Special Photo: Jill Cataldo saves hundreds on groceries by making the most of the common coupon. You can, too.
The soaring popularity of couponing has resulted in product shortages, empty shelves and disgruntled shoppers. But eager couponers aren’t always the culprits behind product shortages. Here’s an e-mail I received recently:
Question: “What should I do when the store doesn’t have anything in stock that’s advertised, or worse, doesn’t want to sell it to you? Body wash was on sale at a nationwide pharmacy last week. I was in the next aisle shopping and overheard an employee talking to the store manager. ‘This body wash is going to be free with coupons this week. I’m sick of all the couponers coming in here getting free things,’ said the employee. The manager told him to take the product off the shelf and put it in the back. I scurried around the aisle and saw them putting the body wash in a cart. I asked for a bottle and the manager said, ‘It’s not for sale this week. I don’t want all of these crazy couponers asking for this stuff.’ Since when does a store not want to sell products? This pharmacy’s flyer even says to look for more coupons in Sunday’s paper.”
Answer: This is not the first time I’ve heard a story like this. While stores are reimbursed for manufacturer coupons, some have trouble handling the large number of coupon shoppers who come in looking for the same products. I’m dismayed to hear these stories. Especially in a case like this, when a store manager refuses to sell you products because you intend to shop with coupons. It’s worth contacting the store’s regional or district manager to let them know what happened. To have a store give up sales to curb “crazy couponers” makes no sense.
This reader has another problem at her store: Advertised products don’t seem to make it to the shelves at any point during a weeklong sale. She does the right thing in asking for a rain check, but she’s having a problem when she goes to redeem the rain check with her coupons.
Question: “I have a major gripe against the drugstore in my area and how it handles coupons and rain checks. I have gone to the drugstore when it opens at 8 a.m., on a Sunday morning after scouring the store’s new flyer in the newspaper. I often look for the items I need, but I don’t see them on the shelves. So I get a manufacturer coupon stapled to a rain check by the manager of the store. I return a couple of weeks later and the items are finally in stock, but the manufacturer coupons have expired. I have to go through a big argument with the same manager who stapled the coupons to the rain check. The coupons wouldn’t have expired if the store had the items in stock the week they were advertised. Days later, the store doesn’t want to accept them! What can I do?”
Answer: There really isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution. While it’s certainly frustrating to encounter empty shelves week after week, stores are not required to accept expired coupons. If you have continuing issues with product availability at the store, it might be worth inquiring if the store would be willing to special order those items for you. Or, when the store expects a shipment, ask if it might be willing to set aside a few and call you when they arrive. Either way, if your store agrees to accommodate you, make sure to pick the items up promptly. My local stores are always happy to set aside special orders for shoppers, but they get frustrated when shoppers neglect to come in and buy them. Don’t forget to pick up your orders … and bring your coupons!
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.