard to set yourself as one of the customers they enjoy seeing come through their checkout line – coupons and all!
7. Get over it.
There are going to be times when you are treated rudely no matter how nice you are. Sometimes they will pull a new coupon policy out of the hat and refuse to accept your perfectly-acceptable coupon. Sometimes you will have to stand at the customer service desk for half an hour while they look over your cart and your receipt to figure out why you didn’t get your instant savings.
Just get over it. Roll your eyes once when you get to the car, buy yourself a large Dr. Pepper at Sonic’s happy hour, and move on with your life and your day.
8. Realize it usually evens out in the end.
I used to head to the customer service counter for every dollar that they overcharged me. And then I’d head back to the customer service desk again the next time because they undercharged me and I wanted to pay the difference.
At some point, I realized that it usually just evened out. For every few times I’m overcharged, I’m undercharged once, and it usually ends up being a wash. If I catch that I’m undercharged or overcharged while they’re checking me out, I do try to remedy it in the checkout line, but if I don’t realize it until later, and it’s not a significant amount, I just let it go and make a mental note that “such-and-such store owes me $2″ and then “I was undercharged by $2″. It’s not worth the stress of sorting it out at customer service!
How do you make sure you have smooth coupon-shopping experiences?