CrssaFox (crssafox) wrote,

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Frugal Foxie's Couponing Etiquette

I went to Publix again today, and while I was there, I was chatting with the ladies by the register/customer service area a little bit. I apologized in advance for having "a stack of coupons," and the woman that was bagging, also an upper level employee, was about to have the cashier turn off her lane light in order to handle all of my coupons, when she realized that, apparently, my stack of coupons (I had at least one for each item in my cart, excepting my deodorant) was actually small.

She started talking about how, lately, people have been coming into the store with giant piles of coupons, and stocking up on twenty, thirty, sometimes fifty of an item, just because they can.

This coincides with some discussion that was had over on my Facebook page earlier this week, in response to a link I posted about couponing gone too far. Because of the sensation that's hit the Internet, not to mention a TV show about "extreme couponing," some people are looking at couponing in the wrong ways.

I'd like to highlight what I think are the right reasons to use coupons, and the best way to keep these deals available for everyone.

Don't buy out all of the store's stock, just because you can.

It's very tempting sometimes, when there's a super good deal, to just get everything that's on the shelf, because there isn't technically a limit on how many you can buy. In reality, if you have too many of a single item, whatever it may be, you just won't use them all, and that's wasteful.
For example, Publix had a great deal this past week where, when you combined a store coupon and a manufacturer's coupon with a sale price, you could get a free Air Wick timed/motion-sensing scent sprayer. These things are awesome! The deal ended today, and surprisingly, there was still a single one left! So I was able to get the last one, which was fantastic, since the upstairs of my house had been stinky from a certain cat who shall remain nameless. ;)
On the other hand, there have been many times when we aren't able to get out to the store right away, and if I go to the most convenient location (which has Publix, Walgreens and CVS all at the same intersection) all of the stock of the item on sale will be gone. I don't know if it's because there are just a lot of people that go to that particular location because it's so convenient, or if people hoard away items they might not even need or use, or both.
The only time I feel there is a slight exception to this rule is if you're giving/donating something to charity. I got some free toothpaste last week, and donated it to a free dental clinic for low-income families. But I didn't stock up, I got five tubes and left it at that. I didn't clean out their stock, just because I could.

Have your coupons out, in order, and ready to be scanned before you get to the register.

I usually have this half-way done before I even get to the store in the first place. I make a list, gather any coupons I plan to use, put them in a pocket in my binder, and go about my shopping. As I pick up items, I verify that my coupons and my items match, and I place them in a different pocket in the binder to mark them as being ready to be used. When I'm done shopping, but before I get in line, I make sure to pull out all of my coupons I plan to use, triple-check them, and then sort them by type.
Most stores will allow you to use two types of coupon per item: one store-specific coupon, and one manufacturer's coupon. It's easiest if you know how your store prefers to accept these coupons. Publix likes to enter all of one type first and then the other, so I separate my manufacturer's coupons into one stack, and my Publix store coupons (and maybe competitor's coupons, if I have any) into another stack. Then, I hand both stacks to the cashier separately to be scanned or keyed in.

This is one of the reasons why the cashiers sometimes have to close down their lanes to deal with a stack of coupons; many people don't bother to sort the coupons or have them ready. It flusters the cashier and can lead to an order being messed up. If your goal is to get the poor cashier so worked up that they might accidentally take off another dollar or two, you might just succeed at that; however, that's not honest, it's not fair, and it may lead to the store putting a limit on the number of coupons used in a single transaction, which would make things difficult for those of us that take the time to prepare and do things the right way.

Ask, and you might receive. If you don't receive, don't complain!

This is a big pet peeve of mine! I always get a certain Look of Fear from particularly new cashiers when I bring up my big binder full of coupons. Sometimes, depending on the store, they will or will not take a certain type of competitor's coupon, so I always ask before trying to use it.
If the cashier is new, and doesn't know, they will usually go and ask a manager. If they're a little more seasoned, they'll either accept it or not. It never hurts to ask; it does, however, hurt to whine and fuss and pitch a fit because they wouldn't take your $3 Walgreens register rewards coupon.
When a cashier turns down a competitor coupon, or something else that miiight be borderline acceptable, graciously accept it, apologize for the error (if necessary) and finish your transaction.

It honestly worries me a bit that couponing has gone to the extent of people trying to suck what they can from "the corporation" and take advantage of fantastic coupon incentives from grocery chains. Quite honestly, I feel lucky that Publix has been so good to us in taking so many different coupons, AND offering excellent sales that pair up nicely with the coupons in my 'archive.' It lets me get the laundry detergent I need for much less. It allows me to stock up on not only cereals that I will eat every day, but also the almond milk which is a little more pricey, but has been much better to my husband and I, health-wise. It allows me to get out of the grocery store having saved anywhere from 50% to 75%, sometimes more.

If everyone were to understand their local stores' coupon policies and do their best to not take advantage of the situations any more than they have to, it would be a lot easier for everyone to get more of what they want and need. :)
Tags: coupons, frugal foxie

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