How To Keep Your Cool When Couponing

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Extreme Couponing Tip: How To Keep Your Cool

There is nothing worse than knowing you’re “right” about something in life, specifically coupon use, and being told by someone, who may not have as much couponing experience as you, that you’re wrong.

You know the drill…you’re all set to score awesome deals and have a huge shopping trip planned to your local store armed with your coupons in hand, just to be told at the end of your transaction that you “can’t use this coupon” or “we don’t allow this.”  I’ve had many frustrating experiences at the check out line while using coupons, often times while there are other customers waiting in line behind me, clearly annoyed that I’m slowing down the process by using coupons.  It is times like this that it is more important than ever to keep your cool, stay calm, and most importantly, stay polite…even if (when) you’re right!

::Reasons to Keep Your Cool

  • It’s important to maintain a positive working relationship with the staff and management at your local stores.  Allow them to get to know you, not just as the “crazy” couponer, but as an honest person with high integrity who isn’t out to rip the store off, just a smart shopper trying to save a buck in this tough economy.  Once you gain this positive working relationship with the staff and management, they will be more apt to work with you to correct the issue.  If you don’t keep your cool and immediately get upset and rude when a situation like this presents itself, you’re now not only hurting your reputation at that store, but you’re now creating a stigma for the rest of the coupon shoppers of that store.
  •  You don’t want to be a bad witness to other customers.  Let’s face it…we all hate stereotypes but we often are quick to be guilty of it.  While shopping and using your coupons, you’re going to interact and encounter other customers, the vast majority who don’t use coupons.  Don’t take the chance at creating another negative stereotype for couponers by forgetting to keep your cool when frustrating situations happen to you while trying to properly use coupons.  The outrage may seem worth it and justified at the time, however if we take into consideration the negative impression we’re making on other customers and store associates, it might not be worth it in the long run.
  • It isn’t worth the stress in your life!  Living “Rich” with Coupons means much more than just living rich financially…it also means living a rich and healthy lifestyle.  Couponing, especially when you’re a beginner and trying to get the hang of it, can be super stressful, however that’s not what it is intended to be!  Don’t bring the stress of a bad transaction home with you and go on and on to your poor husband or family members about how a deal didn’t work perfectly as you had planned.  Leave it at the door, or at the checkout line, as tough as it may be, and simply learn from it.

::Tips on What to Do in Order to Keep Your Cool

  • Never go shopping without your store’s coupon policy!  This will save you so much time and frustration if you can simply pull out your store’s policy when you are told something conflicting with what you know is right.  Always show the staff the policy in a polite manner and not with a condescending attitude because you’re right and they’re wrong.
  • When you’re having a problem with a coupon at the checkout line, consider completing the transaction and taking the issue to the customer service desk where a manager can help you without holding up the line.  This will give you a minute to regroup and take a deep breath before you head over to customer service with a calm voice and smile 🙂
  • Consider bringing a shopping buddy with you.  This always helps me stay organized for some reason.  When I don’t have to worry about pushing the cart and maneuvering down crowded aisles, I can just have my binder, coupons and check list in hand, making for less mistakes in quantities needed, less forgetting to get items altogether, etc.  Most importantly, having my husband with me while I shop allows me the ability to watch as each item and coupon is scanned while he bags.  This prevents mistakes and everything just seems to go much smoother when I’m focused and able to pay attention to the cashier, thus causing less mistakes and less issues overall, which ends in a calm and happy shopper!

What do you do in order to keep your cool?

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  • Erin

    I find that quietly stating my case and then standing back and letting the cashier work it out with a manager seems to help. If I just ask for what I want, especially at CVS, they fuss and worry, and call a manager and I pretty much always get what I ask for. I don’t go on and on, but state my case, explain why I think I’m right and wait for them to find a solution that will make me happy. Usually I’m arguing for ECB’s and I almost always get them, and if they really don’t agree – then I quietly ask to have the transaction deleted and they do that too. by not getting angry or yelling, or even to continue talking…. they realize I’m the customer they want to keep happy, and not just get out of the store. Best advice is written above, KEEP CALM, but also QUIET!

    • Cortney

      Good point…I find that remaining silent for a while after stating my case helps, too! Though it can be difficult :), they seem to work it out on their own or just seem to give it to me to make me happy (though I know it’s the right way anyway).

    • Jodi

      Good point, sometimes if you go on and on you don’t give them a chance to fix it. They are to busy arguing with you!

  • Elaine

    What do you do in order to keep your cool?

    Leave my husband at home!!!! Cindy, you are lucky to have Pat!

    • Cindy

      LOL

      • seema

        u r right Elaine …same here..leave my husband at home…

  • Cortney

    There are some stores that I know I can’t go to because I get frustrated with their coupon misunderstanding on a consistent basis. Luckily, I live in an area where most chains have another location that’s close enough to make the extra drive worth it. Typically, I find this to be YMMV on a store-by-store basis 🙂

  • sarah

    I take my disagreements to the customer service counter after I pay. I explain where I’m coming from and if they don’t agree then I just politely ask for a refund. They never have a problem doing this so long as I’m polite and have gone directly from the check out line to the CS counter with my concerns.

    I rarely go to the CS counter but when I do I’d say they “take my side” about 95% of the time. The rest of the time I’m usually the one who is wrong! Another reason to be polite – you are not always right all the time, we all make mistakes 🙂

    I’m always nice, patient, and calm in my explanation. I have a feeling that if I were any other way they probably wouldn’t be so nice to me. I worked in CS for a long time and I can tell you that the way you treat some one goes a long way. No one is going to meet you half way if you act rude, condescending, loud, mean, or obnoxious.

    In the rare event that CS won’t budge on something I just let it go. You can’t have everything all the time. Stressing (or worse, obsessing) only hurts you and those around you. It’s not worth it. Move on to the next deal 🙂

  • Eric in NJ

    I try not to shop at A&P, that’s my best effort ;p

  • Molly

    I clip and my boyfriend scans, that’s the deal we have and it makes everything much less stressful. Thanks for everything cindy!!!! Wer’e taking a trip for those light bulbs tonight and hoping for the best 🙂

    • KT

      @ Molly, the lightbulbs q beeped for me this AM. I think all coupons that go over the amount of the item are now beeping. At least at my SR…

      • molly

        thanks for the heads up KT, Ive had that happen before with free yogurts.
        Im going to go to the self-check out with 4 plus a bunch of other stuff and see if they’ll help me out.. Ill keep my fingers crossed. If it works I might push my luck and see if I can get my other half to use another 4. Always hoping for the best.

  • kc

    I was buying gain dish detergent today and the coupon wasn’t scanning at pathmark, the cashier told me it was because I wasn’t buying the right one – I said take a look at the coupon and she told me it wasn’t the right color. I said okay thank you, paid and went to customer service where they gave me the money back. Sometimes it is just easier to agree with the cashier!

    • Ann

      Agreed! This happened to me the other day in Pathmark, the cashier argued that 75 cent coupons don’t double to $1.50, only $1. I KNEW I was right, and after calmly stating my case, he was obnoxious, so I just paid and went straight to CS – where they had a HUGE poster stating “We double manufacturer’s coupons up to 99 cents”! The CS rep was polite and gave me my $1.50. I suggested she school the cashier on aisle 4 on the store’s coupon policy.

  • Tom

    I have had a number of times where I know I am right but the customer service person or the manager on duty still says I’m wrong. I’ve had cases where they are even outright rude to me as I kept calm or tell me they don’t know anything about coupons (go figure?!). In those cases I have had to call corporate and/or the top store manager to lodge a complaint. I usually get an apology and am told that they will speak to those employees. They either offer me a gift card for the troubles or tell me to come back with the coupon and to seek them out personally to get it fixed. There is too much ignorance among staff – not sure if it’s bad training, high turnover or what….but it seems that they can’t get the coupon-training through their heads.

    To me, the ideal store would train their employees to solve problems and accommodate the customers, instead of immediately saying “no”…..oh the world we live in.

    • Laura D.

      I have had the same experience at the Shoprite closest to my home. I have learned a valuable lesson. Many of the employees have been working there forever and hate it. Why do I know this?? Well, they say it ALL the time. I have even witnessed a dairy stock man call up customer service to complain that a male customer had bought too many butters that were on sale. His major complaint was “Wadda I have to do all day, restock butter??” The man who purchased the butter was sent in by his wife to pick up butter for a bake sale she was baking for. Why do I know this? I was in the dairy section when the stock guy called in the call and at customer service when the guy came back into the store to exchange the butter because he bought unsalted. I was getting a raincheck. I now make sure I shop there either very late afternoon or evening to avoid all of the miserable employees. I have found that the “younger crew” are nicer and have the computer savvy to work the registers and have much more patience when a problem does occur. Granted, I have had to restructure my schedule to shop here. Otherwise I go to a Shoprite that is further away. Sorry to be so lenghty ….. just feeling your pain, lol!

  • CH

    Thanks for this post – I needed it today! I had a store manager tell me I was using fraudulent Pampers coupons because she didn’t know which bar code to scan on the coupon. Working in retail all my life, it was all I could do not to take the scan gun out of her hand and show her how to do it! She finally decided to “let me use the coupon just this once” but reminded me of their policy not to accept coupons that would not scan. Don’t people know not to come between mom’s and diaper coupons? 😉 Sigh…..

  • Anita

    Your post could not have come at a better time. I just got back from Stop and Shop where I tried the Nivea deal, and the $5 savings did not come off. I was so disappointed, especially since I had used my $4 OM cat. Oh well….I will return the items tomorrow, but I’m guessing the Nivea coupons and the OM cat cannot be regained, right?

    • Anonymous

      I worked at walgreen’s some years ago and I never got any training surrounding coupons. A lot of the times it’s a problem with management not putting in any effort to train their own employees. I learned the policy myself and luckily didn’t have a problem with any couponers while working there.

    • Kate

      Did your Nivea products come to $15 AFTER coupons? It also could be that not all of them are participating items. I think it’s hard to get this deal right. I decided to pass 😉

  • Kristine

    If it’s not that busy and I don’t have a TON of stuff, I will just go to the U-scan so that I can complete a couple transactions without stressing out that the cashier and customers hate me haha. The attendant is usually bored anyway, and only ever occasionally walks over to validate something. Painless, and wayyyy less stressful sometimes.

  • Sonya

    I agree with Kristine. I ALWAYS do a self checkout at Shop Rite, that way I watch for each item to be scanned properly and know right away if something is not right and I get to scan my own coupons, so I know they all come off and there is no arguing over a product being pictured or not, Whatever coupons don’t go through, I give to the cashier and they always take care of them, they ARE bored most of the time and don’t seem as stressed out as others. And there is never really a line and if there is, people just go to the next register that opens up. I never feel guilty taking up any time at the self-checkout. Even if I have a lot of items, I do self check out anyway and I can bag them myself however I want.

    • Linda

      I totally agree with Kristine and Sonya! I can’t remember the last time I had a cashier process my order. I find the attendants at the self checkout lanes to be the most helpful, knowledgeable and pleasant. I do the majority of my grocery shopping @ Shop Rite.

      • Jenn

        I need to do this. Makes a lot of sense and I have had it with cashiers that have no idea (or can’t understand) what the coupon policy is. And the “It isn’t in the picture” response to a coupon that says on ‘any’ product is all it takes for my blood pressure to shoot up.

    • liba

      ShopRite Paramus doesn’t have self checkout.
      Most of the cashiers, some of the managers, and almost all of the customer services people are not at all knowledgeable, and not helpful.

    • susan k

      at my shop rite the u-scan cashiers have to do the coupons so it’s much more annoying to do that than go to a regular cashier. they even have a sign up that says if you have coupons to go to the other registers. lucky you!!

  • Anonymous

    After this week’s S&S pepsi debacle (a long story, but it had to be returned), I
    had just been thinking that going to S&S is like going to battle, you have to mentally prepare yourself, stay focused and not be distracted (by other items) or discouraged. Everyone’s level for frustration is different and I have to be in the right frame of mind to go there. I am making a return trip today for last day of sale items. Also, don’t do as I do and go on the last day of the sale, you’ll be kicking yourself, especially if you’re expecting to find items that produce cats. You can get a raincheck for the item but not the cat. If a cashier has a problem, I try to figure out what they are not understanding and explain it in a neutral way. I appreciate the same tone when they are pointing out my error (not that THAT ever happens;-)
    I like to have the errors corrected at the register but if that fails, I go right up to CS. I try to inject some self-effacing humor too, to keep it light. Such as maybe its just me…or I may have made an error BUT……anything to lighten the tension usually helps.

  • Estelle

    The times that I bring my husband are very helpful. Once he spotted the cashier scanning in tomatoes at S& S that scanned in at $1 a lb. higher than the price. He brought it up to the cashier, and we got the tomatoes for free. They said their policy was that if an item scans wrong and we point it out, the item is free. I never would have noticed it if I was on my own.
    But I do remember when I was new at this, I used to come home sulking and complaining when things didn’t work out. Good advice. Go with the flow, and every experience is a learning experience.

  • Sebsa

    What has really helped me keep my cool is Cindy’s site. Seriously. I am on a tight budget and I save so much money by following LRWC that if a deal doesn’t go right or if I don’t catch a super great deal (like the recent Pepsi one which didn’t work for me), instead of fretting about it, I just let it go. There is always another great deal around the corner. This attitude also helps me when a coupon beeps or a cashier is examining every single coupon with a magnifying glass (which is fine, because I am not doing anything wrong…it just makes me feel like I am! : ) I often have to walk the cashiers through some coupons (always when I am at Stop and Shop and using a catalina…I wish they would make the self-checkout more coupon friendly and figure out how to make their registers recognize cats properly) but I stay calm and friendly and it works out. In fact, one time when I had to go to Stop and Shop customer service to ask about instant savings that didn’t go through properly, the manager told me that he was going to give it to me (even though my total after coupons didn’t qualify for the instant savings…this was early in my couponing days when I didn’t realize that SnS wants you to hit the total after coupons) because I was so nice and polite. He told me about another couponer who had been in earlier that day who raised a big stink and was angry and rude. Not only is it in our own best interest as a couponer to be calm, friendly, and polite, but we actually represent other couponers as well by our behavior.

    • Jenn

      It’s hard not to be frustrated when you spend all this time matching sales with coupons and deals, printing them out, making lists, planning your shopping day, just to have them refuse the coupons. Lately, I just don’t bother printing out the deals that I know won’t go through. Especially coupons that say ‘available at Walmart’. Shoprite, CVS, Walgreens, etc have all told me that I cannot use them because they are only good at Walmart. I guess I just realize that all the deals cannot be had and I don’t try to get them anymore.

  • Claire

    If a coupon doesn’t work, most of the time the item is on sale anyway so I end up still getting it. Then I think of all the times a cashier gave me an extra deal I wasn’t expecting..like doubling a dnd coupon or giving me the full value of a free item coupon when the item was less than that amount and let it go that I didn’t save 50 cents this time but I saved it before when I wasn’t technically supposed too.

  • Robin W

    This week I had issues with coupons that state “do not duplicate” most were from Common Kindness website. As luck would have it a corporate man was educating cashiers when I visited King Kullen. I expressed my disappointment that there seams to be individual store/cashier policies. He informed me that do not duplicate and do not double are two different policies. I hope that the employee education becomes more universal.

  • liba

    ShopRite Paramus.
    This is the ShopRite that I go to, because it is the only one not out of my way.
    Shopping there is generally miserable — except for one person who is a cashier and often telling about sales – Laticia – a doll.
    I find that I often call corporate when I leave certain stores… Staples, CVS, Stop and Shop are a few — I call to compliment the employees on my service.
    In the last month EVERY time I left ShopRite Paramus I ended up calling corporate to complain. And… in the end I was always right.
    I was so disgusted this week that I actually ended up saying to the cashier and the manager who were giving me a hard time about a perfectly legitimate transaction – that this was a miserable place to shop!

  • Lady J

    I’d say a good tip for a beginner is to leave the binder at home. True, you may miss a deal, but if you plan out a trip out pull those coupons and just stick to that, it’ll help you get another successful trip under your belt and build your confidence so that you can eventually have a 2 hour trip with your binder.

    Remember, everyone makes mistakes. Sometimes the cashier or store makes the mistake. Sometimes we do. Even if you don’t make mistakes with couponing, we’ve all made a mistake somewhere. Treat people the right way.

    Don’t be embarrassed. Ultimately, if a deal doesn’t work and you don’t like or can’t afford it, have the cashier take those itmes out of your order or have the customer service desk do a refund for you. Who cares if the people in line look down on you, only you know what you can or can not afford.

  • JerseyCityWoman

    One method I use, is, before paying, I go to CS/manager to clear out any misconceptions on certain deals or promotions I get the feeling might bring me conflicts with the cashier. In the past, I would do this once in a while, but now it seems every other grocery shopping trip, I go to CS first. So when I am checking out and the cashier says something totally different or that she/he can’t take this coupon or whatever, I say “I cleared it with so and so, and they said it’s ok. I might have misunderstood, we can call him/her if you want.” 95% of the time, no problem, the other 5% they do call CS/manager. To leave in a positive note with the cashier, I usually end it with, “You know I was so confused with this. I admire you that you probably go thru this so many times a day. I’d be pulling my hair out!” Usually brings a smile and a thank you for my not being a “rude customer!

  • Christi

    My coupon buddy is a temperamental 2 year old. A few months ago I stocked up on fruit snacks when they were dirt cheap, and she can only have them at the check-out during shopping trips. I put them in a little holder designed for cat treats, and she has to work HARD to get them out one at a time. Keeps her busy long enough for me to calmly interact with the cashier. It also tends to amuse the cashier, making her or him more sympathetic to the frazzled mom!

  • Traveler

    Christi, I have a similar-aged shopping buddy and she goes through tons of Cherios / cookies while I shop. Do you have the exact name /link to the cat treats holder you use? Thanks!

  • PAUL

    Wow..! I thought that I was alone in this coupon world… You have hit upon every scenario and possible experience that I have gone through in the past four years. Some experiences became very disheartening and emotional while dealing with the many situations you have mentioned. So much so, that I’ve had to take a break from it all for the past two months. I was a three time a week coupon-er with countless bargains galore which were the fruits of my countless hours of preparation. It only takes one employee to set you off and discourage you mentally. Thank you for your inspirational and enlightening article… Paul