Manufacturer coupons are the engines that drive the couponing train. Most coupons you find online or in the newspaper inserts are of this variety, and the companies that issue these coupons reimburse the retailers at which the coupons are used. Very few of them have restrictions requiring them to be used at a specific store. But what happens when a manufacturer coupon shows one store’s logo and you attempt to use it at another?
Q: I read your column regularly and perhaps you can help with this. I had a Catalina coupon, the kind that prints out at the checkout. It had been issued at Kroger and was for $1 off any two half gallons of a popular brand of soy milk. The coupon had “MANUFACTURER CPN” and the expiration date printed at the top. At the right side it said “REDEEM AT KROGER.” There was a bar code on the coupon. It was not a Kroger store-only coupon (I know what they look like) and it did not say redeemable only at Kroger. But I wasn’t shopping at Kroger, I was shopping at a different supermarket instead.
The cashier rejected the coupon. I pointed out that it was a manufacturer coupon and she said “We don’t accept them if they say Kroger.” I asked her to scan it to see if it would scan and she refused. I removed the two cartons of soy milk from my order. The milk wasn’t on sale, so without the coupon I would have been paying full price. I came home and read my supermarket’s coupon policy on its website. According to the policy, this coupon should have been accepted. I never try to violate a store’s coupon policy, but was this a violation?
A: I looked at your supermarket’s coupon policy, and you’re right, the store should have accepted your Catalina coupon for the soy milk. The store’s coupon policy states that it will accept manufacturer coupon Catalinas with another store’s logo as long as the Catalina coupon does not state “Redeemable only at” a specific store.
It’s possible that your cashier was confused on the store’s coupon policy; it happens. But if you’d had a copy of the policy in hand, you might have been more successful in helping the cashier understand that the store did accept this kind of coupon.
Keep in mind that many stores’ coupon policies do allow the store to accept or deny any coupon at any time. We may not like it when this happens, but the store is within its rights to do so.
While we’re on the topic of manufacturer coupons, a reader wants to know how to tell the difference between a store coupon and a manufacturer coupon.
Q: How can I tell whether a coupon is a manufacturer coupon? I realize a lot of them say that right on top. But I found some sport drink coupons on a pad in my store that said “Retailer Coupon.” Is a retailer coupon a store coupon or a manufacturer coupon?
A: We don’t see the “Retailer Coupon” wording too often on coupons, but when I do see it, these coupons are typically still manufacturer coupons. How to tell? Look at the fine print of the coupon. If there is a physical mailing address listed in the redemption instructions, it’s a manufacturer coupon.
Second, look at the bar code. If it looks similar to the barcode on other known manufacturer coupons, it’s a good indication that it’s also a manufacturer coupon. Store coupon barcodes tend to look very different.
Smart Living Tip: I say it often but it’s worth remembering: Knowing your store’s coupon policy is crucial to understanding what kinds of coupons can and should be accepted at your store.
If you anticipate any issues in the checkout lane, print a copy of your store’s coupon policy from the store’s website, or pull the policy up on your smartphone. This may help you work through any problems in the checkout lane.
Jill Cataldo, a coupon workshop instructor, writer and mother of three, never passes up a good deal. Learn more about couponing at her website, www.jillcataldo.com. Email your own couponing victories and questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.