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Do store logos on coupons dictate use?

Q: "Often, the manufacturer coupons in the Sunday paper, and some that I get online, have individual store logos printed on them so that thecoupon can only be used at that store. Why do manufacturers allow this? We should be able to use coupons wherever we like unless, of course, they are store coupons."

A: Believing that a manufacturer coupon must be used at the store whose logo appears on it is a common misconception among coupon users, both those who are new and even experienced couponers. A coupon with the words "Manufacturer Coupon" printed on it is always a manufacturer coupon, regardless of what store's name or logo might also be printed on it. Any store that redeems the coupon will be reimbursed for it.

Why might a particular store's logo or name appear on a manufacturer coupon? Certainly, it's a suggestion as to where you could use that coupon. It's usually because the store in question has participated in a joint advertising campaign for that featured product. It's common to see coupons that say "Redeemable at [store name]" -- but just because a coupon states it's redeemable at that store, it doesn't mean it's not redeemable elsewhere.

It's important to remember that using coupons at any store is a privilege, not a right -- so it's worth checking to see if your store has any restrictions in their coupon policy for manufacturer coupons with other stores' logos on them. A policy that states, "We accept all manufacturer coupons" is essentially your green light to know that the store will take any manufacturer coupon, even when it shows another store's logo on it. And, don't forget about the Catalina coupons that print out at the register. Where I live, three major grocery stores compete and all three will interchangeably accept the other's Catalina coupons, regardless of logo, as long as the words "Manufacturer Coupon" appear on the top.

If your coupon is a store coupon (typically it will state "Store Coupon" or "Retailer Coupon" on the top) you must use it at that particular store, because it's an offer the store is making available only to their customers. A manufacturer is not involved in that coupon's redemption.

Then again, if your store also accepts competitors' coupons ... the possibilities are endless!

Q: "Yesterday I ran into a problem with a $2 manufacturer coupon for trail mix. When the clerk scanned it, the value appeared as $1 instead of $2. She said she couldn't do anything about that, even though I reminded her that it was a manufacturer coupon. Could you explain why and how this happens? Is this legal? If I had settled for the $1 discount, could the store then redeem it for $2?"

A: It doesn't happen too often, but what you're describing is the result of a misprint on the coupon. The coupon's text states the value as $2, but the barcode that's printed on it actually scans for $1. It's likely the result of human error when the coupon was being designed, and the bar code for the lower dollar amount was inserted into the layout.

When it comes time for the store to redeem that coupon, it's likely the store will get $1 instead of $2, since almost all coupon redemption is done automatically via a barcode scanner -- and again, the barcode is coded to give a $1 discount.

If this were a widespread practice, certainly legality would come into question, but it really doesn't happen too often.

Jill Cataldo, a coupon workshop instructor, writer and mother of three, never passes up a good deal. Learn more about couponing at her web site, www.super-couponing.com. E-mail your own couponing victories and questions to jill@ctwfeatures.com.