Are you new to couponing? Have you been couponing for a while but branching out and couponing at some new stores?
Each store has its own coupon policies and it can be overwhelming keeping everything straight even for a seasoned couponer. Mistakes happen and that’s ok. It’s part of the learning process. The philosophy at HowtoShopforFree.net is to find the best deals ethically and pay it forward. Couponing has made our lives better and we want to share and teach everyone how they can do it for themselves. Here are some tips to coupon successfully and ethically
- Know your store’s coupon policy – Most stores post their coupon policies on their website. It’s important to periodically review the coupon policies for any changes. If we find policy changes we post that information on our website and in our Facebook groups to keep our Members up to date but as an ethical couponer it’s up to you to stay up to date. Now that you’re familiar with the store’s policy make sure you follow it. For example, Rite Aid allows (4) like coupons per transaction so you don’t want to use more than (4) like coupons per transaction.
- Read your coupons – Coupons are specific as to what they can be used on (size, style, quantity etc). It’s important that you read and understand the proper use of the coupon. If the coupon states 8oz or higher, it may not be used on a 4oz product. Often we hear “but the register didn’t beep so it was ok” or “the manager rang me up and didn’t say anything”. Although coupon manufacturers and coupon barcoding has come a long way it’s not perfect and not all misuse is detected by the register. We’ve all had that awesome cashier who is coupon friendly and completely understands store and coupon policies. We’ve also had the less than informed cashier (or manager) that doesn’t fully understand the coupon policies. For these reasons, we can’t depend on the register or employee to catch it if a coupon isn’t used properly. We need to ensure that we are buying the correct item and not using more coupons than the manufacturer allows.
- Do not photocopy coupons – This is a mistake that a lot of new couponers make. Under no circumstance is it ok to photocopy a coupon. Aside from it being ethically wrong it’s also considered coupon fraud. Coupon sites like Coupons.com issue unique codes to each coupon printed from their site. They are also able to identify the IP address of the computer that printed the coupon based on the unique code on the coupon. If the store submits these coupons for reimbursement the duplicate codes will identify all but the original as a photocopied (and fraudulent) coupon. What does this mean? The store will most likely not be reimbursed for the coupon and you may lose your ability to print coupons from the coupon provider. The coupon provider, on more extreme cases, may opt to pursue a fraud claim.
- Shelf clearing – This is definitely an ethical decision. If there are two on the shelf and you need two for your deal, I wouldn’t consider that to be shelf clearing. Some stores just don’t carry a lot of stock. If you go to the store on day one and buy all twenty of the product on the shelf you may want to think twice about it. Leave some for the other deal seekers. Here’s a tip – If you’re friendly with your store staff and know of a hot deal coming up, give them a heads up about the upcoming sale. Maybe they can order some extra stock to cover the demand. The store benefits by generating more sales and the consumer benefits because there is enough for everyone. I personally consider Clearance to be a different story. The store has marked them down to get rid of them as quickly as possible but again, it’s a personal decision.
- Tear pads & Peelies – This is another one that really is an ethical decision. The manufacturer’s intention is to promote their product with an additional instant discount. Is it OK to take a couple? Probably. Is it OK to take the entire tear pad or all the peelies? Probably not.
- Selling your Stockpile – Mention this topic in any Facebook group and be prepared for LOTS of opinions. As long as you have obtained your products legally and ethically and you are following any applicable resale laws in your area you do what you feel is best to do with your stockpile. After all, it’s yours. If you want to sell your stockpile to pay your electric bill or do something to make life better for your family that is your choice and that is strictly my opinion. A good rule of thumb is not to judge what people do with their stockpiles since we don’t know their story. Who knows, maybe they’re selling their stockpile to stop from being evicted from their home.
- Use your manners – If you would like to do multiple transactions, always make sure it’s ok and if there are shoppers behind you consider letting them go ahead of you after your first transaction. Be courteous to the cashier. Cashiers are not always well versed in their store’s coupon policies and often it’s because they haven’t been trained properly. Even though I’m well versed in the coupon policies I always have a copy in my binder to show the cashier if needed. Consider it a teaching opportunity. In most cases, the cashier will be grateful for the information and remember you next time as the “good” couponer who follows the rules. Also remember that a “Thank You” goes a long way. Just as we would speak to the manager if our service is poor we need to take the time to compliment excellent customer service.
There is no way to address every ethical dillemma that you may come across while couponing but this covers the most common ones. Remember, deals come around all the time. If you miss this one, there will be another one. There is no deal worth compromising your high ethical standards.
We hope that this will be one of many couponing 101 tutorials brought to you by The How to Shop for Free Team. Please let us know what topics are of interest to you and we’ll do our best to get the information out.