Sunday, May 29, 2011

Reading the Fine Print - Couponing 101 Series

If we take a closer look at a coupon, there are several important things to make note of: Is the coupon a store coupon or manufacturer's coupon? What is the expiration date? The difference between the product picture and the wording? And what are the limitations?

Manufacturer's Coupon or Store Coupon? - We'll look at this more later, but a manufacturer's coupon was put out by the company who makes the product. A store coupon (may say the name of the store instead of "store") was put out buy the store to be used at the store on that product. Note that there are some coupons that have a store name/logo on it (and might even say something like "redeem at Meijer"), but if it says "manufacturer's coupon" at the top, it can be used in any store that accepts coupons.

Expiration Date - This is the date that a coupon can be used through. If the expiration date is May 15, 2011, you can use the coupon until AND on May 15, 2011. After that, it is no longer valid. The only exception to this is military commisaries. They accept expired coupons up until 6 months after the expiration date, so get those expired coupons to your military friends and family members!

Product Picture & Wording - Always refer to the wording on the coupon rather than looking at the picture to match your coupon to a product. The manufacturer often will put a higher-priced item on the picture, hoping that you will go and spend your money on that product. If I have a coupon for Ball Park Hot Dogs, and the coupon states "Save $1.00 on any 1 Ball Park Hot Dog 8 oz or more," the picture may show the Ball Park Angus Hot Dogs (regularly priced at around $3.50 per pack). However, since the wording says "any Ball Park Hot Dog 8 oz or more," I know that this coupon can be used on the regular Ball Park Hot Dog packs that are frequently on sale for $1.25 per pack. This is important to note not only for yourself but also in case your cashier tells you that you bought the wrong product. As long as you are buying what the wording says, you're all set. Likewise, some coupons can only be used on a specific product. If my coupon said "Save $1.00 on 1 Ball Park Angus Hot Dogs," then I would need to purchase the Ball Park Angus Hot Dogs for the coupon to be used correctly.

The wording on this coupon shows that it is good on ANY I Can't Believe It's Not Butter product even though the Olive Oil type is pictured.  This is a good example also of a manufacturer's coupon that has a store logo on it. If you were to print this coupon out, you could use it anywhere even though it says "Available at Safeway Stores."

The wording on this coupon states that it is good on ANY package of Oscar Mayer Deli Creations. There are smaller packages that are regularly priced at $1.25. Here the manufacturer is hoping that you will go looking for the more expensive product. (This is another good example of a Manufacturer's coupon that has a store logo on it.)

Limitations - In the VERY fine print, you'll see something like "Consumer: Limit one per purchase" (or transaction, customer/household, etc.) This throws a lot of people off (including some cashiers and even experienced couponers!), so it's helpful to be clear on what the definitions are. Nine times out of ten, the coupon will say "limit one per purchase" or "per item." This simply means that you can use ONE coupon for each product. You cannot use TWO of the same coupons for ONE item.

Once in awhile, you'll see a coupon that says "limit one per transaction," and this DOES mean that you can only use ONE of these coupons at a time. If you want to use several of these coupons, you'll need to do several transactions. The rarest (and most restrictive) coupons will say "limit one per customer" or "limit one per household." This means that you get ONE coupon to use. Period.

Let's look at some examples: If I have 2 cans of tuna fish (priced at $1.00), and I have a coupon that states "limit one per purchase" good for $0.50/1 can of tuna fish, I can use 2 coupons (since I'm purchasing 2 items). I CANNOT use 4 of these coupons to get the 2 cans free.

If I have 5 boxes of brownies, and I have 5 coupons for $0.50/1 brownie that state "limit one per purchase," I can use all 5 coupons on all 5 brownies. I cannot use 7 coupons on 5 boxes of brownies. If my coupons stated "limit one per transaction," I would need to go through the checkout lane 5 times, each time buying one box of brownies and using one coupon. (Yuck!) If I tried to buy 5 boxes of brownies with 5 coupons that stated "limit one per customer," I would not be successful.

The best way to figure out the terminology in the checkout lane (when you're being questioned) is to ask yourself, "How many items am I purchasing?" A purchase is not the same as a transaction. If you are buying 5 products, you can use 5 coupons (assuming each coupon is off ONE product). 

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