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Understanding Manufacturers’ Coupons: As Good as Cash!

Smart Shopper

Does the following scene sound familiar? You’ve clipped the special coupon from your local supermarket’s newspaper ad or in-store circular–the one that offers an item free with a specific minimum purchase. Armed with your grocer’s written promise of this bit of extra compensation for your months or years of loyal patronage and faithful economic support, you carefully select a number of items, which (though you may be a little low on funds this week), add up to or slightly exceed the designated purchase amount.
After the mission (of squeezing as many necessities as possible into that “grand total”) is at last accomplished, you approach the checkstand with a spring in your step, a smile on your face, and a deep-down satisfaction such as only a fellow shopper can fathom.

Anticipated Reward

While the checker totals your order, you visualize your children’s pleasure at receiving these delectable embodiments of your shopping skill and reflect on just how much your little (or big!) ones deserve them–with today’s soaring food prices and dwindling dollar values adding up to fewer and fewer cookies in the family cupboard.

So far, so good.

When your purchases have been tallied, you reach for your coupons with confidence—What serious shopper wouldn’t?–and they are subtracted from your bill, bringing you substantial savings, a fact you’ve always been rather proud of, truth to tell.

Coupon Dilemma

But, next thing you know, sweet satisfaction gives way to dread disappointment, as the checker informs you that you haven’t purchased the required minimum to qualify you for the free item. And, sure enough, as you gaze with disbelief at the cash register total, you have indeed come up a dollar or two short of your projected “goal.”

What can you say? With other impatient shoppers waiting in line and possibly limited funds in your pocketbook, you decide it isn’t worth trying to choose an item to bring your balance back up to the required level. “Oh,” you stammer, trying hard to hide your chagrin. “I guess you’re right.” And…ever so reluctantly…you relinquish your coveted prize, with a vague feeling that something has gone wrong somewhere, denying you the very modest compensation which should rightfully be yours for bringing your business to this store week after week.

What Went Wrong?

Perhaps it isn’t until very much later–if at all–that it occurs to you that the amount of your purchase was sufficient to qualify you for the free item that was withheld–that it wasn’t until after your coupons had been subtracted that the total fell below the required amount–and this doesn’t seem fair to you somehow. You may not even be entirely certain why it seems unfair, but there’s no denying that it does.

Maybe you think this makes you a trifle greedy. After all, haven’t your coupons already saved you money once? Is it right to also use them to qualify for free items?

The Inside Scoop About Coupons

Were you to pursue the matter further, by calling or visiting the store and talking with its manager, you would learn an interesting fact about coupons: Manufacturer’s coupons–as opposed to in-ad or store-generated coupons–are considered a legitimate method of payment for your purchases. (In other words, they are as good as cash.) They do not decrease the amount of your purchase; they simply pay for a portion of it.

This means, of course, that the actual amount of your purchase is the total before manufacturer’s coupons have been subtracted, and not after, as your previous checker erroneously assumed. (As mentioned earlier, this does not apply to coupons clipped from the store’s own ads or generated by its coupon machines. These coupons are not equivalent to cash; they simply lower the cost of your purchase.)

Therefore, since your purchase amount was sufficient to qualify you for the free item before your coupons were subtracted (presuming, of course, that enough of them were manufacturer’s coupons), you are indeed entitled to receive it.

Now You Know!

Most store managers will honor this even after the fact, provided that not too much time has elapsed since the date of your purchase and you have a receipt to prove your contention.

So, returning to the store, within a few days or so, receipt in hand, you should have little trouble receiving the satisfaction both you and your children crave.

And as you partake of the fruits of your diligent follow-up, you can celebrate the knowledge that you will never have to endure that particular indignity again.

As the saying goes: “Knowledge is power”–even at the supermarket!