January 18, 2009

Couponing Etiquette: DOs and DON'Ts

Good manners are always in style, and that goes double for us couponers.

Here's a few simple tips for new and old couponers alike:

~ DO shop during off-peak hours.

Saturday and Sunday are busy, busy days at grocery stores around this fine nation. The aisles are crowded, the lines are long, the shelves start out stocked but empty quickly, and the cashiers are doing their best to get people checked out as fast as they can. These are not the best days to try out your new mad couponing skillz.

Instead, try going to your grocery store on a slower day or at off-peak times (ie: if you must go on Saturday, go very early in the morning before the crowds). You'll find more of what you're looking for on your list and you also won't slow down the line when you check out.

~ DO have your coupons organized.

If you're building a menu plan each week, creating a list from that menu plan, then locating the coupons you'll need for your shopping, you're already halfway there. Be sure that you have the coupons you'll hand the cashier ready to go before you step into line so you won't be scrambling through your binder or envelope for this or that coupon at the point of sale.

Once I've got everything on my list, I pull my cart over into a quiet aisle (usually the toy aisle -- I let whichever kiddo is with me look at the toys while I get organized) and go through the coupons I brought with me for my list. Sometimes I use all of them, but sometimes I don't; it depends on what's in stock and if I find a better deal in-store. I gather all the coupons needed for what's in my cart and then I head over to the registers to pay, giving my store loyalty card and my coupons to my cashier at the beginning of the transaction. Again, this saves time for you and the cashier in line.

~ DO smile and say HI!

For some of us, being outgoing and friendly comes easier than others; I'm one of those people who can strike up a conversation with just about anyone. Just a simple, "Hi, how are you?" can make a big difference to a tired cashier who's been dealing with people all day; I know from personal experience as I worked in retail in high school and waited tables through college.

Being on the front line of customer service is a tough job; when you have a customer that treats you like a *real* person, you'll go the extra mile to help them. Remember, if you shop that store regularly on the same day and time, you're likely to see the same cashiers week after week. Build a positive relationship with them!

~ DO let others go first.

Sometimes, you find yourself with two or more transactions worth of goodies, particularly at stores like CVS and Walgreens. If there are people behind you after you finish your first transaction, be gracious and considerate of their time. Let them take their turn while you head back to the end of the line.

If you're at your grocery store (at an off-peak time, of course!) and you see only one cashier is open but there are two or three other shoppers that need to check out, offer to let them go before you, particularly if they only have a few items in their cart. They'll appreciate it and you'll have a few extra minutes to make sure all of your coupons are in order.

~ DON'T take every peelie, blinkie, or tearpad coupon you find.

Gathering some coupons you happen across on your shopping trips is fine; taking every single peelie off of a group of products is not. It's just greedy, and that kind of behavior gives all couponers a bad name. Leave some for the rest of us!

~ DO check your receipts carefully and get errors corrected at the Customer Service Desk.

ALWAYS check your receipts at the grocery store; errors do happen. If you find a price that rung up wrong or a coupon that wasn't accepted, take the receipt over to Customer Service and politely (remember that smile and say HI thing?) ask for them to correct it. If you're at a drugstore that doesn't have a customer service desk, simply get back in line or go to another register (the photo center or makeup counter) and ask to speak to a manager about an error on your receipt.

~ DON'T try any funny business!

There are so many great deals to be had with coupons, shoppers card discounts, and store loyalty programs; all it takes is a little research and planning on your part. Don't use multiple shoppers cards for one store or try to pass coupons that are suspicious in origin. Saving a few more dollars isn't worth it if you're doing something that is just plain wrong.

~ DO practice random acts of coupon kindness.

Have a bunch of coupons for a product that you won't use? Leave them sitting on the product for another shopper to find. See someone at the store you know with some products for which you've got extra coupons on hand? Give them the coupons and save them a few bucks. Does your cashier or do the folks in line behind you ask you - in utter amazement - just how you saved so much money? Share your knowledge! Point them to the websites your frequent (even your own) and tell them they can do it, too!

Those are my basic rules of Couponing Etiquette; did I miss something important? Do you have anything to add? Please leave a comment and share! I love to read all of you comments and appreciate each one of them!

Thanks for reading and subscribing to The New Frugal Mom!


A Knitting Junkie said...

Great write-up!
Thanks for all the info you share.
Hugs...Anita, a Knitting Junkie!

Marianne Thomas said...

Anita @ A Knitting Junkie: Thanks for the kind words! Sharing info is what the blogosphere is all about.

I'm going to hop over to your blog...do you have tips for beginning knitters? I've knit maybe (4) lines in my life but did like it!

A Knitting Junkie said...

You know my best advice is to visit www.knittinghelp.com
It has wonderful videos that are very clear and easy to folow. I am telling you, it is definitely worth learning; knitting has been such a sanity saver for me. Of course, I'll gladly help you any way that I can and answer any questions you may have.
Thanks for checking out my blog too!

Andrea @ Mommy Snacks.net said...

This is a great list, Marianne! Good stuff :-)

Marianne Thomas said...

Andrea: Thanks -- you know we couponers have to be extra good at the stores to fight the stereotypes.