When I teach coupon classes, one of the questions that invariably comes up is “what do you do when a cashier won’t take your coupons?” The usual answer to that question is to familiarize yourself with the store’s coupon policy, which will specify exactly what kind of coupons the store will accept and how they can be used.
Coupon policies are great tools for couponers to know exactly what kinds of coupons they can use at each store. (Want to see an example of one? Here’s Wal-Mart’s.) In preparation for today’s Deals of the Week, I went shopping to verify that all the sales and deals were working as advertised.
This week, Dominick’s is having a big “$5 off when you purchase 5” sale, which combined with coupons, can really work well in a bargain hunter’s favor. I had a nice cartload of groceries loaded up ($94 worth, before coupons) when I headed to the checkout.
At the checkout lane, the cashier examined my coupons, then called an employee over from the service counter, who promptly announced “We don’t take internet coupons.”
What? I try to stay on top of the coupon policies of all of our local stores, and the only store in our area that I knew expressly doesn’t accept internet coupons is Woodman’s. But I honestly don’t shop at Dominick’s much, and I supposed their policy could have changed.
But then I thought — this doesn’t make sense. Dominicks.com has printable internet coupons right on their own website. Go to www.dominicks.com, click “Save,” and “Print Coupons.”
Why would they have printable coupons on their own website if they won’t accept them?
Because I have another coupon class coming up in a few days, I wanted to get my facts straight. I asked to speak with a manager. The manager came over and said yes, Dominick’s doesn’t accept internet coupons.
I pointed out that there were internet coupons ON the store’s site. He told me “I can’t take those because the store doesn’t get any money back for internet coupons.” Now, as anyone who’s ever read the fine print at the bottom of a coupon knows, not only does the store get all of the money for the coupon’s face value back, they also get 8-12 cents over and above the value as well.
It amazed me that a store manager would not know this. I pointed out the fine print on the coupon to him, which details how the store will be reimbursed. The manager thought about it and said “Well, I can accept one internet coupon.”
One? I had at least $70 worth of coupons to use in this trip, most of which were internet coupons. So, I left without buying anything. Which may seem extreme, but I think you know by now that I avoid paying full price as often as possible :)
I then called Dominick’s corporate office, Safeway, to ask about the chain’s coupon policy. I explained what had happened, and the representative told me “Oh, I don’t think we take internet coupons.” (???) Again, I pointed out that there are internet coupons on Dominick’s own site. She talked to someone else and came back and said “Oh yeah… we just pulled the website up. I don’t know then.”
Very helpful. I asked if I could get a copy of Dominick’s coupon policy, and after conferring again, the representative came back and said “We don’t have one. It’s up to each individual store, manager and cashier to decide how many and what kind of coupons they will take.”
Well, guess what, Dominick’s. Without a standardized coupon policy, shoppers’ experiences are going to be very hit-or-miss, especially when a cashier decides on a whim that perhaps you have too many coupons, or they don’t like your printable coupons, or they just don’t like to see you getting things for free or very cheap — which I’m sure was the case today, as I would have cut my bill by 75% with the coupons I was holding.
As great as the Dominick’s $5 off 5 sale is, it is nowhere near worth shopping if you can’t use coupons with it. And after hearing from two other people today who were told they couldn’t use internet coupons at two additional, different Dominick’s locations than the one I visited — and a third who was also turned down at the same Dominick’s location I was at … I find it hard to recommend couponers continue to shop at Dominick’s, at least if they intend to use internet coupons. I wasted most of my afternoon planning my shopping trip, printing and cutting coupons, going to the store and shopping, and then being told the store essentially didn’t want my money.
Dominick’s big “draw” used to be that they accepted expired coupons, while most of their competitors have phased that out. But if it’s completely up to the individual store and cashier, that unwritten “policy” may become very hit-or-miss as well.
Now, Jewel… you’re still my favorite place to shop.