Tag Archives: Couponing

Bad coupon experience a reminder to “know before you go”

Happy 2012 to all! Now that the rush of the holidays is over, I’ll be back to posting detailed blog entries on a regular basis. In addition to coupon codes and sale deals like those offered at Christmas, I’ll post information on other ways to save money and avoid customer service headaches.

For me, 2011 ended with a disappointing customer service experience at Meijer, a grocery store chain serving Kentucky, Indiana, Ohio, Illinois and Michigan. I don’t normally shop there because I live closer to another chain store, but I went to Meijer because it sells a brand of yogurt my regular store does not. I had a set of coupons expiring soon, and I wanted to take advantage of the store’s double coupon program to get a good deal.

The yogurt was $1 per container, and my coupons had a face value of 50 cents off two containers. When the coupon was doubled, my final cost would be 50 cents per container, a great deal for Greek yogurt. I grabbed 12 containers of yogurt, pulled six coupons from my folder and headed to the self-checkout lane. As I scanned the first couple of coupons, I watched the monitor to be sure they were doubling. Then, I scanned the remainder, paid the checkout total and left.

When I got to my car, I looked over my receipt and realized only two of the six coupons had been doubled. I went back into the store and asked the customer service staff why this was the case. The woman who assisted me explained that Meijer only doubles the first two coupons for a set of like items. So, whether I bought two yogurt or 20, only two coupons would be doubled, unless I purchased the containers in separate transactions. She said Meijer mentions this in the fine print in its newspaper ads.

This experience was a good reminder to me to review the coupon policies of stores at which you rarely shop before heading there to make a purchase. However, when I checked Meijer’s coupon policy online today, I couldn’t find a mention of the limitations on double coupons; in fact, there’s no mention of double coupons at all. Another page on the site states the store doesn’t regularly double coupons at all, information that should be included in the coupon policy itself. This is poor customer service; even a shopper who attempts to be informed can’t easily find accurate information on the store’s website.

To be sure you know all the provisions of a store’s policy, call or stop by the customer service desk before you begin filling your shopping cart. Ask about specifics that apply to your shopping scenario, such as a limit on the number of coupons you can use or when those coupons will be doubled. Also, find out if you are allowed to use a store coupon and a manufacturer’s coupon for the same item.

What “lessons learned” have you experienced while couponing? Please share your advice so others can avoid the same headaches.


1 Comment

Filed under Customer service, Saving money

Walgreens’ Register Rewards program not worth the effort

I recently highlighted how you can use the CVS Extra Bucks program to get cheap and free items without spending a lot of time clipping coupons. Walgreens has a similar program called Register Rewards. Unlike the CVS program, you don’t have to register to participate in Register Rewards. While this is an admirable feature of the program, it fails to deliver a good overall experience.

With Register Rewards, Walgreens offers select items at a sale price each week, then gives you extra savings in the form of a coupon you can use on most merchandise during a future shopping trip. Here’s why I think the program isn’t as good as the CVS Extra Bucks promotions:

Prices: Walgreens generally charges more than CVS for similar products. This week, Walgreens had Softsoap body wash for 2 for $4 with Register Rewards; the CVS price with Extra Bucks was 2 for $2. Even when items are on sale at Walgreens, you can often get them cheaper at a discount retailer like Walmart.

Expiration dates: CVS usually gives you a month to redeem the Extra Bucks coupons you receive. Walgreens only gives you two weeks. Sometimes, Walgreens doesn’t have anything on sale I want within two weeks, and I have to use the coupons on something else.

Bonuses: CVS gives you bonus Extra Bucks on a seasonal basis, based on how much you’ve spent in the store in the preceding months. Walgreens can’t offer this feature since you don’t register to use the Register Rewards program.

Signage: I have lived in two different states this year and shopped at Walgreens stores in both locations. I consistently find the stores do a poor job of putting up signs to help you identify which specific products are included in the Register Rewards program that week. For example, there may be 15 types of Colgate toothpaste on the shelf, but only one specific type and size qualifies for the reward.

In-store coupons: To get sale prices on many of its items, Walgreens requires you to redeem coupons you must clip out of its weekly ads. This is just silly. If it’s on sale, just give me the sales price without the hassle.

The disadvantages of shopping at Walgreens and using its rewards program far outweigh the benefits. I recommend spending your time targeting savings at other stores.

1 Comment

Filed under Rewards programs, Saving money

Ebates: an easy way to get extra cash back when shopping online

One of my favorite ways to save money on online purchase is through Ebates, a website that gives you cash back on all purchases initiated through its website. When shopping, just go to Ebates, then use the search box or retail categories to find the store where you want to make a purchase. Click the link provided, and you’re done! Ebates sends you to your destination website and initiates a “tracking ticket” that automatically notifies Ebates of your purchase amount at the chosen store. Ebates converts a percentage of your purchase into a cash rebate, then sends your accumulated rebates to you on a quarterly basis. You can get your cash deposited into your PayPal account, request a check for your earnings or give the money to a charity or family member.

Cash back amounts range from 1 percent to 25 percent and are available at hundreds of stores and service providers, including Petsmart, Target, Kohl’s, Barnes and Noble, Toys R Us, Shutterfly, Travelocity, Nordstrom, Teleflora, Crate and Barrel and Vera Bradley. Ebates also gives you coupon codes that can help you save more money on your purchase when entered on the retailer’s website.

Membership in Ebates is free. Just fill out the simple registration form, and start shopping. Right now, Ebates is offering you a free gift card for a major retailer just for signing up.

Keep a few tips in mind to make the most of your Ebates experiences:

    • Make your purchase only in the retailer window opened by Ebates. If you accidentally close it, go back to Ebates and link to the website again to open another tracking ticket. Unless you go through Ebates to get to your store’s website, you won’t earn any cash back.
    • Take advantage of Ebates for big purchases you would normally make in a local store. For example, when if you’re buying a new appliance, buy it through the Lowe’s, Sears or Home Depot website. Purchase a new computer from Best Buy, Dell, HP, OfficeMax and other retailers to rack up more bucks. You can earn substantial cash back on large purchase like these and still apply any discount coupons you have for the retailer.
  • Ebates offers special promotions that increase the percentage of cash back available at select retailers. If there’s an item you aren’t in a hurry to purchase, monitor the cash back percentage to get the most bang for your buck. The Web site also offers a “daily double” feature on its home page that double the cash back for a different retailer each day.

Leave a comment

Filed under Rewards programs, Saving money, Shopping tips

Get cheap and free items at CVS–no extreme couponing required

You’ve probably seen or read tales of “extreme couponers” lately, folks who stockpile 20 years’ worth of toothpaste and chicken broth in their basement after getting the items free. There’s no doubt these folks get some real values, but you don’t have to be a super-serious coupon clipper to score great deals. I routinely get items free or almost-free by pairing sales, coupons and the CVS Extra Care program, which gives me CVS Extra Bucks for designated purchases.

CVS is a national drugstore chain which probably has a store near you; check the CVS store locator Web page to find the closest location. In addition to its pharmacy, CVS offers a wide variety of cosmetics, toiletries, household products and food. To earn CVS Extra Bucks, you’ll need to fill out a brief enrollment form at your store and use the Extra Care card you receive each time you shop there.

CVS can be quite pricey on many items, so the key to CVS bargain hunting is to know what a good price is for the items you buy. For example, a 12-pack of Coke may sell for $4.49 at your grocery store, so a sale of four 12-packs for $10 at CVS offers a great price. Usually, the actual sale price for items like this at CVS will be something like 4 packs for $13, but then you get $3 in Extra Bucks back at the end of your sales receipt. You can use the bucks coupon on your next visit for money off almost anything in the store.

I frequently use my Extra Bucks the following week to purchase another sales item offering Extra Bucks. Yesterday, I bought a tube of Colgate toothpaste on sale at CVS for $2.99, with Extra Bucks bringing the effective price down to 99 cents. Then, I used a coupon to lower the cost to 49 cents. With my Extra Bucks from previous purchases, I got the item without any cash out of my pocket.

A few times a year, CVS shows that it cares about customers by rewarding them with bonus Extra Bucks, based on how much they’ve spent at the store during certain portions of the year.

To get the most out of the Extra Bucks program:

    • Don’t let your Extra Bucks expire—that’s like throwing cash away. Their expiration date is usually about a month after the purchase that generated them.
    • Plan your shopping trip by checking the CVS weekly sale ad online. Focus only on items which are as cheap or cheaper than what you’d pay at a big-box retailer like Walmart.
    • Shop early in the week to find merchandise with Extra Bucks in stock.
    • Ask for a raincheck on out-of-stock sale items, and be sure the clerk includes the Extra Bucks offer on your raincheck. When you redeem it, point out the Extra Bucks to the cashier before they enter the raincheck into the register.
    • Use coupons to expand your savings. You can often get toiletries at extremely low prices or free by combining coupons and Extra Bucks.

Leave a comment

Filed under Cheap and free stuff, Rewards programs