How to Handle Coupon Rejection

by Jess on February 28, 2010

There is nothing more frustrating than hunting down a sweet deal only to have it shot down because of a denied perfectly valid coupon. It’s pretty easy for tempers to flare up but remember to never, under any circumstances, get angry at the cashier. Not only will it get you absolutely nowhere, but you will be remembered as the crazy coupon girl (or boy!) that lost her mind, and that’s not good. You want to make friends, not enemies at the stores that are saving you money.

Reports show coupon redemption is up 27%, however I would say the majority of  transactions cashiers process do not include coupons. It is because of this that it’s not surprising to find coupon savvy shoppers (such as ourselves) more educated in redeeming coupons than cashiers & even store managers. Many times coupons get denied due to a lack of training on the stores behalf. Fear of loosing money and getting in trouble is usually what triggers hasty coupon rejection by a cashier. When this happens, it’s important to be kind and offer clarification as to why it is ok to use the coupon & that you are simply following the rules attached to it.

Hey! You can’t get that for FREE!

If you are using a coupon that is equal to or more than an item’s price it will likely beep and chances are get rejected. A store notoriously known to do this is Target. Keep in mind, just because a coupon beeps doesn’t mean it is invalid! Calmly let the cashier know you are not expecting any overage, but that it is the store policy to adjust the coupon down to the sale price. Again, most people don’t use coupons, and those that do don’t rock the deals we do. When we pull up into their line our transaction is almost always out of the norm and thus will raise a red flag. Red flag for super shopper that is!

One time at Target, I had a cashier tell me, “Sorry, but that will mean you get the item for free.” I’m not going to lie, my immediate instinct was to tell her so would my $3 cash, but instead I respectfully explained to her that coupons are legal tender, similar to cash. Stores are also reimbursed for the amount of the coupon along with a 8¢ handling fee. Remember, you are not getting anything for “free” – you are paying for it with a coupon. Getting it free would mean you walked out of the store without paying for it and that is stealing. Big difference!

Let’s gather around the fine print, shall we?

A great way to beat coupon rejection is to read the coupon language & fine print with the cashier. Just because the picture on the coupon is of Cool Ranch Doritos doesn’t mean that’s the only flavor you can use the coupon on. There are many flavors of Doritos and not all can be pictured on the coupon at the same time. The language is the intended use of the coupon by the manufacturer. It’s very typical for companies to picture the most expensive product in the line for a coupon, but always remember it’s the language that matters. $1 off any Glade really means ANY Glade, regardless if a 3-pack of Glade Plug-ins are pictured and you are only purchasing a single pack.

While we are talking about fine print let’s touch on the coupon term “one per purchase”. Many people interpret this to mean only one coupon can be used. That is not true. When I am faced with this rejection I like to phrase this question to the cashier, “Ok, tell me how many of xxxx am I purchasing?” One per purchase is a way of clarifying that you may not use more than one manufacturer coupon on a single item. You can not use three $1/1 manufacturer coupons on a single item to bring the price down $3. Each item is a purchase and all purchases combined equal a transaction.

What the beep?!

Coupons are fickle little things and often will beep at the register for no apparent reason. This does NOT mean the coupon is invalid and shouldn’t mean instant coupon rejection. Incorrect coding & even register error are often the cause of this phenomenon. Again, read the coupon language and fine print. Many of my coupons ring up invalid at Target stores – even Target issued coupons!

When times get tough it’s time to call in the big guys.

If all else fails ask to see the manager & never feel bad that you are holding up the line. Your goal is to be saving money, and if you are using a coupon appropriately you should never be made to feel like you are doing something wrong. Consult the store coupon policy with the manager. Target has their coupon policy available online & I highly suggest printing it out and carrying it with you to avoid conflicts. If the manager can not help you, call in the big guys…corporate.

Find a friendly face.

When you’re checking out at the register, you need to be scouting out cashiers that look like they are coupon-friendly. Get in a cashier’s line who looks stressed out or grumpy and you have yourself a recipe for major coupon scrutiny. Cheerful people will always be happy to help you save.

That being said, my favorite cashiers are usually young guys – teenagers preferably – who just want to keep the line moving & not have to deal with “coupon drama”.

It’s OK to be wrong sometimes

Listen, as much as we think we know what we are doing when it comes to coupons we can still make mistakes. You will not always be right. Sometimes that coupon did expire 5 days ago and sometimes yes, you did purchase the wrong product.

There are loads of wonderful cashiers out there (like Lynn from my favorite Vons!) who are more than happy & excited to help you save money. Be positive, be humble, be respectful, and be aware. Make friends with your cashiers & your store savings will sore!

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Prohomemaker.Com May 18, 2010 at 11:24 pm

*Wonderful* post! How did I miss these? :-)

You made such a good point about going to coupon-friendly cashiers. It's trial and error, but you should see me walk down the line at Vons looking at each line — not for the shortest — but for my favorite cashiers.

As you know, you earn a reputation — my cashiers like me 'cause I'm organized, friendly, and know my s&%t when it comes to using coupons properly. :-)

I told one of my backup cashiers (not my favorites, but OK) "I've got coupons," and she said, "I would be surprised if you didn't"



ashley June 21, 2010 at 8:48 pm

went to target recently had the $5 MQ and $3 TQ for the scrubbing bubbles that was 6.99 and the cashier, supervisor, AND manager wouldn't adjust the price down. had to walk out without my awesome scrubbing bubbles deal :(


Jess @ This Frugal Life June 21, 2010 at 9:07 pm

Sorry you weren't able to get your Scrubbing Bubbles deal, Ashley! This seems to happen quite frequently at Target, so I always bring a printed out copy of their coupon policy with me now. You can also call customer service from the red phones inside the store and they'll talk to the manager and set them straight!


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