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Just the One: Readers question 'one coupon' limit - Jill Cataldo

Q: "I went to the store this week with a coupon for fabric softener. I was excited to see a coupon attached to the neck of the fabric softener bottle for immediate savings. When I went to the checkout, though, the cashier told me they only accept one coupon per item. I could use whichever one of the two coupons I wanted, but only one. Is this right? It did not say anything on the coupons about this. With the economy like it is, stores should be sensitive to consumers trying to save. I probably will shop at a different store next time. I look forward to hearing your insight."

Q: "I need to know if the store was correct this week when they turned down my $1 coupon for cookies, since the cookies had a separate peel-off coupon affixed to the package. I was told that I could not use the two together. I refused to buy the product under those terms."

Q: "I read your article about stacking coupons. I have run into a few cases where the store won't accept two coupons for the same item. Does this always work with a newspaper coupon and a printed manufacturers coupon?"

A: I have been receiving a lot of e-mail regarding the use of multiple coupons. It's time to address the topic of stacking coupons and coupon limits once again.

At certain stores that allow shoppers to stack coupons, we may use one manufacturer coupon and one store coupon together on the same item. Before you get to the checkout line, it's important to be clear about the type of coupon you intend to use.

Product manufacturers issue manufacturer coupons. They always have the words "manufacturer coupon" somewhere in the text printed on them. Store coupons are issued by the store itself and will state "store coupon," and typically the store's name, somewhere in the text.

Manufacturer coupons come in all different shapes and sizes. Most coupons found in the newspaper, on the Internet or on the packaging of the products themselves are manufacturer coupons. Shoppers may use just one manufacturer coupon per item. If I have three different manufacturer juice coupons – one from the newspaper, one that I printed from the Internet and one that was stuck to the bottle of juice in the store – I can only use just one of these on a single bottle of juice.

Shoppers may not stack multiple manufacturer coupons together on the same item. This violates the terms of the coupon, which states, "Limit one coupon per purchase." It's actually coupon fraud to attempt to use more than one manufacturer coupon on the same product. Sometimes, wording on a coupon can confuse shoppers. Some coupons now use the somewhat easier-to-understand statement, "Limit one coupon per item purchased."

Attentive shoppers will notice that a manufacturer coupon that applies to the purchase of multiple items will actually ring up as separate coupons at the cash register. For example, if I have a $1 coupon good for two packages of crescent rolls, the register actually reads that coupon as two 50-cent coupons applying to the two packages of rolls. I must buy two packages of rolls to use this coupon – I cannot buy just one, or the coupon will not scan. If I also had an additional 75-cent coupon good for one package of rolls, I could not use that coupon in conjunction with my first manufacturer $1 coupon. The register will see that a 50-cent discount has already been applied to each package of rolls and it will not allow me to use the 75-cent coupon. Again, shoppers may use only one manufacturer coupon per item purchased.

Rule of thumb? Each item that we buy is a "purchase." You can use one manufacturer coupon for each item you purchase, but you cannot use multiple manufacturer coupons on the same item, or purchase. The register will not allow it – and neither will your cashier!