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Store logos on coupons raise reader's ire - Jill Cataldo

Q: "What is it with some manufacturers that put a store name on their coupons? A manufacturer coupon is a promotion offered the product's manufacturer and shouldn't be tied to a particular store. This week in the coupon inserts there were a lot of manufacturer coupons with store logos on them, but the coupons state that they are manufacturer coupons. Shouldn't I be able to use them at any store I choose?"

A: Coupons fall into two distinct categories: manufacturer coupons and store coupons. A manufacturer coupon is issued and redeemable the product's manufacturer and it will always have the wording at the top, "Manufacturer Coupon." A store coupon typically looks different from a manufacturer coupon. The bar code may be shorter or longer than a standard coupon and it will typically contain the name of the store and the words "Store Coupon."

But what about a coupon that, at first glance, appears to be a combination of manufacturer coupon and store coupon? As this reader points out, some manufacturer coupons may also feature a store's name or logo. It may also say "Redeemable at Store X" or "Only redeemable at Store X." But shouldn't manufacturer coupons be redeemable anywhere?

In theory, yes. A manufacturer coupon is redeemable at any store that will accept it. Manufacturer coupons have standardized bar codes that will scan at any store that accepts coupons. You can usually determine if your store will accept them reading your store's coupon policy. Look for this on the store's web site or at the store service counter. A store that states, "We accept all manufacturer coupons" will accept coupons with another store's logo or name on them – again, because that manufacturer will reimburse the store when it sends in that coupon for redemption.

So why would a manufacturer coupon feature a specific store? Obviously, the manufacturer or the store, or perhaps both working together, want to influence not just what you buy, but where you purchase it. But as you correctly point out, a manufacturer coupon is still a manufacturer coupon, regardless of any store name or logo printed on it.

Whether or not you'll be able to use a coupon that states "Redeemable at Store X" at Store Y across town is entirely up to Store Y. Coupon use in general is a privilege, not a right. Remember, stores can choose not to accept coupons at all. Do some homework on your end and find out if your store's coupon policy addresses this issue. In my area, three major supermarkets accept all manufacturer coupons, so using them with another store's name or logo on them isn't an issue. I think this is a great policy for shoppers. And why would a store want to turn down a sale, especially one that they'll be reimbursed for?

One last note on manufacturer coupons that bear store logos or names. Novice coupon shoppers often assume that coupons printed with a store's logo are in fact "store coupons," and they mistakenly believe they can stack a manufacturer coupon with this "store coupon." Remember, if a coupon contains the words "manufacturer coupon," it is not a store coupon, regardless of whether it has a store's logo on it or you found it in the coupon inserts, online or in the store itself.

You can only use one manufacturer coupon per item that you buy, and you can never use more than one manufacturer coupon on the same item. However, if you have one store coupon and one manufacturer coupon, you can stack these together for bigger savings! We'll revisit the topic of stacking coupons in next week's column.

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.supercouponing.com. E-mail your own c.