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What's the trouble with 'Do Not Double'?

The issue of coupon doubling - especially why some manufacturers prohibit the practice - is a hot topic with my readers and site visitors. Listen in:

Q: "I have noticed that some manufacturer's coupons bear the instructions, "Do Not Double." I always thought when a store chooses to offer double or triple coupons, the store takes the extra loss. Why should a manufacturer care if a store doubles, or even triples the value of a coupon? It should increase demand for the product."

Q: "I would like to know why companies put 'Do Not Double' on their coupons. They receive the same amount of money from the stores that redeem the coupons whether the coupon is doubled, tripled or redeemed at face value. I rarely use a coupon that does not allow doubling. Companies that don't allow it lose my purchase. It just doesn't make sense to me."

A: If your store doubles coupons, you have quite an advantage in the couponing game. Anytime a store honors double-couponing, a shopper takes home twice the savings on that item than the coupon alone would have provided.

It's true that when a store doubles a coupon, they typically take the loss on the difference between the coupon's face value and the doubled value to the shopper. The store "eats" this difference as an incentive to retain shoppers' business. So what difference does it make to a manufacturer if a store chooses to double a coupon?

Believe it or not, this has been a difficult question to answer. Manufacturers can be very tight-lipped about their reasons for limiting certain coupons and promotions. After much research, what I was able to determine is this: Some manufacturers believe that coupon doubling may cheapen the perception of their product or brand, since it enables a shopper to reduce the price of a product to the point that it's very inexpensive or even free. Even though a manufacturer does not compensate a store that offers coupon doubling, a manufacturer may not want shoppers to get the product for an extremely low price. They don't want their brand to be perceived as a bargain buy. So, they may add the "Do Not Double" wording to the coupon to help ensure the coupon will only allow the specified value to be discounted from that product.

As a shopper, I find this logic to be rather illogical! I'm much more inclined to try a product, especially one I've never purchased before, if the coupon value offsets the price sufficiently to make the item a very good deal. I can think of quite a few products that have gone on to become favorites simply because I tried them when I had the opportunity to buy at a low price using a coupon.

I wonder if manufacturers are aware of the backlash that the "Do Not Double" wording on coupons stirs up with consumers. It's one of the most frequent topics I receive e-mail about. As with the readers who sent in the questions above, the disclaimer often causes people to refuse to use the coupon at all - in turn, they refuse to buy the product. Again, if the store takes the burden of the loss for coupon doubling, what's the harm? Especially in the midst of difficult economic times, it's my opinion that the manufacturer's prohibition of coupon doubling is something that could, and should, be relaxed. Consumers' brand loyalty tends to take a back seat in tough times, when people are shopping on prices. A coupon can often times make the difference between a customer choosing one brand over a competitor's.

If you happen to live in an area where grocery stores never double coupons, you're not alone. Where I live, none of our grocery stores double coupons - ever! And I still manage to get excellent savings on groceries by timing my coupon usage to the best sales.

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.