Special Photo: Jill Cataldo saves hundreds on groceries by making the most of the common coupon. You can, too.
Question: “I usually shop at the same supermarket. However, I was drawn to shop at a competitor this week when it offered triple manufacturer coupons. A name brand of microwave popcorn was on sale for $1.62, buy one, get one free. I had a 75-cent coupon. If my coupon were tripled to $2.25, I would receive 63 cents in overage when I purchased the product, which is how my regular supermarket treats coupon deals. However, the competitor only “tripled” my 75-cent coupon to $1.62, enough to cover the actual price of the popcorn without going over. How common is the practice of limiting savings to the amount of the cost of the product? Do stores normally post their coupon policies? Where would one expect to find them posted? Is there a law that requires grocery stores to post their policies?
Answer: There are a lot of great questions in this e-mail! First, let’s tackle your triple-coupon popcorn sale. Any time you can take advantage of a double or triple coupon promotion, it’s a great opportunity to maximize coupon value and get items free! But, as you found, every store or chain has different policies for handling coupon promotions.
Very few retailers will double coupons when the total value of two coupons exceeds the price of the item being purchased. In most cases, the manufacturer will not reimburse the store for the doubling, so most retailers stop doubling at the point that the coupon’s value makes the item free.
If your regular store usually doubles or triples coupon value over the selling price of the item, allowing you to apply that overage to other items you’re buying in the same shopping trip, it’s a huge incentive to shop there. But stores are not required to do this. In fact, many stores do not double coupons at all. It’s more common to double up to the point where the item is free; the store won’t pay you to take the item out the door.
To learn how any store handles different coupon usage scenarios –– such as coupon doubling, BOGO sales and competitor coupons –– it’s worth seeking out a copy of the store’s coupon policy. With the increasing popularity of coupons, many stores have posted policies on store walls or on their web sites outlining how they handle different coupons.Your store’s policy also may contain information about whether the store honors electronic coupons.
This reader is puzzled about how coupons work with grocery store loyalty cards.
Question: “One of your columns mentioned loading coupons onto your shopper’s card. I didn’t know that coupons could be loaded to the shopper’s cards and would like to learn more. Do you need some type of scanning device on your computer?”
Answer: Electronic coupons are just that: paperless coupons that are loaded to your store’s loyalty card via the Web. You don’t need a special device to load e-coupons. When you log onto a web site, these coupons will automatically attach to your loyalty card’s account after you enter your card number. You simply click to select the electronic coupons that interest you in order to load the value onto your card. Then, when your card is scanned at the register, the coupon’s value is tallied automatically. Note that some e-coupons are store coupons and others are manufacturer coupons. If you have loaded a manufacturer coupon to your card, you cannot apply another paper manufacturer coupon to the same item.
Another kind of e-coupon, SavingStar, works differently. With SavingStar, you choose your stores and load the loyalty cards to SavingStar.com. Instead of seeing the savings come off your bill at checkout, the savings accrue in an account that you can cash out at a later date, keeping the money. It’s an e-coupon that pays you to shop!
To find out if your store honors e-coupons, visit their web site or ask customer service.
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.jillcataldo.com. E-mail your own couponing victories and questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.