Why coupon values can vary store to store

Jill Cataldo

Q: I usually shop at the same store. However, I was drawn to a competitor this week when it offered triple manufacturer coupons.

A microwave popcorn was on sale for $1.62, buy one, get one free. I had a 75-cent coupon. If my coupon were tripled to $2.25, I would receive 63 cents in overage when I purchased the product, which is how my regular supermarket treats coupons.

However, the competitor only "tripled" my 75-cent coupon to $1.62, enough to cover the actual price of the popcorn without going over.

How common is the practice of limiting savings to the product cost? Do stores post their coupon policies?

A: Any time you can take advantage of a double or triple coupon promotion, it's a great opportunity to maximize coupon value and get items free! But every store or chain has different policies for handling coupon promotions.

Very few retailers will double coupons when the total value of two coupons exceeds the price of the item.

In most cases, the manufacturer will not reimburse the store for the doubling, so most retailers stop doubling at the point that the coupon's value makes the item free.

If your regular store usually doubles or triples coupon value over the selling price of the item, allowing you to apply that overage to other items in your order, it's a huge incentive to shop there.

But stores are not required to do this. In fact, many stores do not double coupons at all. It's more common to double to the point where the item is free; the store won't pay you to take the item out the door. To learn how any store handles coupon usage, such as doubling, BOGO sales and competitor coupons, seek out a copy of the store's coupon policy. With the popularity of coupons, many stores have posted policies on walls or their websites.

Q: I didn't know coupons could be loaded to the shop-per's (store loyalty) cards and want to learn more.

A: You don't need a special device to load e-coupons to your card. When you log onto a website, e-coupons will attach to your loyalty card's account after you enter your card number.

You click to select the coupons that interest you. When your card is scanned at the register, the coupon's value is automatic.

If you have loaded a manufacturer coupon to your card, you cannot apply another paper manufacturer coupon to the same item.

Jill Cataldo is a coupon workshop instructor. Learn more at www.jillcataldo.com.