Jill Cataldo: Free products, not free money
If you've ever used a free or buy one, get one coupon, you've probably noticed a box on the coupon. That box is where the cashier enters the selling price of your free item.
The manufacturer that offers the coupon reimburses the store for the coupon's value. Because the manufacturer has no way of knowing the price of the item as sold, it's up to the store to enter this on the coupon.
What if my free item sells for $2.99 but the coupon carries a statement that it has a value of up to $4.99?
Q: You know how BOGO coupons state, “For a value up to $4.99,” or some other maximum? Why doesn't the store give me the extra money, or write in the maximum value and keep the money?
Every time I get a coupon like that and something costs less, I tell the store to write in the highest amount on the coupon and give me the difference. Nobody will do it. If the manufacturer will pay that much, why can't I get the overage? Why can't the store?
A: With a free or BOGO coupon, the manufacturer's intent is to compensate the store for the selling price of the item up to a specified amount: no more. If I buy a $2.99 item, the cashier should write the selling price on the coupon: $2.99. If the item is no longer on sale and costs $4.59, the cashier should write $4.59.
Just because the coupon's value exceeds the product's selling price does not mean that you or the store are entitled to the overage. The manufacturer will reimburse the store for the price the item sold for, but that's it. Enjoy the free item and don't worry about making money off of it.
Q: The last time I went to the store, I had a BOGO coupon for cranberry juice. The coupon was good for up to $5.99, and the juice was on sale for $3.69. When I gave it to the cashier, she scanned it and took off $3.69. But she wrote $5.99 on the coupon.
That didn't seem right. The store is ripping off the manufacturer by trying to make more money on the free coupons here, right?
A: The store should enter the actual selling price on the coupon, not the maximum value. Entering the maximum and selling the item for a lower price is unethical. If the manufacturer audits the store, it will need proof that the product sold for the higher price or it does not have to reimburse the store for that coupon. Some new types of registers can automatically apply the correct sale price of an item when they scan a free or BOGO coupon.
Jill Cataldo, is a coupon workshop instructor. Visit www.jill cataldo.com.