Do you read the fine print on coupons? Manufacturers and retailers expect you to, though the fine print isn’t always the easiest text to read or understand. It’s called the “fine print” for a reason: Some of it nearly requires magnification to read. Legal terms abound and, in order to pack so many words into such a small space, the font size of this text is very small.
I often receive email from readers asking if this text could be made larger, especially since it is intended for both consumers and cashiers to read. The text often contains restrictions on the product(s) that the coupon can be used on, a limitation as to how many like coupons can be used, or warnings to customers and retailers.
It can be surprisingly easy to unintentionally violate the terms of a coupon, too, so it is important to read them. For example, I recently spotted a coupon for 50 cents off a well-known brand of bagged salads. I shared the coupon on my JillCataldo.com blog, and a reader pointed out that the coupon excluded salad “mixes” and “blends.” Of course, as I browsed the salad aisle in my store’s produce department, every bag I saw was a mix or a blend of different kinds of lettuce and vegetables. I left wondering exactly what I could’ve used this coupon on because I didn’t want to use it on the wrong item.
I believe coupons like this do confuse the shopper, and I also would guess that many of them slip through the system by shoppers who aren’t intentionally redeeming them in an incorrect manner. They read the large text, which states 50 cents off any salad, and they simply buy a salad of that brand. Ditto the cashiers who see the shopper purchase a salad and present a coupon for the same brand of salad. If the coupon were restricted to one specific variety of salad, the manufacturer would better serve everyone by stating that largely at the top of the coupon, not in tiny text at the bottom.
That said, some manufacturers are trying to enhance and draw attention to some of the fine print text. One manufacturer is using bold, red text on high dollar-value offers to state “Cashier: Please verify purchase. Use of this coupon without proper purchase constitutes fraud.” Another manufacturer has taken its red-text warning even further with the following wording:
“Reproduction, alteration, proliferation or sale of this coupon or its contents is strictly prohibited. Civil and criminal penalties up to $2,000,000 and/or imprisonment may apply.”
A possible translation? Don’t copy, modify, spread or sell this coupon, or you could face extremely stiff legal issues, financial fines and jail time.
It’s understandable why manufacturers would move to heavier, stricter warnings. They want to combat unauthorized transfer, sale and auction of coupons. Just as a coupon is a contract between a consumer, a retailer and a manufacturer, this warning serves as notice that the penalties for the named activities can be severe. One can’t simply say, “Oh, I didn’t know that could happen to me!” when the warning is printed in attention-grabbing red text, even if that text is small.
While we’re on the topic of text size, another issue about which I hear from readers each and every week is the size of the expiration date on the coupon. Trust me, I’d love to see larger text sizes here, too. I’ll wrap up this week’s column with a well-worded note from a reader:
Manufacturers are trying to make us go blind. A coupon may be 2” by 2” with the type size at 6 point, if that big. I have decided I will no longer buy from these manufacturers (even if it was my preferred brand) because I will not pull out a magnifying glass along with a flashlight to attempt to read the expiration date.
Pity the poor store cashiers who must put up with that nonsense while trying all day long, squinting to read what is almost non-readable.
Jill Cataldo, a coupon workshop instructor, writer and mother of three, never passes up a good deal. Learn more about Super-Couponing at her website, www.jillcataldo.com. Email your own couponing victories and questions to jill@ ctwfeatures.com.