Target’s registers scanning coupons at less than face value, causing nightmares for coupon shoppers

I’ve long enjoyed shopping at Target — it’s a great place to find excellent coupon deals, and for years, it’s been high on my list of favorite stores. But recently, Target’s registers have changed the way they’re automatically scanning coupons. In many cases, Target’s registers are only taking a fraction of the coupon’s discount off when scanned, leaving unsuspecting customers paying significantly more for their items than they should.

There are two known issues to be aware of when coupon-shopping at Target these days — how the register handles coupons for an amount off multiple purchases, and how the register handles coupons during sales involving gift cards. If you currently aren’t aware of either of these issues, please keep reading.

Issue #1: Coupons for multiple items (i.e. “$1.00-off-8″)

Here’s a coupon for $1 off 8 Yoplait yogurt cups. With a coupon for an amount off multiple items is scanned, the register should look for the presence of the eight items, then take a total of $1.00 off.

In many cases though, what Target’s registers are doing is taking a discount off ONE item instead. When this coupon is scanned, the receipt may show the register deducting a discount equal to the selling price of only ONE of the items:

With the yogurt cups priced at .39 each, the register may deduct only .39 instead of the full dollar. The shopper loses .61 of their discount, but Target will receive $1.00 when the coupon is sent in for redemption.

Issue #2: Coupons used during gift card sales (i.e. “Buy two and receive a $5 Target Gift Card”)

This one’s relevant right now, as this week’s sale on the Schick razors is a perfect example.

The ad states that shoppers will receive a $5 Target gift card when two razors are purchased. Previously, it did not matter whether or not you used manufacturer coupons on the razors — the coupons would scan fine and you’d also receive a gift card.

With two $4 Schick coupons, here’s how the transaction should work:

$14.98 pre-coupon total
Two $4 coupons scanned
Pay $6.98 and get $5 Target gift card.

But if you go to the store, buy two Schick razors and hand over two $4 Schick coupons, this is the way that coupons involved in a gift-card sale are now scanning:

$14.98 pre-coupon total.
First $4 coupon scans and takes $4 off
Second $4 coupon scans and takes .98 off.
Balance shown on the register screen: $10.00

If no one says anything or catches this with the cashier, the shopper will then pay $10, get their $5 gift card, and Target can essentially make $3.02 on the transaction.

Why is this happening?

This new “glitch,” as Target’s apparently calling it, was first noticed last week on many coupon blogs around the country. Totally Target has a great write-up on what they’re calling the “Target Invisible $10 Manufacturer Coupon / Gift Card Glitch.”

From what they’ve been able to determine, this is what’s happening.

If you’re buying items that involve gift cards, AND your total at the register dips below twice the gift card’s value, the register automatically adjusts the rest of your coupons down TO that double-the-giftcard-threshold and not below it.

Yes, this is VERY confusing. So, let’s take the Schick example again.

We’ll receive a $5 Target gift card as part of this deal, so in the background, the register will not “allow” the post-coupon dollar amount to go below $10.00. (Again, NOWHERE does it say this in the ad or in the store — it’s just something shoppers have determined through trial and error. The Target cashiers themselves usually have no idea why the register is adjusting the coupons’ values down either.)

We buy two Schick razors at $7.49 each.

$14.98 pre-coupon total.

First $4 coupon scans and takes $4 off (the register shows a $10.98 balance.)

Second $4 coupon scans and takes .98 off (assuming the register will not allow the total to dip below $10, which is double the $5 gift card’s balance, it has auto-adjusted the second $4 coupon down to .98)

Balance shown on the register screen: $10.00

This is confusing even for seasoned coupon shoppers — can you imagine how the general public is going to deal with it? And, if you were to buy 4 razors in the same transaction, you would now need your post-coupon total to remain over $20 (double the value of the two $5 gift cards you’ll receive) to have your coupons scan correctly.

How do we work around this?

I sincerely hope Target will fix this “glitch” soon, because it’s a whopper of a problem. For now, there is no easy way around this. The way the registers are set, it’s a nightmare for cashiers too, because even if they try to manually enter that second $4 Schick manufacturer coupon in for you, the register won’t accept it. If they enter it as a $4 Target STORE coupon, it will deduct the correct amount, you’ll get your gift card, and all will be well. But they’re also not technically correct (on their end, anyway) to do that, as it will likely mess up their register’s totals, seeing as they don’t have a $4 Target coupon to correspond to that discount — and they’ve now accepted more manufacturer coupons than their register’s totals will state for that day.

The easiest and craziest workaround? If you are buying OTHER items at Target in the same trip that keep your post-coupon total over that $10 mark, everything will scan correctly. So, in this example, we’ll buy an additional $3.02 or more worth of merchandise:

$6.98 worth of razors (that’s post-manufacturer-coupon value) plus child’s shirt on clearance for $3.24 = $10.46

Our post-coupon total for this scenario will now be $10.46 and we’ll get our $5 Target gift card for buying two Schick. But now, we’ve also had to buy more than we went in for.

(And, of course, if you use a manufacturer coupon on anything you’re using as a “filler” to get up to $10, you may dip under that invisible $10 threshold and have to start all over again. AND, if you’re buying multiple items involving gift cards in the same transaction, remember that the threshold of what you have to spend, post-coupon, will automatically adjust to double the gift cards’ value too. If your deal has you receiving two $5 gift cards, you now have a $20 post-coupon threshold to reach, and so on.)

I cannot believe this is currently going on nationwide at Target and remains unaddressed by them.

If this continues, Target should expect shoppers to start throwing in some random $20 item to their transaction, buy all of their coupon deals along with it, then return the $20 item at the service counter on the way out.

Sadly, it will be easier than trying to sort all of this out in the checkout lane.


  • regis25. Oct, 2010

    I’ve been reading about this on hotcouponworld for a couple of weeks now….I’m amazed that Target hasn’t addressed it all. But…maybe that is their plan, you would have to buy “filler” items, thus they sell more? Just a thought. I don’t shop much at Target anyway and with this going on I will for sure not bring my business there.

  • kensbaby9325. Oct, 2010

    I am even more confused that I was before…lol

  • qponcents25. Oct, 2010

    So… in your example, when the second coupon is scanned and only takes off .98, won’t Target still get reimbursed the $4 face value of the coupon plus the .08 or .10 per coupon? Who’s making money now?!

  • brianna92825. Oct, 2010

    I recently moved to San Antonio and tonight I had to do some coupon shopping at Target. I knew beforehand that I would have to watch and make sure that each coupon scanned in correctly. As each coupon was scanned there was a pop-up that appeared on the register screen asking if it was the correct amount of the coupon….. she had to check to make sure that each coupon was scanning for the amount that the coupon stated before she could proceed… took a little bit of time and I’m sure it was a pain for her but it looks like Target knows the issue and is trying to rectify it.
    So it seems hopeful! =)

  • 5clkmna26. Oct, 2010

    I think you should send this detailed description of Target’s coupon policy to Lisa Madigan’s office.

  • HappyMom8826. Oct, 2010

    I was at Petco the other night and had a $1.00 man q off of a purchase of four cans of cat food. I purchased four $.79 cans. The computer took off $.89 not the $1.00. The coupon did not say that one was free or give a specific size can. Petco’s register would not allow them to correct the problem on their register. I had purchased other items in addition to coupon items. So, the manager just gave me the difference in change…rightly so…otherwise, Petco just made off with a profit on the coupon.

    Now, when it is on the other foot…so to speak…when the stores are making out with the profit, we go bonkers! It is supposed to be the consumer who is to benefit and want to come back and shop at the store. Who wants to waist their time and money trying to correct the coupon problems on their transactions…especially when they decided to tag their kids along or it was supposed to be a quick trip!

    Needless to say, it has been a while since I shopped at Target, and it may be longer unless I can snag some great savings without the hassle…like the after Halloween and Christmas sales.

  • Coupon Maven26. Oct, 2010

    For example’s sake, consider these numbers.

    Target operates over 1700 stores nationally.

    If ONE person walks into each store today and buys two Schick razors with two $4 coupons as noted above (a conservative estimate, considering that the deal is featured prominently in the ad, and there were TWO $4 Schick coupons in the same coupon insert,) and each time, that one person does not notice the coupon scan error, Target will make $3.02 on each person’s transactions.

    With 1700 stores, that’s $5134.00 Target has just made IN ONE DAY on this “glitch,” again assuming only ONE shopper per store is buying Schick razors with coupons in each store.

    Again assuming only ONE person per day goes into each Target to buy the razors, at the end of one week, Target has now profited $35,938.00 on this single example of a coupon scanning at less than face value.

  • savin up26. Oct, 2010

    I too have noticed issues the past few times I have shopped at target. I assumed I was remembering the amounts wrong from the shelf or coupon…so the last visit I told the cashier I was going to carefully watch and she was very helpful and watch each coupon come off. Fine. When the receipt came out two of my coupons that we both saw come off were not listed. I asked and she took her coupon zipper bag and walked with me to CS. We explained, they looked for the matching coupons and i received the money. I asked why this happen and they had no answers.

    I went yesteday for the coffeemate that someone posted. shelf said $1.50, scanned $1.50 less $1.50 coupon. GREAT. printed receipt show $1.50 for one and $1.79 for the other. I was in a hurry and didnot go to CS for the 29 cents. They were different flavors, but both had the 2 for $3.00 sign (along with other flavors)

    I guess I’ll have to watch and put only a few items per order to keep track. Shopping shouldn’t be like that.

  • montag26. Oct, 2010

    Wouldn’t this be consisdered fraud? Target is making money off of the coupons and we are losing the money that we thought we would be saving. They are making money from the coupon and from not giving us the correct amount from the coupon. Target has known about this for over a week and has done nothing to fix the problem. Doesn’t surprise me though. I was at Target not to long ago, and I will say that I had a lot of coupons. The person checking me out called over a manager and they went through every coupon and I was told that I couldn’t use certain ones and I had to pull items out of bags showing that I didn’t buy trial size items. They would not allow me to use a target and maufacturer coupon because that meant that I was getting the item for free and I coundn’t walk out paying nothing for that item. I didn’t complain just took the coupon, then the cashier said that you people and your coupons are making Target lose money. Needless to say I really haven’t been back to Target. Who needs the embrassment of have a manger and a cahier telling you what coupons you can and can’t use, having to prove you didn’t buy trail size items, and the cashier telling the people behind you that it is going to be a while before she can ring up their orders, because this person is using a lot of coupons. Thankfully there are other stores like Jewel and Meijer that are nice and friendly and very coupon friendly.

  • Lynn Simmons26. Oct, 2010

    I spend tons of time at Target, mainly shopping clearance. I long gave up on Target couponing shopping!! But after reading this, until they try and word this in their coupon policy, I would just buy the razors using one coupon and after the transaction go to CS and tell them I forgot to use my 2nd coupon. You must do it on the same day! They only let you do that on the same day. HTH
    Shame on Target for stealing from their shoppers!

  • mrsgriffler26. Oct, 2010

    I experienced this the other day at Target in Crystal Lake. I did the Kraft Cheese deal, and when the $5 off 5 coupon was scanned, it rang up as $0 off…I caught it immediately but the cashier said she couldn’t do anything about it even though we were in mid-transaction… I also had diapers on this transaction and Halloween candy, so keeping a certain dollar amount didn’t seem to matter. The cashier definitely gave me the impression that she couldn’t have been bothered to help me figure it out…thanks Target!

  • elizabethrakow26. Oct, 2010

    This problem of Target making more money off of coupons has been going on for several months now. I first noticed this back in August when Target had released their $1 off produce coupon. Ever since I then every trip I have made to target one if not all of my coupons have been adjusted down. I stopped shopping at Target until I hear that they fixed this problem. It sickens me to think that they are making all this additional money off of coupon shoppers and taking advantage of people that are trying to save money. Most coupon shoppers need the savings more than Target needs to make thousands of extra dollars. Let me know if there is anyone else we can get on this. Maybe someone at the Chicago Tribune or a tv station would be interested in this?

  • Shirley26. Oct, 2010

    Target was in the Minnesota news about a month ago in regards to issue #1. I hope they will get it fixed SOON. I don’t enjoy shopping at Target anymore.

  • RACHELMARIE1826. Oct, 2010

    This weekend I did some coupon shopping at Target. The target in Swansea, IL is supposed to be the most “coupon friendly” in my area. I had a similar problem with gift cards on mulitple products. I bought 4 schick razor cartridge, each package had a coupon on it for a free razor. In theory, I would have thought that I would have gotten 2 GC for the razors and 2 GC for the razor blades for a total of 4 GC’s. The cashier originally gave me my 4 GC’s for this transaction, but since I used the free Razor coupons with my purchase they were not classified as being “purchased” they were “free” so the head cashier told me that I could use either the free razor coupons or get the 2-$5.00 GC (for the razors) but not both. So I received 2 GC’s for the razor blades, but had to give up the other 2-$5.00 gift cards because getting the razors for free was the better deal. To me, getting an item for free with the use of a coupon is still classified as purchasing it.

    Example #2. Same purchase. I bought 10 glade candles. I initally Received 2 $5.00 GC’s for my purchase of 10 (for the buy 5 get a $5.00 GC offer). I had 5 BOGO coupons. Once again I was told that I could not use my coupons and get both $5.00 GC. So I told them that I was definately purchasing the first 5 and that the other five were free so that I should at least get 1 $5.00 GC. They did let me do that. But again I had to give up the other $5.00 GC for my “free” items.

    Example #3. Different purchase-same day. I had some target coupons for kraft cheese and the Kraft coupon (Huddle to fight Hunger) for cheese the $5 off 5 coupon. Target accepted the Target coupons, but would not accept the Kraft coupon. I even showed them the label on the cheese itself advertizing the offer. They took my coupon in the back to check it out and came back out stating that they could not accept coupons that didn’t scan.

    A few hours later (after the rest of my shopping) I went to the Shiloh, IL Target which was a few miles down the road. They did accept my cheese coupons and with out much hassle.

    This is all very frustrating. Just because I had BOGO coupons and Free with purchase coupons, this should still be classified as being purchased. Target is getting rembursed the amount from the coupons by the manufacturer. I should be getting the gift cards. I missed out on $15.00 in gift cards due to “free” items. My total purchase was over $75.00 after coupons, so my purchase amount should not have been a problem. What a crock!!!!

  • savinmoolah26. Oct, 2010

    I personally don’t see why people like shopping at Target anymore. The mgrs. don’t ever seem to know simple store policies – everyone gives a different answer, nor do they make an effort to help customers. Now, this coupon issue….just makes it appear Target really does not care about it’s customers and our budgets. I don’t shop at Target but more than 8 times per year. It’s just not worth my time and effort. As far as the coupon policy goes, I feel like I know it better than the cashiers and mgrs. It’s a shame what corporate is doing….they REALLY need to fix this glitch and NOW.

  • lincro4026. Oct, 2010

    I was unaware that there was an issue with the Schick razors until after i came home and checked my email and found these posts. Well, come to find out i was ripped off by the computers too. I bought 2 schick 5 razors and 2 schick 3 razors but only 2 of the 4 $4.00 dollar coupons scanned. I rechecked the receipt and sure enough only $8.00 dollars of a total of 16 dollars was deducted. I contacted the target involved and since i do not live in Rockford they are sending me a gift card for 10 dollars. The manager was quick to say it was the cashier but after reading all the posts i assured him that it was the registers that are not allowing the coupons and further let him know that this has been happening at other registers in other Targets. I will have to watch more closely from now on to insure that i receive all the coupon discounts i am entitled to. I have really enjoyed shopping at Target but if this becomes a problem on every transaction that one has to recheck the computer then i will have to adjust my shopping for special items.

    Hope they correct this. I am wondering has anyone reported this to the FTC, i am sure they would be interested.

  • jilldianne27. Oct, 2010

    What if (in issue #1) the cashier rings up the yogurt as 8 @ .39 instead of scanning each of them? Or she could ring them up at 7,6,5,4,or 3 @ .39 just as long as the end result is > $1.00 on the right side of the receipt, then she scans the remaining yogurt individually.

    Case in point, I looked back at a receipt from a month or two ago when I bought Kraft cheese at Target (on sale for $2 each) and used the $5/5 coupon. The receipt shows 3 @ $2.00 on the left which totalled $6.00 on the right hand side of the receipt. The remaining cheese was rung up individually. I received credit for the full $5.00 coupon. Don’t know if this was just luck or the cashier knew something I didn’t know.

    In issue #2, could you make the razor purchase without the coupons, get the gift card and then go to customer service and get the money for the two coupons? A hassle but also a short term solution.

  • jsjbmz27. Oct, 2010

    As others mentioned, this has been going on for quite awhile. Most recently, the Kraft $5/5 q rings $0.00. And then $2.50/3 Huggies wipes autoadjusted to $1.99 (price of 1 wipes).

    The most frustrating part is the lack of education of the employees and LODs. I always tell them, “This is going to ring x instead of y. It’s a national problem with your registers,” and they treat me like a scam artist. I had to explain the Huggies coupon to the SAME LOD multiple times, and he still acted like he was doing me a favor. THAT is frustrating.

    Their new “check to be sure the adjusted amount is correct” screen is only serving to make cashiers more skeptical of authentic coupon users rather than check to be sure it’s correct. Cashiers interpret that to mean it might be wrong from their end, not from the customer’s.

    There was an article recently, and the Target rep had the nerve to say the didn’t know about the problem until the media contacted them. Untrue. Lots of couponers have been calling.

    Why can’t they issue a memo to the stores explaining they have a problem and to GRACIOUSLY and QUICKLY correct any errors in the meantime so employees are not acting like they have never heard of such a thing. If you do not catch it at the moment, you have no recourse. You can’t go in a couple days later and “prove” your coupon was worth more.

  • pattycakes27. Oct, 2010

    I noticed this in the beginning of summer during the Scrubbing Bubbles/gift card sale. I didn’t realize until I arrived home that the register discounted all my coupons. I drove back in the evening and explained it to the young man at the CS desk. He didn’t really understand what was going on, but gladly refunded the correct coupon values. Since then, there have been numerous times I had to notify the cashier that the coupon wasn’t calculated correctly. If the cashier was a teenager, they happily adjusted it. If not, they were so irritated that I was bothering them. I just smiled and thanked them for their time. Target isn’t going to win customers if this is what we have to deal with to shop there.

  • Jaskowiak6527. Oct, 2010

    I successfully purchased 2 Shick Hydro razors using two $4 qs at the Bloomingdale, IL Target the other night. And, I got my gift card. And, I was able to use the peelie off one of the razors and score free shave gel. I also purchased clothes for my daughter, water, ground beef (with the souped up suppers coupon), REach floss (free, with coupons). Maybe it was because I had a coupon for the Hydro 5 and one for the Hydro 3. Maybe, though, it was because the cashier rang up the clothes first (5 pieces @ $4 ea) and that prevented the coupon from being discounted.

    It is good to watch, though, to make sure ALL coupons are scanned properly. I’ve had issues with printables sticking to each other and getting missed entirely!

  • Janienne28. Oct, 2010

    I noticed problems with target months ago when the coupon came out for $4 off when you bought so many packages OF gum. I had multiples of this coupon and I got ripped off. I brought it to the managers attention and they said I used too many coupons. I bought everything it said and they made me feel stupid and embarrassd me. I WILL NO LONGER SHOP @ TARGET!

  • Bernard200328. Oct, 2010

    I wonder what the result of a full financial audit of target’s coupon redemption would be in this case. When it clearly shows a customer getting short changed for the value of their coupons versus the coupons redeemed, I would think the financial auditors could easily come up with a dollar amount of how much customers have been “cheated” out of thus far.. I think an audit would be warranted if only because it is obvious that target customers have been cheated out of MILLIONS of dollars around the country.

  • savemethemoney29. Oct, 2010

    after we the customers use coupons, how do the stores get reimbursed for the coupons? I heard stores use a clearinghouse for redemption. So doesn’t that mean Target does not actually get reimbursed from the manufacturer, but gets a flat fee per weight of coupons sent in or something like that? Nevertheless, they should fix all their glitzes!!!

  • hometown29. Oct, 2010

    Yesterday I decided to buy Kraft cheese at Target.
    It was $2 a package. Not as cheap as Meijer but
    I don’t live near a Meijer. I bought 5 packages
    and used my Kraft coupon for $5.00 off if you
    buy 5 packages. The coupon rang up as only 50 cents
    off–total. The lady at customer service was very
    nice. She gave me $4.50 back in cash. She said she
    was familiar with that coupon and it was a good one.
    She didn’t know why it happened. Obviously Target
    has some serious problems going on.

  • stapleface30. Oct, 2010

    I experienced this problem first hand yesterday with some Dial Body Wash. It is on sale through 10/30 with a gift card. Buy three items and get a $5 gift card. Some of the Mens body washes have a $1 off peelie on them. It dawned on me that you could just start a loop where you buy the body washes and then use the $5 giftcard on your next body was purchase. Once you have and initial outlay for the items, you could potentially get three more body washes for $4 each time. When I initially bought the first three to get the $5 gift card, I had an additional item with me, so the register took the coupons correctly.
    I went in yesterday just to buy three body washes and the register scanned one coupon at $1, one at $.97, and one at $.00 . I realized this after I left the register so I took it to customer service and the woman adjusted it without issue. She said she knew about the issue and supposedly they were working on it.
    Later in the day I found myself at a different Target so I decided to go in and buy three more. This time, the cashier realized that the coupons did not work and they tried to make it work. The transaction was suspended and they moved me to a different register for the front end manager to work on it. After her trying unsuccessfully for about ten minutes, she makes up that lame excuse that the gift card offer must be a manufactures coupon and I can’t combine the offers. She says it’s written as such in Target’s coupon policy. After arguing with her and a manager that this is incorrect for about 20 minutes, I gave up and completed my purchase. This ticks me off because in the back of my mind I knew the line they were feeding me was a crock. Yes, I only lost out on $1.03 worth of saving, but that’s not the point. Fix the issue and don’t try to make up some excuse as to why the transaction won’t work.

  • Free Chocolate Please01. Nov, 2010

    I just overheard that this is a topic on the news tonight.

  • Yukipr29. Nov, 2010

    I stopped by my Target today to try to use the $1 off coupons on three trial size Tides and another item in order to have a positive balance at the register. The three tides were $2.91 and the cashier had to manually enter the coupons because they were not scanning correctly. She entered them as $2.97 (which is still more than the Tide alone). I know there were problems with coupon scanning, but had not been able to follow on the whole thing… plus, I was holding the line, so, $2.97 was pretty good for me.

    My question is, was the coupon supposed to be manually entered as $1.00 or as 97 cents? When I go to Jewel, sometimes the cahier either enter the product’s price, if it is less than the coupon face value, and other times I get the coupon face value. Any advise will be appreciated.

  • Mottspotts25. Jan, 2014

    A couple days ago I made a trip to target. I really like that I can use 1 target and 1 manufacturer coupon per item. Plus I can use target mobile coupons and I can also get a percentage off certain items using the target app, Cartwheel. That is what gets me in the store, thinking I can save money.
    Prior to my shopping trip I knew that I had to watch the register to make sure that the face value was being deducted because Target is known for lowering the face value BUT I thought I only had to watch the register to make sure the correct amount was being deducted. So I made sure everything was scanning correctly but when I got home later and examined my receipt I saw 2 target coupons that had a negative .05 cents off.
    So of course I was pissed but I can’t do anything about it, if I took my receipt to the front desk I can’t prove how much was suppose to be taken off. I didn’t write it down or had photocopies of my coupons.
    Even after looking at the register and seeing my coupon was scanning and the face value was being deducted they still screwed me.
    I’m pissed because I took the time to hunt and to print these coupons, only to find out that I’m getting scammed at the end. I will not be shopping at target anymore. They are a bunch of liars and deceivers.

  • Jstasch26. Jan, 2014

    The only way the register would trigger the $5 gc on the b10/get $5 gc uncle bens,etc. deal was if an 11th item was scanned…

    Luckily I was watching the whole transaction like a hawk and they manually had to override all of the problems. They had to just give me a gift card and then put in a $5 coupon for it since it wouldn’t trigger.

    And thanks for the Juicy Juice advice – manual adjustment required here too.

    Another problem – shelf tag said buy two 12 pack GoGo squeeze applesauce, get 4 pack free – also required manual adjustment.

    I was sweating by the time it was over! They must know these deals are a huge traffic driver….fixing this would go a long way in improving customer confidence with all the trouble they’ve had recently.