A common complaint from shoppers using coupons is that some cashiers refuse to accept printed internet coupons. This can be frustrating at checkout, especially if an item was chosen specifically over another because of the coupon’s savings potential.
Why Do Stores Refuse to Accept Coupons?
The real problem with online printable coupons began in 2003 when stores unknowingly accepted a lot of counterfeit coupons. This resulted in huge losses for the stores and the product manufacturers. It also ultimately cost shoppers, since the losses were likely absorbed by raising the prices on products. At the time, the only solution was to stop accepting all online coupons. Undoubtedly manufacturers and retailers realized the potential of internet coupons and did not want to just walk away from the problem, but they needed time to fix it. As a result, the industry worked with reputable coupon sites to find global solutions.
Today's coupons will typically contain the following information:
- A bar code that scans.
- An expiration date.
- Legitimate manufacturer's address.
- Standard terminology such as "one coupon per item, per customer" and "no photocopies permitted."
- Statement of "Manufacturer Coupon."
Understanding Grocery Stores' Coupon Policies
As more manufacturers started following the standardized practices regarding what information needs to be on internet coupons, more grocery stores began to expand their acceptance policies. There are still, however, some internet coupons that are more vulnerable to being turned down than others.
For example, PDF (Portable Document Format) coupons are often declined because of the PDF format. PDF coupons do not generally have bar codes that are unique, which causes the coupons not to scan. It is also one way so many counterfeit coupons are circulated around the internet. Many grocery stores, even those that happily accept internet-printed coupons, will state in their coupon acceptance policies that PDF coupons are not accepted under any conditions.
Poorly-printed or blurred coupons are also often declined. If the bar code is not clearly printed, it might not scan. Coupons that do not scan will often be declined. A good way to avoid having this happen is by making certain there is plenty of ink in the printer before printing coupons. For coupons that tend to print out blurred or difficult to read the fine print, switching the printing preferences to color printing may be beneficial.
High Dollar Coupons
Grocery stores may have policies that limit the volume or amount of the coupons accepted during a single transaction. Limits on the face value of coupons up to $2.00 or $3.00 is not uncommon. Also, many stores do not take internet coupons that offer free products. And finally, many stores will not hand-input coupon information, so if the coupon fails to scan, it will not be accepted regardless of the reason.
Lack of Training
Even though many coupons now contain all the necessary information, a store manager may still refuse to redeem coupons. This may happen because of confusion by local store employees about the corporate policy on redeeming online coupons.
There are steps to take in advance, to help avoid having problems with coupons being accepted.
- Use reputable online coupon services. These companies ensure that the coupons offered follow the necessary security guidelines.
- Stop at the customer service counter before you shop and receive advance approval on the online printed coupons you plan to use. If the employee at the service counter does not approve your coupons, ask to speak with a manager.
- When shopping at national grocery store chains, contact the corporate office and ask for a letter which outlines the corporate online printed coupon redemption policy. Bring the letter with you to show it to cashiers and store managers.
- When printing online coupons, do not clip the coupon, but rather take the entire sheet of paper. This will allow the store manager to see the name of the website where you obtained the coupons. Many times, while they may be familiar with the company, they may not recognize specific coupons.
Too Much Hassle?
Most national grocery store chains and big-box stores like Target and Walmart have made major adjustments to their coupon acceptance policies regarding internet printed coupons. Most of the time when a coupon is not accepted, it is because there is something out of the ordinary with the coupon.
When the occasion does occur that a store will not accept an internet-printed coupon, it is best to understand that policies are in place for a reason. Either speak with customer service or try using the coupon in another store. If it is declined again, throw it away and focus on all the coupons that you have used in the past that stores have accepted.
For stores that refuse to accept any internet-printed coupons, it is generally because the stores do not have up-to-date cash registers that help prevent fraudulent coupons from being accepted.